Pros: A variety of installations that present the issue from unique perspectives.
Cons: The multi-event schedule can sometimes be confusing, particularly as some are ticketed and others are not.
On the Move doesn’t exactly deal with the most pleasant of subjects; the refugee crisis in Europe is one of the great human tragedies of our time. Nevertheless, such stories need to be told, and this unique presentation provides panel discussions, durational pieces, films and conventional plays throughout the day. We began with a panel discussion entitled Hello Stanger, chaired by the wonderful Juliet Stephenson with guests Joe Murphy and Joe Robinson, directors of Good Chance Calais. They were joined by Mareike Holfeld, Head of Public Relations for Kampnagel and the artist Maya Zbib, who has worked extensively with refugees in her native Lebanon. The panel discussion explored what could be done to welcome refugees into our theatres as a means of expressing their hopes, fears and motivation. Juliet spoke at length regarding themed pieces performed at the Old Vic, and the two Joes talked about the theatre they had built in Calais for the use of refugees. Similarly, Mareike and Maya related similar experiences in the theatres they had set up in Germany and the Lebanon. Whilst I don’t doubt the sincerity and passion of panel members, the discussion was quite heavy going at times. It wasn’t helped by the discussion being held in actor rehearsal rooms adjacent to the theatre; the smell of the drains grew stronger on what was already a humid day. Nevertheless, it was an important introduction to events hosted in the theatre.
Returning to the theatre, I had a ticket for the Milk of Human of Human Kindness, a durational piece downstairs in the Jerwood Theatre. Chris Thorpe had already set up, with a table, laptop and screen displaying headlines from a number of newspapers including the Daily Mail and the Guardian. The premise was simple; he would read comments posted in response to each editorial displayed – for six hours? With my notoriously short attention span, I thought I might give it ten minutes then move onto something else. In fact, we were issued with wrist bands so we could go away and come back again; but an hour and a half later I was still sitting there, absolutely riveted by Chris’s deadpan delivery. I only left as I needed the gents. A hint of scouse accent gave his delivery an edge of sarcasm and weariness which on occasion was hilarious. He seemed to have the largest cup of tea in the world sipping from the same cup for 90 minutes. Comments from Daily Mail readers inevitably draw a certain response; cynical, rabidly xenophobic, incomprehension as to why everyone doesn’t think the same way. But, some comments, if I’m being honest, also struck a chord with me.
There were many other installations, including As far as my fingertips take me, a conversation through a wall between an audience member and refugee; and Another Place, an audio walk between London, Berlin, Beirut and Damascus. There was certainly plenty to do, and you really need to plan a visit to an event like this in advance. There was no formal programme, only a single A4 sheet summarising events, which wasn’t very clear and left people wandering around the foyer, uncertain where to go. That aside, On the Move is a laudable attempt to present a complex issue in a new and original way.
Producer: Co-commissioned by LIFT with the Royal Court Theatre.
Booking until: This event has now completed its run. On the Move was staged as part of the LIFT Festival which runs until 2 July 2016.