Without a doubt, the decision by the 51% of the UK population who bothered to vote to leave the EU, left many – including myself – angry and bewildered. Almost immediately, naked aggression has come to the fore with an 78% rise in race hate crimes. Hot on its heels, the British government toyed with different ideas and legislation to curtail levels of immigration and to scrutinise the levels of non-British personnel working for British firms. The latest Little Pieces of Gold event run by Suzette Coon deals with the ramifications of Brexit and all the concerns raised above. As you might expect, it makes for unnerving viewing, especially as some of the more satirical pieces when written earlier this year, have borne out to be true in time.
The longest play of the evening, The Test (by Darrel Draper, directed by Lotte Ruth Johnson) looks at the criteria for non-national residents to remain in the UK. Following a similar premise to Afsaneh Gray's Octopus, the play is set in the near future where 'citizenship' is renegotiated by the State. Within The Test it is determined by what is considered essential knowledge for British nationals. At present, such questioning does exist and includes questions about the Royal Family and other historical/cultural facts. While such things are mentioned in the play, info relating to pop culture are also considered mandatory, as well the stereotypical behaviour of someone 'truly' British (such as not complaining if food, when dining out, meet one's satisfaction). This part of the play does make a very good point about the importance (or not) about what facts and knowledge are deemed 'essential' for citizenship (bearing in mind a good many people wouldn't know all the answers that potential naturalised citizens must answer).
The later scenes of this play take a darker, more realistic turn, as one character is given the ultimatum of having an abortion (the baby fathered by a non-citizen who has since been deported) or going back to the poverty-striken village in Sri Lanka which she hailed from. Another woman who answered the 'how would the Brits behave' question has been told she 'failed' the test and even after living in the country for several years without incident, faces deportation...
The Orwellian themes of 'spin and propaganda' continue in Danny West's Rebranding Britain which is directed by Lydia Parker and Katie Jackson's One Thousand Polar Bears On A Beach In Kent, which is directed by Elose Lally. Both plays are of a satirical bent, but while the first play deals with brainstorming new labels for old things and places in post-Brexit Britian, the latter has a more specific focus – the beach-stranded polar bears, which are analogous to Eugène Ionesco's absurdist play Rhinoceros. This secondary Orwellian trademark of using animals in an allegorical fashion gives perspective on the human refugee crisis.
If the aforementioned plays dealt with the presentation of 'facts', the next two touch on the ramifications of Brexit. Half, which was written by Laura Harper and directed by Anthony Cule, sees the country so divided by Brexit that society descends to civil war. The irony is the those who voted to 'remain' are fleeing the country, while those who voted to 'leave', remain...
Somewhat closer to home, Building (by Jim Mannering, directed by Lucy Curtis) takes the place on 24th June 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum. Two roofers – one Polish, one English – await their lift to work. Both get on well with each other. But as the referendum results come in and the Englishman divulges what he voted for, his Polish co-worker reconsiders his immediate future...
Most Little Pieces Of Gold events are based on a theme that's socially relevant, but this latest round has the distinction of touching on one of the most divisive of subjects – one that interlinks everything that has been performed before. In these dark days, we need events like LPOG more than ever to make sense of the turbulent times ahead.
© Michael Davis 2016
Little Pieces of Gold: Who Are We Now ran at Southwark Playhouse on 16th October 2016. It will be running there again on Sunday 20th November.
Other plays performed at Little Pieces of Gold: Who Are We Now include:
Cacophony by Michah Smith, directed by Samson Hawkins
Lottery by Nav Sidhu, directed by Manuel Bau
The Sting by Suzette Coon, directed by Jamie Rocha Allan
Rah by Sid Dagar, directed by Kate Saxon