As we congregate outside Butetown History and Arts Centre, our identity stripped back to little more than the number in our hand, Fio invite us to consider what life might be like if we were forced to leave everything we know and love behind in order to escape war and violence.
Civil war has broken out in the West. People are dying at the hands of the dictatorship and escape is the only option. The East can provide opportunities for some, but the fast track is only available to those with the right papers and the desired skills and experience. With our social media and newspapers plastered with news and images of mass migration to Europe, it is this reversal of roles which makes Swarm particularly interesting, directly provoking the audience to consider ‘What happens if this happened to us?’
“You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life” David Cameron, July 2015
A defining feature of the media narrative surrounding immigration has undoubtedly been that of the dehumanisation of migrants. Swarm captures this brilliantly through Cara Jayne Readle’s portrayal of a Media Representative, reporting on the ongoing tragedy in the war struck west for the no doubt passive consumption of those back home.
As we are herded into the overcrowded transit centre where we wait to be processed, tensions run high amongst overstretched medical staff. Natalie Edward-Yesufu’s heart-breaking performance of a young nurse as she struggles with her feelings of hopelessness to change the devastating tragedy around her and the possibility of hope and a new life in the East.
As we navigate our way through the building certain aspects of the set create a particular degree of poignancy; a section of Ruth Stringer’s #2868 boats installation, a paper boat to represent the life of every Syrian refugee drowned or missing attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far in 2016; children’s colourings created by members of the community cast as part of the performance created on pieces of paper bearing statistics of the unbelievable scale of death and devastation that the East has faced; screens with images of the horrifying conditions migrants face and the overplay of refugee voices all add to this already captivating narrative which examines how people in these situations are forced to act and interact with the circumstances placed upon them.
This timely and poignant site-specific performance reminds us, if we really needed reminding, that this is a human crisis.
Cast: Mathew David, Christina Dembenezi, Natalie Edward-Yesufu, Natalie Paisey, Cara Jayne Readle
Director: Abdul Shayek
Assistant Director: Chantal Erraoui
Producer: Alan Humphreys
Designer: Lizzie French
Stage Manager: Katie Bingham
Filmaker: Kym Epton
Community Cast: Jasmine Camilleri, Sahara Camilleri, Tia Camilleri, Josie Harding, Mira Lukawiecka, Stefan Lukawiecki, Donna Males, Geraint Stewart-Davies, Ananya Upadhyaya, Ayushi Upadhyaya, Akram Yasseen, Amani Yasseen.