Cage – The Vaults
Reviewed – 3rd March 2020
“it sometimes feels that they are trying too hard to make up our minds for us”
The fall of the Berlin Wall, over thirty years ago, is still regarded as a momentous event both physically and psychologically. Since then, however, European countries alone have reportedly built over a thousand kilometres of walls along their borders – the equivalent of six times the length of the Berlin Wall. Pan out across the Atlantic and we have the political theatre of Donald Trump’s obsession with his “big beautiful wall” along the US-Mexico border. All very real, but also just as real are the metaphorical walls of bureaucracy that face migrants and asylum seekers across the globe. These are the issues tackled by LegalAliens, a company comprised entirely of migrants in the UK. Fusing poetry with traditional storytelling, movement and multimedia they chronicle humanity’s infatuation with building walls.
“Closed Lands” (translated by Laure Fernandez) is adapted from Simon Grangeat’s short play, ‘Terres Closes’. Grangeat was inspired to write it after witnessing the arrest of the migrant father of one of the children at his daughter’s school. Written as a series of poems from varying points of view, LegalAliens have adopted this format intelligently to avoid the pitfalls of presenting a documentary diatribe. The all-female ensemble – Luiana Bonfim, Daiva Dominyka, Catharina Conte, Becka McFadden and Lara Parmiani – directed by McFadden give voice to the contrasting archetypes, the victims and culprits of the issues surrounding world migration: the politicians, citizens, migrants; the media, the lawyers, the racketeers and resistance. They take turns assuming the various roles while a backdrop of projected news footage fills in the global view.
There are times we feel harangued as all shades of grey are erased from the subject to reveal clear cut, black and white perspectives with no room for debate. Very rapidly we learn the targets of their satire and the subjects of their sympathy, after which the drama – and the humour – becomes somewhat predictable, lessening the potential impact. Where this production is more successful is in its exploration of the figurative walls that are constructed by those with power and that those without are forced to cower behind. In the Western World we (nearly) all rejoiced in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but what is more poignant and powerful is the gradual fall of the invisible wall in people’s minds.
That is the direction LegalAliens is trying to lead us with their thoughtful exposition. But it sometimes feels that they are trying too hard to make up our minds for us. As an audience, we don’t necessarily need converting. However, we do need entertaining, and with its eclectic approach to mixing theatrical styles, “Closed Lands” certainly breaks down the fourth wall to achieve this.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Steve Gregson