Small Island – National Theatre

Reading a book gives you access to new worlds. A world of joy can give way to a world of terror, a world of indifference can sometimes take over. A world of hate, an exotic world, greyness. The book this time around is Small Island, the concept is escaping Jamaica, the small island to make a better life in the empire, the motherland, Wind Rushing it to a better life where people are not so narrow minded, where talent and hard work can be recognized. How to explain the sense of powerlessness that hits you when you are speaking the language that has been imposed on you by the fact that your country belongs to the British empire to be confronted by an empty stare in the person in front of you, giving away the fact that they are politely pretending to listen but they are not getting a word you are saying. That is the best-case scenario, emptiness, migrants from the Caribbean were confronted with open hostility, a confrontational attitude a mistrust at best. Curiosity, the same type shown to an exotic animal behind bars in a zoo. No human connection. Never. Do you get used to lack of human interaction? Do you get used to restricting your life to not ever crossing path with the other, “superior” culture because, this is just the way it is? You just do, you avoid trouble, because trouble will ensue. You are stealing their work; you are stealing their women or in some rare cases their men. In any case you are stealing full stop. Go back where you belong. Maybe on stage the characters did not push their accents too far towards their Jamaican core, they needed us to follow what was being said on stage after all, but the play was a joy to watch. Mostly. Sometimes it was heart wrenchingly painful to witness rejection, hostility, derision being inflicted on fellow human beings. How does it feel to have your dreams crushed? The Jamaicans arriving in England really felt part of the empire, they felt deeply inside they belonged, religion played a big role in perpetrating a sheer lie. The British folks in the street felt superior and they had no trouble showing it, ramming it down the migrants’ throats. Even when battered by war and in desperate need of manpower, the British arrogance had no limits. And we are talking the arrogance of the common people in the street towards what they felt were inferior beings. Even when in the gutter you still kick who is lower down, rather you need somebody to kick. The experience of the migrant is masterly recorded in Small Island, it is just horrendous Andrea Levy, the author, passed away a few months before the play hit the National Theatre in London. The actors would have made her proud.

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