Migrant Sisters

Mon 7th – Fri 11th August 2017

reviews

Claire Louise Richardson

at 23:13 on 7th Aug 2017

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‘Migrant Sisters’ is a piece written by Jeanette Hill that discussed Brexit and immigration, two of the hottest topics up and down the Mile this year. If you were looking for a show on either topic, this is not one to be earmarked. The stagecraft was sloppy, the content was very hard to follow, and the actors did not particularly appeal to the audience. They describe themselves as taking ‘a serious and humorous look at Brexit’, but this claim to seriousness and humorousness was not well aligned or even fully present.

The play itself looked like it had been cobbled together at the last minute. The characters lacked any real expression, and the writer had worked more on the ideas than on their presentation. One of the characters was wearing a lampshade at one point and I was not sure why, and there were moments in different sketches where it was not entirely clear what role everyone had now assumed. Perhaps the play should have taken a different form to present the ideas more successfully and develop them more fully.

Nevertheless, the play was undoubtedly interesting, discussing our senses of belonging and the job market in relation to Brexit. Certainly, most spectators could relate to their arguments on some level. It was just not as clear and punchy as it should have been in what is a competitive category this year. At one point, it was discussed what the world would be like ‘if wealth was like height’ and how there would be so many small people tailing behind. There were a few big statements like this, and then a jump to another section of the sketch without enough development on the topic at hand; meaning what could have been some interesting concepts fizzled out, which was a shame.

A small gem, however, are some pleasing Scottish musical interludes that space apart the content. If you are interested in this then Martina Cannon-Ball has an album out and I would recommend the music. She even has a foot tambourine. The ensemble composed of four musicians was quite effective and did help the flow of the play, with the lyrics of the music matching the play. Overall, the themes are interesting, but dangerous ground, and the play needs some reworking.

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Noah Lachs

at 12:41 on 8th Aug 2017

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Although physically removed from the heart of the Fringe, the themes of ‘Migrant Sisters’ are close to those of many shows at this year’s Festival: Brexit, London rent prices, and as its title suggests, feminism and immigration. Sketches—divided by live musical interludes—present different historical phases of migration, and experiences of women therein. The premise is engaging; unfortunately the execution is not.

Firstly, the credentials of the plays actors do not match their amateurish performances. Ana Torre has one face during the whole play (that of a sad deer in headlights), Bernie Barrett’s tone is loud and shrill; her three different accents are essentially one accent. Indeed, on this subject, the foreign-business owner accent that Ingrid Miller takes up in one of the sketches could be perceived as offensive. This is ironic given that the play’s raison d’etre is opposition to xenophobia. The music provides some light relief, but emphasises awkward silences. The lyrics are not close enough to the play’s content to justify being made centre stage. It all feels a bit random. The musicians also looked like they’d rather have been anywhere else in the world. This is understandable for Lorna Rudd; she only gets to sing one song despite appearing to be the singer in the band.

When the shoddy acting and incongruous musical interludes are out the way (not to mention the jokes that fall flat), the play offers up a boring social commentary. Boo austerity! Boo big corporations! Boo the Daily Mail! Boo UKIP-ers! Boo Phillip Green! If you want to take on global capitalism and its spawn in your play, be provocative, emotive, and thought provoking. Put your views in verse, or to music; stage them artfully! Make the audience chortle at your scathing satire, or force them to contemplate the profundity of lyrical and bold statements. Don't just pick low-hanging fruit and poke bogeymen, speak in truisms, and riff on populist sound-bites, as ‘Migrant Sisters’ does. The tedium such as the patronisingly protracted metaphor about economic “tiny people” and “giants” spills into the absurd. Ana Torre implies that the photo of Barack Obama’s post-Presidential holiday with Richard Branson implies America is a fascist state, on the basis of some Mussolini quote that says the convergence of business and politics equals fascism. This is a logically contorted, politically inept, and faux-intellectual conclusion. Given its supposed political consciousness, it is also quite baffling that Migrant Sisters doesn't cast an eye to the Syrian migrant crisis.

The play is not all bad. Jeanette Hill’s voice is beautiful (we only get one rather random song from her, though), and Bernie Barrett’s speech about her wish list as a woman is humorous and poignant. Notwithstanding, this play is not worth the trek to the Conan Doyle Centre.

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