Route is about colour, home and belonging. It’s about being British and being black; about youth and optimism, against a backdrop of international oppression, isolation and exploitation. It's about the Windrush generation, the West Indians who were invited to come to Britain and made their home here. And it’s about the hostile environment for immigrants – even Margaret Thatcher makes a guest appearance. The central question is: who am I, and where do I belong?
Marie Myre has crafted a beautiful script, and deserves much of the credit for a play full of warmth, life and vibrancy. Myre, who is black British, was born in a multicultural part of London; but when she moved to Bath for university, she began to notice the colour of her skin and realised that it was divisive.
For me, home means family, and we learn how Jamaican families in London stuck together, building up a strong network like expats in many other parts of the world. And watch out for the play on gender early on. West Indians may have coined the phrase ‘bruv’, but this show is about black women too, women who help each other. They are guided by a character played by Tony Mcpherson, a very sympathetic, fatherly man whom you trust instinctively.
Acting was excellent throughout: five black women clearly enjoying themselves, as they celebrate their colour and their emerging identity. However, my only criticism of the script is that the female characters are relatively undeveloped, to the extent that I cannot distinguish between them. In my opinion, these characters are various expressions of the author, rather than individuals with their own world, impulses, faults and history. The script is so compelling that I didn't mind at the time – it is poetic and lyrical, and tells a story – but there is room for further development. Expanded into a longer piece with an interval, it could stand head and shoulders above most contemporary theatre.
I hope this show will one day make it to Edinburgh: it’s tasteful and uplifting, incorporating verbatim, spoken word, a little drumming and music. Racism and prejudice are implied rather than graphic, and the show is refreshingly innocent – devoid of the brutality you often see at the Fringe. It’s the joy and optimism of youth that are my abiding memories from the show; and I hope Myre continues to write, because she has great talent and a masterful command of the English language.