REVIEW: MIGRATIONS @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
📍 Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Saturday 30th October 2022
The first word sung in this epic performance by the Welsh National Opera is "Freedom" and this production is all about freedom, or lack of it.
Migrations, composed by Will Todd, explores six different stories which are intermingled and told at the same time. It looks at the reasons why we have migrated as a population from place to place over the centuries.
Four of the stories are told throughout the performance and the other two provide the central narrative of each act.
The first story, Mayflower is the largest piece. It is told by a chorus of nearly 100 performers. There is no lead part to this story and is a true ensemble piece which shares the experiences on board the Mayflower and onto the first Thanksgiving.
Treaty Six follows the story of Dawn (Marion Newman) and Nadine (Isabelle Peters) who are trying to protect native land in Canada which is being destroyed by tar sands mining.
Flight, Death or Fog follows the story of real life 18th century slave Pero (Kenneth Overton) who was owned by a wealthy family in Bristol. I liked how these performers were booed during the curtain call, showing the audiences disdain for slavery. Chanáe Curtis, who appeared as Bridget, had a beautiful and powerful voice.
Birds, performed by children, is the only non-human migration story told. The piece looks at how these lengthy migratory journeys come instinctively to some creatures and explores how much easier other species seem to manage their journeys than we do!
The two central pieces were my personal favourites. First we had The English Lesson which looked at a group of refugees who were learning English and converse with each other. We learn of some of the horrors which led them to seek refuge here.
The second was titled This is the Life! We were taken to Britain in 1968 when the government invited young Indian doctors to join and support the growing NHS. Despite being promised a 'good life' in Britain, these young medics are met with hate and racism from most people they encountered. This piece for me was the standout moment of the entire production.
Led by Natasha Agarwal and Jamal Zulfiquar, this piece included Bollywood dancing and was perhaps the most 'musical theatre' piece of the production, which is maybe why I enjoyed it so much. The dancing was exceptional and Agarwal and Zulfiquar had wonderful singing voices. This really lifted the whole production for me.
The rest of the production seemed very subdued, which was surprising considering how many singers were in the company. It was often hard to follow what they were singing. If it hadn't have been for the subtitles provided I feel I would have been rather lost.
I found the lyrics throughout to be very repetitive and slightly unimaginative. As this was my virginal experience of opera I'm not sure if this is usual or not. Although it wasn't my favourite visit to the theatre and my star rating isn't excellent, I would still revisit the opera. I think maybe I need to see a more traditional, well known opera to initiate myself into the medium.
This piece did tell important stories and it was actually a shame that the theatre was quite empty. There were less than 400 patrons in a venue that holds over 1300, which must be disheartening for the performers.
Is this a sign of the times due to the cost of living crisis, or perhaps it is that the WNO are performing a few different operas over a few nights so patrons may have chosen a more well known opera.
The Welsh National Opera are returning to the Theatre Royal Plymouth in May 2023 where they will be performing The Magic Flute. Tickets are available now on the website www.theatreroyal.com.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My tickets for this production were gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth as I was invited to the press night to review the performance.