Review: I Occur Here
Image: The Space
Daniela Cristo Mantilla
"There's no doubt. This is my house I occur here, I deceive myself greatly here.
This is my house detained in time" Mario Benedetti.
Four performers embark on a journey to start over.
But is that even possible?
As they pack up their belongings, say goodbye to the past and step forward towards the opportunity to reinvent themselves, and become someone entirely new, can reality match their expectations?
I Occur Here is a devised physical theatre piece, conceived by Mariana Aristizabal (Colombia) and Malena Arcucci (Argentina) that gathers from the experiences of London-based international artists to redefine the notion of home and explore our seemingly unending capacity for adaptation.
Starting from a shared sense of cultural, linguistic and physical in-betweenness, this ensemble piece explores the search for stability in a foreign country.
If you have lived in a single country for the whole of your life, it's tempting to think you have little in the way of connection to migration.
But dig a little deeper into your ancestry, and you might find lurking there relatives who came from foreign shores.
Though my parents and grandparents were all born and bred in England, some members of previous generations came from Italy and Germany.
If you go back much further in time - like centuries - you might also discover that some of your ancestors came from overseas.
With migration still a hot topic in social and political terms, it's important to realise that human beings, like many other animals, have an in-built appetite to move and that migration by individuals and families is nothing new, or remote from our own lives.
What this short devised piece from Oh Dear Theatre Company shows is that there are significant and compelling - sometimes irresistible - drivers which govern the movement of people between geographical regions.
As we take our seats, the four strong ensemble are churning through clothes and speaking in foreign languages.
Clothing provides a simple and effective tool in much of what follows.
Once the play starts, we find them putting on and taking off those clothes - portraying the repetition of routine daily life in their native countries, and we hear interactions between parents and offspring, and disappointments in terms of failed ambitions and the like.
That all builds to moments of anger and frustration and sparks ideas about migration.
There's almost a flavour of mystery about the opening sequence, in part because this is plot described largely by broad brush strokes, rather than finely drawn realism.
But as the play proceeds, there are clearly identifiable segments to the narrative - such as the forces pushing people to move between countries, hopes for the future, the complexities of making the journey and arriving, and then coping with life in a new country.
Voice over is used to define the different categories of travellers: the searcher, the escaper, the mover, the ousted.
Though that gave us something to latch on to in terms of the motivations behind migration, I would have preferred to see those definitions emerge from the action and the characters, leaving the audience to discover them.
And this young, confident cast ably demonstrate elsewhere that they have ample descriptive and creative powers that are more than up to the task.
For example, there's a neat dreamlike sequence - a young man slaying a dragon to win the heart of a fairy princess, describing hopes for the future.
And there's a torchlit scene with migrants arriving in a new country and being interrogated by immigration officials asking sometimes ludicrous, highly intrusive and unnecessary questions, which introduces some comic moments.
We don't learn much in the way of anything new or revelatory in I Occur Here, but it does make a significant contribution to the continuing discussion about migration in pulling together the threads of why people move to a new country, the difficulties they face in getting to their destination and creating a new 'home'.
On that score, it's an interesting, thoughtful and creative devised piece, which certainly makes it well-worth seeing.
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