Review: Boses

3 star rating
Impressive, genuinely entertaining and persuasive, this media rich piece describes the horrific consequences of changes to the visa regime on domestic workers.
Boses at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Image courtesy Tristan Bates Theatre

Closes here: Wednesday 13 November 2019

Melisa Camba


Melisa Camba


In 2017, Reuters reported that more than 17,000 domestic workers are brought to Britain every year, 69% of whom are Filipino. 94% are women.

A moving and melodic response to true stories of migrant domestic workers from the Phillipines, Boses weaves together documentary material and original music to explore modern slavery in the UK's domestic work industry: an ongoing issue on the periphery of society.

Boses is a bilingual performance, using a combination of English and Filipino language to bridge the gap in cultural differences for an audience, and strengthen the bond between the women in these stories and the solo performer telling them.?

ActDrop reviews

Eugenia Ziranova

Performance date: Tuesday 5 November 2019
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During her tenure as Home Secretary, Theresa May (in her fiery anti-migration crusade) pushed through a number of changes to immigration rules.

One was that she cancelled the points-based system for highly skilled migrants (the scheme which I arrived through).

Others involved changes to the visa regime for domestic workers. 

Melisa Camba's solo show Boses ('Voice' in Filipino) describes the horrific consequences of these adjustments.

Effectively, domestic workers were moved out of the scope of British employment law, leaving them exposed to exploitative employers.

Underpaid and abused, many of them faced a choice: modern slavery or deportation.

A recent graduate of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Ms Camba combines readings of statistics, interviews with Filipino domestic workers and purposely written vocal interludes in English and Tagalog into a 40-minutes long piece of documentary theatre. 

Her use of various techniques is impressive and genuinely entertaining, amply illustrating here theatre-making craft.

Ms Camba's performance is accompanied by extensive and skilful use of video projections, voiceovers, pre-recorded and live music. 

However, she seems to be stronger as a director, than as a playwright. 

The show starts with a scene of a hopeful Filipino woman arriving at a UK airport.

A Skype call to a friend is realistic, but then this character is dropped completely.

With 80% of domestic workers not being able to leave premises freely, I would expect Skype socialising to be one of the major storytelling techniques, but it ends there never to be picked up again. 

Another loss of impact happens in the "little test" scene, when the exhausting list of domestic tasks is paired with video projections of visa conditions.

The thing is, the wrong conditions are listed - not the ones that cause problems, but perfectly legitimate ones like age limits.

Music plays a massive role in Filipino culture.

Yet the yearning and dreamy tone of the composition in Boses sometimes undermines the seriousness of the main issues.

The real women in the interviews did not talk about dreams or aspirations.

Their demands were about life without fear and work without beatings and insults.

Romantic music, however beautiful, was at odds with this core message. 

Boses is closer in nature to a multi-media presentation than a pure theatre piece, which is no bad thing - overall, it is strong, engaging and persuasive.

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