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Where We Began review at Live Theatre, Newcastle – ‘timely and compelling’

The cast of Where We Began at Live Theatre, Newcastle. Photo: Anthony Robling

A Handmaid’s Tale for immigration, SBC Theatre’s new production Where We Began is an urgent, angry examination of the idea of home – what that means, where it may be, and who gets to define it.

In a near-future dystopia of borders and birthplaces, in a last-ditch effort to solve the world’s crises, everyone is sent back to where they came from – the ‘hostile environment’ at its logical extreme. But what if your birthplace is somewhere your sexuality is scorned, or you don’t speak enough of the language to even order a McDonalds? How can this be home if you have planted your soul elsewhere?

Rosie MacPherson (who devised the piece alongside its international cast) eloquently addresses these questions through a multilingual mix of movement, music and dance. Hannah Butterfield directs tautly, smartly utilising Hannah Sibai’s monochrome set – part airport lounge, part holding room.

Shireen Farkhoy excels as the fixed-smile greeter into this brave new world, highlighting the absurdity and hypocrisy of the system (there’s a delicious dig at the PM breaking communication rules by Skyping his German wife). MacPherson, Zoe Katsilerou, and Fernanda Mandagará are compelling as women displaced to some nominal home when they have built entire lives elsewhere.

Tafadzwa Muchenje, a London-raised, Zimbabwe-born young man with no connection to his country of birth, is heart-breaking. As the action segues into his real-life story, we are brutally confronted with the truth that for some this dystopia has already arrived, that whole lives can be derailed by an admin error.

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A timely and compelling look at the hostile immigration environment by a talented, charismatic company