Migrating Melodies & Heart String
Don Kipper, Jack Maguire, Sharon Muiruri, The Company Of Fools
Shelley Theatre, 12th October
This collaboration between playwright Sharon Muiruri and Jack Maguire’s musical ensemble sets out to describe the experiences of refugees through music and six individual stories. Actors from The Company of Fools bring the characters to life through monologue, occasional dialogue, and they sometimes speak in unison to tell a universal truth.
“It’s not easy to let go of ghosts. Most of the time we cling to them”, announce a group of displaced wanderers during the opening act. Indeed, during each narration a refugee literally clings to an object such as a piece of rubble or a baby’s shoe representing their past.
For each story a piece of music has been chosen from the appropriate country. The musicians excel in their rendition of Gypsy and Balkan music, a genre not intuitive to western ears or to the classically trained. Jack Maguire’s virtuoso violin perfectly complements the playing of Josh Middleton (accordion), Tim Karp (oude), and Damian Maguire (percussion). From melancholy Romanian Doinas to upbeat Klezmer dance tunes, the music works well in setting the mood.
During the musical interludes, images from digital artist Martin Coyne are projected onto the back of the stage. Broken montages of black and white photos visually represent what the refugees describe as “fragments of another life”.
A universal theme linking all the stories is loss. Loss of possessions, loss of identity, loss of dignity. “No words can describe the shock of losing everything … the shock can kill you. Slower than a bullet, but it can kill you.” The piece spells out the human consequences of the seemingly trivial act of moving a country’s borders.
I cannot begin to imagine what it is truly like to be a refugee. However the emotive power of this production succeeds in helping us on that journey. The production ends with dancing and a celebration of life, as orphan Joseph is told, “You are very much alive, as is the music !”