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Dance show Border Tales tackles issues of multi-cultural Britain

PUBLISHED: 10:27 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:58 02 May 2018

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane Hobson

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane Hobson

© Jane Hobson

Thought provoking and fun, much acclaimed dance show Border Tales will challenge stereotypes look at Britain through the eyes of its international cast and the views of migrant outsiders. Creator Luca Silvestrini tells us more.

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane HobsonLuca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane Hobson

Immigration, the migrant crisis, and what does it mean to be British in a post-Brexit world? It is hard to think of more timely yet more controversial subjects.

But they are issues that form the basis of Border Tales, a punchy, poignant commentary on multicultural Britain that uses dance, live music and dialogue compiled from the performers’ personal experiences.

It is four years since the show’s creator Luca Silvestrini first presented Border Tales with his award-winning dance company Protein. Much has changed in the intervening time, not least the Brexit vote, and now he has revisited the piece.

Treated with trademark physical and verbal wit, the piece, which comes to Norwich Playhouse this weekend, looks at multi-cultural living in the UK seen through the eyes of the characters.

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane HobsonLuca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane Hobson

Silvestrini turns his sharply satirical gaze to stereotypical thinking, tolerance and where lines are drawn between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

“The desire to bring back this piece of work created in 2013 comes primarily from the moment we are living in,” he explains. “I feel it is important to bring back these simple yet relevant tales of migration and identity, to both remember the past and to reflect about today.”

With a score by Andy Pink and additional music by Anthar Kharana, performed live on stage, the show has won praise.

Originally developed from research conducted with migrants and refugees from across the globe, Border Tales’ international cast of six dancers, Columbian Anthat Kharana, Taiwan-born Yuyu Rau, Temitope Ajose-Cutting, from London, Irish-born Stephen Moynihan and Andrew Gardiner and Kenny Wing Tao Ho, who are both British, add their own personal experiences.

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Chris NashLuca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Chris Nash

Q&A — Luca Silvestrini

What was the inspiration for Border Tales back in 2013?

Partly, it was the beginning of the migrants’ crisis, with more wars happening around the world. In 2011, David Cameron commented that multiculturalism wasn’t working in the UK. This was the bigger picture and then the more personal picture was that after nearly 20 years in the UK I came across a sense of ‘who am I? Am I English or Italian or something in between? I’m not one or the other. In Italy I was finding it difficult to speak my own language. I discovered a sense of ‘in-betweenness’, of feeling a little bit foreign in your own country. Identity is not something that is given to you at birth, it’s something very fluid that keeps shifting and surprising you. This is what prompted me to start a long period of research with non-performers – I did a lot of interviews and workshops with people around the UK and also abroad, listening to their stories and opinions.

How did you create the work? Was it a collaborative process with the performers?

I auditioned to find the right performers who, like me felt the need to share their thoughts and stories. Once in the studio I shared my findings with them, but their stories were much more present and needed to be told. The performers’ realities became the show. It was also very important to collaborate with the composer Andy Pink and musician Anthar Kharana throughout.

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Chris NashLuca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Chris Nash

What role did the Brexit vote play in reviving/reworking it?

Suddenly this work became very relevant and important, even more so than it was in 2013. It was almost a forced choice. It would have been silly not to restage it for today. I haven’t changed much, probably a few lines. What has changed is my ability to look back, pare it down and edit. I made it more focused on the people onstage. In 2016 we were invited by the BBC World Service to stage a half hour extract from the piece for a programme based on identity. That invitation convinced me to bring Border Tales back.

Luca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane HobsonLuca Silvestrini dance piece Border Tales coming to Norwich Playhouse. Photo: Jane Hobson

The work includes speech as well as dance. What shaped your decision to include text along with movement?

At Protein we create dance theatre experiences based on real life. I consider words to be as important as movement to embrace and communicate with an audience. I found that there are certain things that cannot be said with movement and certain things cannot be said with words. So ideally I’m trying to find a holistic way of communicating.

What do you hope audiences will take from the piece on this new tour? What message or effects are you hoping to convey?

In 2014 the tour was short so I always felt I needed to take it around more. We had a very successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe this year and that confirmed to me that the piece is important. It’s about culture and identity. The piece doesn’t make a final statement but those are the subjects and I decided to go down a certain route. So it’s a piece that encourages debate and conversation and that’s what I care for. It’s not just a piece of entertainment.

What’s next for the Protein?

Having taken Border Tales to Edinburgh Fringe last year and toured the show in the autumn, we are touring the piece again this spring in the UK then to international venues [including dates in Italy, Switzerland and Romania]. Protein have also been commissioned to create a new edition of (In)visible Dancing for Stockton International Riverside Festival. The show is an outdoor piece that we’ve revisited 13 times since it was originally created in 2010 and involves working with the locality and its people, bringing together a community and performers for a grand finale performance that can engage audiences up to 12,000.

• Border Tales, Norwich Playhouse, May 5, 7.30pm, £14 (£12 cons), £8.50 student, 01603 598598, norwichplayhouse.co.uk

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