Babylon Beyond Borders, Bush Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

In the ancient city of Babylon, people lived peacefully. They were left to their own devices until, according to a biblical story, they built a tower that reached to the heavens. Then, a vengeful god destroyed it and scattered the citizens around the world bestowing them different languages so they could no longer communicate. For language and peace are power, and power threatens those in charge.

Little has changed, but in our currently fragmented world of constant conflict, four theatres in four different countries come together using the power of language and technology to tell one story that is the same around the world. We hear four different incarnations of an oppressive power destroys their peace and home, but in this destruction the people unite within their factions.

In London, an ensemble of women local to the Bush come together to tell the story of Grenfell. The recent tragedy is all too fresh and they still grieve for those they have lost and rage against the government’s disdain for the people made homeless by the fire. Similar stories are echoed in Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and New York, where marginalised people still carry the scars wrought by hate and unequal wealth and power. All of them are shared with a giving honesty, and demand for those in control to do better. The technology and dramaturgy that brings them together is impressive, and an affirmation of the power of performance as an act of and for community.

The impact of the collective voices is vast. The emotion buoyed by their experiences serves as a rallying cry amplified by live broadcasts of the other performances happening simultaneously. It is also a celebration of humanity’s power to make change within gaps we can find in the rigid systems that try to confine us. For we are a resilient, creative people and ultimately strive for peace and unity in the face of our enemies, despite our differences and the distance between us. This powerfully communal work reminds of that in these dark days.

Babylon Beyond Borders runs through 16 February.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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