The poet Warsane Shire once said “the past and future merge to meet us here”, which encapsulates the experience of Global Majority performers and creatives. The influence of our history very much impacts us now. Centring the imagined life of Jamaican born Fanny Eaton, who was a model at the Royal Academy in the Victorian era, Them explores this relationship.
Eaton is a fascinating topic, historically and conceptually, in terms of exploring power dynamics in a white male dominated art world. Tambala, who plays Eaton, showed a clear discomfort in being openly viewed as ‘other’ but the piece did not go far enough in exploring what was at the heart of this. Despite the show’s insistence to tell Eaton’s story, I didn’t leave the show knowing any more about her life.
The show’s title suggests that its aim is to humanise non-white British people and I enjoyed when members of the cast shared their own stories of belonging to the diaspora. Here is where the true strength of the show lay, within the comradery of the ensemble.
Physical theatre is a compelling mode for exploring the silent ways Global Majority bodies carry trauma. The cast explored this, at times, physically shrinking themselves, and at times, dancing with rage. The use of physical theatre did feel clumsy at points, e.g. when they were switching poses and costumes and the lack of precision in these movements did leave gaps in the production’s narrative arc.
Although narratively disjointed, Them provided an opportunity for its Global Majority creatives to tell their stories on their own terms, reminding me that theatre can also serve as a means of archiving voices that have been silenced.