From the Sky to your Hands follows the story of Joana Geronimo, who settled in Newcastle with her son Osvaldo in 2003. Joana grew up in Angola, and arrived in England as a refugee. Given the context of the story, the play ties in with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King receiving an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University, as well as the Freedom City Festival.
Joana is the central character in the play, supported by a chorus of actors from Live’s Youth Theatre. They play multiple parts, sometimes as narrators, others as characters in conversation. They also sing in beautiful harmonies, adding a whole other dimension to the play, their melodies evoking memories of home for Joana. It’s a brilliant touch that gives the audience a true sense of being caught between the realities of home and a fondness for what she has left behind in Angola.
Starring Joana Geronimo as herself – she’s now an actor and drama facilitator – From the Sky to your Hands gains a real poignancy as a result. Her real life son Osvaldo, also an actor, plays himself as a teenager. The play takes the form of Joana’s memoir, from her initial trip to the UK to her experiences thereafter, right up until the present.
We see the struggles she goes through, from being a refugee to finding her way in a different country and culture. Alongside the city becoming more multi-cultural through her time in Newcastle, shifts in attitude are apparent. Joana experiences much initial prejudice, whilst her son grows up having not experienced racism. Yet racism has sadly not died out, as we see in the latter half of the play. The story thus reflects societal shifts over the past two decades, as much as it tells Joana’s own personal account.
The cast is strong, versatile and in fine voice throughout, and writer Juliana Mensah and director Paul James deserve special mention for presenting a life-affirming story in a life-affirming way. From the Sky… is a brilliant, original piece of theatre.