Created by the Phoenix Dance Theatre from Leeds, and choreographed by artistic director Sharon Watson, Windrush comes to Newcastle’s Northern Stage for a two-night run.
Windrush: Movement of the People makes up the evening’s second act following an excellent duo of mood-setting shorter pieces. Beginning in the Caribbean, following a crowd of people due to make the trip, the performers are dapper and full of optimism, all set for the promise of a new world and better lifestyle.
Shortly after arriving in England, the mood takes on a sombre tone. The movement within the dance hints at feelings of repression and disappointment as the deal sold to them by the British Government turns out to be full of challenges. Racial prejudice and ignorance makes it hard to find lodgings and work; in turn this makes it doubly hard to fit in amongst their new country folk.
This more downbeat section culminates in a positive ending, with a love story blossoming between a Caribbean man and a local girl. If many Brits were fearful of sharing their streets with people from a different culture (despite history telling us that such a happening was nothing new), the piece indicates that large elements of British youth had no such trouble. The people on the Windrush brought cooler clothes, better music and a whole range of new dance routines. At a time when British fashions were as colourful as a foggy day in winter, and conservatism still dominant across society, the joy to be found in those who embraced a different culture is clear to see.
Featuring all 10 dancers on stage at once, the final section is an utter delight. The celebratory feel of the whole troupe performing as one suggests a far more fulfilling life experience than that of those seen earlier in the play, sticking to what they know, resistant to change. Themes of embracing new experiences, celebrating differences and the benefits of finding common ground are clear, and any performance that makes one leave the theatre wanting to do nothing but dance is nothing short of a triumph. Windrush is fantastic.