Interview: Molodyi Teatr London on their show ‘Penetrating Europe, or Migrants Have Talent’
We caught up with Uilleam and Olesya from Molodyi Teatr London,who are bringing a spoof immigrant talent show to the Camden Fringe in August 2017. You the Great British public decide whether they should stay or go!
Penetrating Europe, or Migrants Have Talent by Molodyi Teatr London | The Cockpit Theatre, | 26-27 August | £8/6
Tell us about Penetrating Europe, or Migrants Have Talent. How did the show come about?
Penetrating Europe is our second original show. Our first, Bloody East Europeans, was a musical comedy about prejudices and misconceptions about eastern Europeans in the UK. This time we wanted to talk about another aspect of immigration – why people migrate without documents, how they do it, how it feels. Our actors are mainly Ukrainians, and in the Ukrainian community in London you hear lots of stories about undocumented migration, but you never hear these in the media. So we did interviews with people who had migrated via irregular routes, and used their exact words to make the play – all the stories we tell in the show are true.
We wanted to explore that experience in all its complexity, the human side of it, in an accessible and funny way. But we also wanted to talk about the other side of the problem – how immigrants are often treated not as human beings, but as economic units that are useful or not useful, and the hypocrisy in a society that relies on low-paid, shadow labour but also demonises those who provide that labour. But, again, although we tell some serious stories, it’s not a heavy play – it’s done with a lot of tongue in cheek humour.
The show is in a comedy game show format. What makes comedy important in sharing your message?
We don’t want to hit people over the head with the issues, but make them laugh and think at the same time. We think it’s an effective way to raise these issues. The talent show format is good fun, because at the end of the show the audience decides which migrants stay and which get deported by waving red or green cards – it can get quite controversial! It’s always interesting to observe which card people raise. But it also has a serious message – it’s about how we, as a prosperous society, think we have the right to judge immigrants, to accept or reject them on a whim.
If you had 30 seconds with Teresa May to talk immigration, what would you say?
We’d ask her when the last time she spoke to a real immigrant was… We’d say we need to fundamentally rethink how we treat immigrants – whether it’s the government, the press, or just ordinary people – and think of them as human beings with complicated stories, but also with a lot to offer. We need to stop blaming them for the problems created by our own political elites, with their obsession with cutting public services, for example. And we need to rethink our priorities: do we really want to be a society that refuses to take children from a war zone, or just ordinary hard-working people trying to make lives for their families, but falls over itself to welcome corrupt and criminal billionaires and oligarchs?
Who or what inspires you to make your work?
We’re inspired by the stories we hear from the people we talk to – the tragedies, triumphs, and the absurdities of negotiating the migrant experience.
What are your favourite London haunts (to eat, to be entertained, to party, to relax)?
One of the best kept secrets of West London is the Ukrainian Social Club (154 Holland Park Avenue), where you can get Ukrainian and other east European dishes and beer and observe different generations of Ukrainian migrants – some came after the war, some came last week! We also love all the culture on the South Bank, of course, and the Barbican for theatre, and all of London’s amazing smaller theatres, like The Cockpit, where we’re preforming in August, or Theatro Technis in Mornington Crescent, where we’ve performed many times.
All photos by Guy Corbishley