Bringing to an end a two weeks stretch around the city, “My Mind is Free” made a satisfying final appearance on-stage at Croydon’s famous Fairfield Halls.
The play, written by playwright Sam Halls and produced by the Rah Rah theatre company, tells the story of four individuals, three of them illegal immigrants, who find themselves trapped in the back of a truck heading to an unknown destination. The Rah Rah theatre company was set up in 2001 with the main goal of bringing community into theatre and their productions.
In one continuous run and through a remarkable use of its only four cast members, the narrative drifts between characters in order to explain how each of them ended up imprisoned in the truck. Although certain aspects of the story might come across as superfluous, the production still manages to achieve a strong degree of thoughtful criticism towards the issues it sets out to dramatise: human trafficking and immigration.
While the play strives towards a cold, harsh and sublimely insensitive portrait of British society in relation to these subjects (for example its representation of a West London ‘posh’ family’s attitude to immigration), each main character provides an interesting insight into the feelings and struggles of an illegal immigrant.
From the very moment when the person takes (or is forced to make) the decision to leave her country, to the moment they arrive and the first cultural clash takes place, “My Mind is Free” never shies away from a rough and highly discerning style.
At points, Hall’s playwright does find it difficult to balance these two visions. Some characters just feel like mere stereotypical embodiments, rather than more thoughtfully complex additives to the whole picture. The Brazillian husband that repeatedly says “Por Siempre” instead of “Pra Sempre”, or the Vietnamese family that’s always in debt somehow just never quite seem real.
Yet again, this doesn’t go as far as to cloud the play’s powerful critique qualities.
In fact, once we get deeply involved with the characters suffer and we begin to understand the different ways in which human trafficking can take place, it’s really hard not be moved by it, and practically impossible not have an interest in knowing more about the human trafficking picture around where you live.
As a whole, “My Mind is Free” works as a refreshing and highly critical turn to a really important, but somehow surprisingly overlooked topic. It succeeds at a getting a clear message on human trafficking and immigration across, understanding its implications and consequences, and at the same time shows the reach and quality of communal theatre in London.
By Roberto Stifano Flores