What is a good life? Leave Taking

Having the opportunity to experience Leave Taking with my Mother over the weekend was extremely special. It’s a memory I know I’ll be able to cherish for years to come, despite us taking theatre trips as often as we can I know that we’ve shared this experience a British theatre production that was made for us. Watching Leave Taking felt like home, each words spoken resonated in a form of comfort and understanding which I didn’t feel alien to, actions including the movements from the characters and the music selection tied in together.

The atmosphere upon arrival at Bush Theatre for the matinee showing of Leave Taking was beautiful – and the good weather allowed for an even better experience. Having a production which can speak to you directly is rare, particularly in this case as Leave Taking was written by Winsome Pinnock over 30 years ago yet still manages to speak directly to multiple generations at once.

Identity has always played an important role to me, once I reached secondary school I became more aware of my family heritage and background. I had grown up in an extremely diverse and multi-cultural area although I was never surrounded by many other West Indians. I had friends from African, Eastern European and Asian background but there was nobody outside of my family circle who immediately could relate in the mannerism of growing up in from a West Indian background. My grandparents came to England from Jamaica over 60 years ago, so as a third generation immigrate I hope to believe that I am benefiting from the difficult decision they had to make. My lifestyle and upbringing cannot be compared to the life they knew and decided to give up but I hope they understand how grateful I am for the sacrifices they made for my Mother’s generation and my generation to enjoy the life we have now.

Every parent strives for the best for their children, though containing the struggles you may have endured in your lifetime and childhood the last thing you want to do is burden your own offspring. Enid Matthews (Sarah Niles) is portrayed as the strong black woman, raising her children single handed but not meaning they go without, she is embracing her new life in England and like any Mother, wants  the best for her children. Despite battling with some of her decisions between her new life in England and her old life in Jamaica the cracks are beginning to show and and her teenage daughters are old enough to pick up on the characteristics and behaviour of their Mother leaving them wanting to know more about their true identity.

Wil Johnson as Brod and Sarah Niles as Enid. Photograph: Helen Murray

Leave Taking may feel like a more ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’ play today with the anniversary of the Windrush generation, and the ongoing debates and conflicts with immigration laws and the looming fate of the tragic Brexit deals but this is the reality of hundreds and thousands living the UK today still. Though what I found genuinely beautiful was the simplicity of the characters, they were not dramatised they represented a culture, individuals, a collective and real people in today’s society. I’m sure every West Indian person has their own Uncle Brod (played by Wil Johnson) in their family. Remising on his days back in Jamaica, drinking whisky straight no chaser like there is no tomorrow he knows that England is not his true home despite the many hours spend singing the anthem and saluting to patriotism.

No matter how tough times get, we can’t get complacent and become ungrateful knowing the sacrifices made for us to be living the lifestyle we all do in England today. How far will you go and how far can you be pushed to find your true identity? What does identity mean to you and the sacrifices you’re willing to make for your family. Leave Taking was a refreshing production which has opened my mind again to the topic of belonging, home and identity which is extremely important in today’s society for black individuals living in the UK.

For upcoming shows at Bush Theatre visit here. Leaving Taking is showing until 30 June.

Photos © Helen Murray

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