JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE ROOTS at Punjab’n De Rasoi, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 11.6.12
3 stars ***
THE PLAY’S THE THING, so they say; yet there’s a lot more than a simple play afoot, in this latest show from the Glasgow-based Word Spirit Forum Theatre Company, which made a brief appearance at the Leith Festival over the weekend. Based on the forum theatre method of the great theatre guru Augusto Boal, World Spirit’s show first offers the audience a few short scenes highlighting a social problem or injustice – in this case, the difficulties facing asylum seekers in the UK – and then invites them to challenge the action, and act it out differently, in ways that could have radically improved the situation.
So, in the cosy atmosphere of a Leith community cafe – and after a good curry dinner – we see members of the audience leaping up to replace job interviewers who won’t advise newcomers on how to make their way into employment, bouncers who are asked to discriminate against black people at the door of a pub, and a man on a bus who – instead of just asking the asylum-seeker next to him not to shout into his mobile phone – reacts by muttering racist insults to thew driver. The point of Boal’s method is to empower audiences, and help them see that people’s lives can be changed for the better; and the point of the all-volunteer World Spirit Theatre – half asylum-seekers, half Glaswegians from around Govan – is not to offer us a polished piece of drama, but to get us on our feet, acting and thinking about how we can be part of that change.