Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Border Tales

Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, presented by The Place

Genre: Dance, Music, Physical Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

“Protein presents a thought-provoking yet poignant commentary on multicultural Britain through dance, live music and dialogue compiled from the performers’ personal experiences. Border Tales looks at post-Brexit Britain seen through the eyes of an international cast and gazes satirically on stereotypical thinking about migrant outsiders and bigoted homelanders.”


This is devised show by the performers of Protein, conceived and directed by Luca Silvestrini., Artistic Director of Protein Dance Company. It is part of a showcase from London’s renowned centre for dance, The Place, called The Place Work Place programme. It’s a provocative and satirical look at how people perceive differences. An international cast of seven performers expresses their stories through physical acting, storytelling and dance. It’s an ambitious piece, which is outstanding in the level of performance and structure.

All the performers live in Britain but originate from somewhere else, such as Nigeria, Taiwan, China, Ireland, England and the Middle East, physically or culturally and the show is built around their own lives, comments and recent reactions they experience, even in this post Brexit enlightened society. The show starts with rhythmic Middle Eastern music and a mix of traditional and contemporary dance. The dancer energetically stomps, jumps, bends, and runs to the rhythm of the music, it sets up a marvelous atmosphere. Then we see the first scene – a border guard checking papers – and several men spar and fight. Cultural differences are as much to do with this scene, as are rules. A soundscape plays that is full of apprehension. Music is composed by Andy Pink and one of the ensemble Nathan Kharana also plays multiple instruments live.

Next, an ensemble dance is especially exciting with twirls and partnering, its vibrant and dynamic with an emphasis on contemporary dance. A story told by a duo about going to the pub on Friday nights is fascinating because like some other stories it is accompanied by inventive movement at the same time, not literal movement, but unusual and well mined, from an extensive movement vocabulary. Brilliant!

Jokes occasionally provide humour and the ensemble has chosen to use humour throughout to take the edge off of the stereotypical hard-hitting topics that members of this group deal with on a regular basis. Temitope AJose Cutting from Nigeria spiritedly reveals the cliché comments she receives through crisp movement and gestures and expressive facial reactions. Yuyu Rau from Taiwan tells us how people shout at her thinking she will understand what they are saying better if it’s louder, although she speaks perfect English. She is also a lyrical dancer who dances gracefully with delicate precision and flow, later joined by three dancers – this is a highlight!

Customs and catch phrases are an interesting topic that causes confusion when arriving in a new country. Other topics in the show include religion, displacement, cultural food, greetings and more. The topics are treated head on in an inventive and imaginative way, it’s entertaining and, more importantly it is seriously thought provoking. These performers give so much of themselves in this show, they are bold and brave to enlighten and educate.

There is a fascinating unexpected (and positive) comment on the value of school uniforms, and how everyone looks the same, its point is well made, because being different when young is so challenging, no matter what the difference is. Another topic is about cultural differences and treatment of women, even though these are serious themes, the company treats them all with respect in a constructive way.

The theme of belonging comes up throughout the piece, but has its own place in the show. Where do we belong? Should we return to where we came from? What makes home? Several more dances in the show, solos, duos, ensemble are beautifully danced – delicate, vigorous, free – and are always built around the stories cleverly. This is a substantial show packed full of well-choreographed dances, very good physical acting and imaginative storytelling, all well paced and complete.

Performers: Temitope AJose Cutting, Sarah El Brogy, Andy Gardiner, Kenny Ho, Anthar Kharana, Stephen Moynihan, and Yuyu Rau.

The show leaves us with important questions to ponder after the performance about how we treat and accept people. We are all human after all. It’s brilliant, creatively devised, well performed, poignant and moving.