Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Cutting the Cord is an exquisitely detailed show by the Flying Eye creative team. Technically perfect and full of heart, without any danger of gushing, it gently investigates the experience of arriving here from another country and integrating into British life. Highly recommended.
Whilst queuing to enter this show, a company member came up to us with a small box, which had a hole in the top. She invited us to whisper inside it our response to two questions:
Where have you come from?
Where are you going?
How you interpreted these questions and chose to answer was up to you.
A sheet of paper was also handed down the line informing us that we would be invited onto the stage for the first 15 minutes of the piece. This worried and confused an older audience member standing next to me. I tried to reassure her, but there was not much to engage with initially when we arrived: a couple of ladders, a series of musical instruments arranged ready to be played in one corner, a large blank blackboard. However as soon as the performer, Sachi Kimura arrived on stage I felt we were in safe hands.
Sachi’s onstage presence was very warm and welcoming. She quickly introduced herself and then started introducing members of the audience to each other, as one might at a party or other social gathering. From this point on the audience began to knit together more in a subtle, unconscious way.
In this first 15 minute section we learnt of Sachi’s experiences arriving in the UK and dealing with her new country. She moved fluidly around the space, weaving through us as we stood about the stage. She drew with chalk on the blackboard to show us the view from the window of her first room and outlined a television which she pretended to watch, copying phrases to improve her English. Much fun was had by her mimicking lines from soap operas but the intention underneath it was a serious desire to integrate.
Perhaps inevitably the UK entry test exam came up. Sachi held up the exam booklet and drew a chalk line on the floor in front of her feet, then read one of the questions out loud inviting us to respond. I didn’t know the answer. Nor did most of the group. In fact there was a delightful disagreement in the crowd. Sachi read out the correct answer and if we got it right she progressed one step and drew a new chalk line in front of her feet. The question, ‘Is that what it means to be British?’ hung in the air, while we laughed at our lack of factual information and absorbed a moment’s understanding of the hoops an outsider has to jump to get into the country. We only got one of about four questions right. The last question ‘15% of UK residents are immigrants: true or false?’ was answered immediately, ‘Yes.’ by Sachi as she broke way into the auditorium, leaving the implications and audience reactions hanging.
After the opening 15 minutes we were invited to sit down in the auditorium and the performance became an end on show. As a group we in the audience seemed to have bonded somewhat from our experience being onstage and Sachi’s engagement with us. From this point on her physicality seemed to take off. Her body movements were precise and capable of expanding and contracting to encompass the entire stage or hide in a small corner or crevice. We followed her trajectory from one language to another as it was clearly described linguistically and the impact was shown physically. It was funny but shot through with pain and a certain intentional awkwardness.
The stories told were not always intelligible but came across as genuine personal tales. The programme notes handed out after the show, informed us that the text was formed of multiple interviews with people from various cultural backgrounds, including British.
The show was greatly enhanced by the atmospheric music played live throughout by Daniel Marcus Clark and the beautifully crafted and sensitive lighting by Kristina Hjelm. One of the most magical moments I have seen in years was provided by a fantastic lighting effect. It took my breath away.
At the end we heard replies to the original questions we were asked whilst queuing. It gave a moment of landing and a chance to assimilate all that had happened. And I found I had tears in my eyes.