“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere”.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, actually said those words, in 2016 at her party’s annual conference. The speech, on the back of the Brexit referendum, ramped up public unease about immigration and fear of foreigners. Two years on, with right wing extremists seemingly taking power all over the world, it’s easy to feel despondent, hopeless, and ever more disconnected from the world at large.
Which is why it’s important that works like Windows Of Displacement exist. Works that point out that (to use a popular turn of phrase), we have more in common than that which divides us – a phrase that now frankly seems more important than ever.
Windows Of Displacement is the work of Akeim Toussaint Buck, who was born in Jamaica and raised in England. It’s a mix of spoken word monologue, audience interaction and some absolutely hypnotic dance routines, with some traditional Jamaican songs thrown in. Although Brexit and the Windrush scandal aren’t explicitly mentioned, their shadow hangs heavy.
Toussaint Buck has cleverly structured his show so that it switches between performance and intimate chat with the audience. He has a rich, powerful voice which immediately impresses with his opening song, but it’s his dance routines that really catch the eye – graceful and mesmerising, Toussaint Buck is impossible to keep your eyes off.
The opening stages of Windows of Displacement touch on the history of Jamaica, the effects of slavery on successive generations, and the ironies of fighting for a country that isn’t your own. We quickly move onto Toussaint Beck’s more personal story, that of how he moved over to England with his mother, and his experiences with trying to gain citizenship and taking the Life In The UK test – it’s here that he slowly starts to involve the audience.
Toussaint Buck is a charismatic and engaging story-teller, and in the intimate environs of the Crucible’s Studio theatre, it’s easy to become drawn into his world. Before long, he’s teaching the audience a song, and telling everyone to go and take a photograph with a stranger sat by them.
This sort of audience interaction would usually set my teeth on edge, but Toussaint Buck is such a charming presence that it feels like a completely natural progression (it also leads to the sharp observation that today’s smartphones, despite the global connectivity that they can enable, are the by-products of modern slavery).
There’s a lot to deal with here, almost too much given the show’s slender 60 minute running time. But by the time Toussaint Buck comes to his conclusion that we are all, in our own ways, victims of displacement, and that the only solution is to “be a mother to another”, you almost want him to go back to the beginning and start again.
It always sounds a bit pompous to describe a show as being ‘important’, but that’s exactly what Windows of Displacement is. The fact that it manages to deliver its message while still being accessible, thought-provoking and immensely uplifting is a tribute to its creator. Akeim Toussaint Buck is a name that is going to go far.
Windows of Displacement was on at Sheffield Crucible on 20 November, and will be at Square Chapel Arts Centre on 22 November. More info here.