BreaDth – A Review on the theatre play about COVID, Care and Struggles against Racism

Anisha Debbarman, International Junior Research Associate at the University of Sussex, shares her review of ‘breaDth’.

Please see below for an excerpt of the article. You can read the full review on the Sohaya Visions website.

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What do we want?

Justice.

When do we want it?

Now!

 

Hands up!

Don’t shoot!

 

I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!

 

It has been two years since George Floyd was brutally massacred. On 25th May, a statue was erected to immortalize Floyd’s death at Tom Bass Park, Houston, United States. It is one of the many statues representing a watershed moment in recent history that drastically shifted global narratives surrounding racial discrimination and inequalities. And it all began with the filming of the brutal circumstances that led to Floyd’s final utterance, ‘I can’t breathe’.

It is a haunting statement that revealed inherent biases in the US police system and specifically problems surrounding racial profiling. Produced by Sohaya Visions and Mukul & Ghetto Tigers, the play, breaDth, performed at London’s Brady Arts Centre and for Birkbeck Arts Week in May 2022, reminded me of how the collective trauma rippled across various countries, finding several parallels between George Floyd’s death and others who have suffered a similar ordeal. It echoed a global sentiment that we need to have better mechanisms for redressing racism, extending to how the COVID-19 pandemic further entrenched racial discrimination.

This is where the play, breadth, sheds some light on how public discourses on racism shape our understanding and navigation of difference and inequality. The D in breaDth was to highlight the Desperation, Depression, Death, Delirium, and Disaster that was brought on by the pandemic in a deeply divided society across race, ethnicity and class. Coproduced with participants and in collaboration with the Consortium of Practices of Well-being and Resilience in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) families and communities (Co-POWeR), breaDth describes the struggles of migrant workers working in the health and social care sectors. Some of the themes performed under the play involved conversations about employment, social stigmas, and work-life imbalances faced by BAME individuals who work as carers in the UK.

The play opens with a soliloquy, narrated by the medieval jurist and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun, at a time of the Black Death, where he identifies social and biomedical pathologies around minorities and prophesizes the course of future events. Voices scream in the background, ‘Kill the heathen. Kill the witch! Kill the Jew! Kill the Arab! Kill the Mullah!’ – cries that demonised minority communities with the pandemic then as it does now. Although very distinct diseases, it is as if history was repeating itself. COVID-19 is also a moment in history, which will be remembered as a disease that puckered irrational fears surrounding racial stereotypes. When the pandemic rapidly spread in the early 2020s, several deep-seated fears erupted about immigration and ethnic differences. Whether they were of East Asian, South Asian or African/Caribbean backgrounds, they were targeted physically and verbally. Floyd’s death came in the midst of it all, reminding us how structural and street violence are deeply connected.

…it all began with the filming of the brutal circumstances that led to Floyd’s final utterance, ‘I can’t breathe’…

You have the opportunity to register to see FREE screenings of breaDth on:

Saturday 16 July 2022, 4pm, Brunei Gallery SOAS, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG (in person)

Sunday 17 July 2022, 5pm (online)