Sunday, June 23

The Windrush Warriors – Theatre Peckham

The Windrush Warriors begins its 25-date tour of the UK. Written by and starring Nicola Gardner, who appears as receptionist and narrator, regales us with tales of time gone by. She is joined by Sisters Johnson and Richards and Brother Leroy and Myers recreating for us banter that is equal measures funny and familiar and parts offensive. Ribbed with wordplay, it is refreshing to see senior women express their sexual wants and needs at centre stage. It’s essential and fun to witness the yearning, curiosity and playfulness they embody. The characters are all familiar, which adds to their charm, and one would imagine that the rehearsals were a riot! However, widespread and outdated tropes make the jokes fall short like a fizzy drink without its fizz. The play does have several moments of good guffaws. The stage setting seems too static and could do well with a dramaturg to reflect on editing its length to stay impactful to its subject matter.

The public’s memory and certainly some young theatregoers have mostly forgotten about the trials and tribulations of the Windrush Generation surviving in the racist United Kingdom. Such a play and possible TV series would do well to highlight the British political scandal that began in 2018 concerning people who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, and threatened with deportation in at least 83 cases. More than 23 of those eligible for compensation died before the received any. The play moves far away from the ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’ shown by the Government on its own citizens. It, however, zeroes in on four Afro-Caribbean pensioners, who gathered themselves and the community to rally for change.

In May 2018, the Windrush Scheme was launched to ensure members of the Windrush generation could get the documentation they need to prove their right to be in the UK, free of charge. Over 16,700 people have been issued documentation confirming their status or British citizenship up to Quarter 3, 2023. It speaks to the power of community, solidarity and friendship.

The unlikely band of three is able to push back on the cruel techniques implemented by the home office to prove documentation arbitrarily. The show repeats several characters from Gardner’s last touring production, ‘The Community Centre’, which toured between 2016 and 2021. However, amid the Rwanda scheme being implemented and the ongoing genocide in Congo, Sudan and Palestine, and the erosion of Trans rights, one misses a deeper and more realistic portrayal of the drive, determination, and community organizing that Peckham is so famous for. The play makes space for some poignant moments of yearning to miss one’s home with the flora and fauna one grew up with, and it reminds us that so many changes were brought about by the people saying no in the community.

The Windrush Warriors played an essential role in gathering and fighting for one’s rights and reclaiming statehood to begin with invites us to laugh unapologetically.

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 26th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.