1 hour in the life of a million migrants

GMT 12:25 Thursday ,30 May 2013

 Migrant Voice - 1 hour in the life of a million migrants


Juana In A Million by Daniel Nelson Human heads rolled onto a Mexican dancefloor, groping hands in a London restaurant kitchen, a rip-off job agency refusing payment, cleaning lavatories, unpacking boxes, reeking sheets in a hot-bedding hostel, an elderly Englishman looking for a pliable wife. Does Juana survive the immigrant experience? Vicky Araico Casas reveals all in her one-hour, one-woman piece, Juana in a Million, born out of her own experience as an illegal migrant in Canada and from stories heard when she moved, legally, to Britain. There’s plenty of evidence, because an estimated 114,000 Latin Americans live in London and another 72,000 elsewhere in the country (with Colombians providing the largest number) and their problems and successes were set out in a report last year published by Queen Mary, University of London. The report was called No Longer Invisible, though the title was more a demand than a statement of reality. Juana is another step in the struggle for visibility, an attempt to turn scores, hundreds, thousands, of stories of exploitation, discrimination and abuse into a single, believable character. It makes a sad tale, illuminated by Juana’s determination, vitality and humour, but the telling is entertaining as well as painfully truthful. For British audiences unsteeped in Latin Amercan history and culture, there is the dimension offered by references to Malinche, the lover-advisor-interpreter to the Spanish conquistador, Cortes. Malinche is often reviled as a traitor, a judgement that suggests a dangerous significance to Juana’s decision – against her mother’s wishes – to forsake Mexico and take up another language and a foreign sexual partner. This adds a frisson to Vicky Araico Casas’ superb performance – she deserves the audience whoops at the end of the show – and I hope a subsequent play will reveal what happens next to Juana, whose story is far from over. * Juana in a Million is at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1, until 15 June, £16  /£14. Info: 7407 0234/ http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-little/juana-in-a-million/ . The Playhouse was formed in 1993 and moved to its current – and third – home in May 2013. The coffee and ice cream are outstanding, and unusually, and despite the production’s corny title, the programme for this production is informative and interesting. Image by Southwark Playhouse


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