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VocalEye Reviews - Anywhere But Here

Shawn (in jest) holds a prop rifle at Kristy standing beside himSometimes, you want to be anywhere…but here.

So you throw your two young daughters in your car and start driving.

Away from the north. Away from a commune of women with unshaven armpits and bra-less tits. Away from the memory, Dios, the sight of your wife – your wife- necking with a hippie.

Don't look at the billboards flashing by, advertising products and vacations you will never afford. Don't remind yourself that you were once a scientist, once a revolutionary with strong convictions, once a young man so very much in love.

Ignore Carolita and Lupe going on about kidnapping and women exploring other means of reproduction.

Means of reproduction? Dios, what has Laura been filling their heads with?

Yes, drive away from the north and towards the south and home.

Everything will be normal again once you get home.

Maternal instinct will guide Laura back. Back to the yellow house with the pink rosebushes. Back to a place where revolutionaries fought and won for what they believed. Back to when you made Laura laugh so hard, she peed herself.

Back to a house Carolita complains she cannot remember? No es importante.

Drive anywhere…but here. Anywhere but magnetic north.

But then you arrive there – that much-sought after anywhere but here – and there is a wall.

And arms that are definitely not the welcoming kind.

Have you not reached south? Land of your birth, of your mother tongue? Where are the open gates, the relieved and reverent receptions?

In your dreams and the dreams of your children you are all invisible. Dios, invisible in this, the south, your home! All around you the vendors call, life goes on…without you.

And you remember - there was a time, wasn't there, when you and Laura wished to be anywhere…but here? Anywhere but the south. When magnetic north called, and you answered.

And then, with an explosion, you are suspended in a place that is neither here, nor there.
Where you can float from one side of the wall to the other and still feel lost.

Dios mio. This is not how it is supposed to be.

You see Carolita looking at a shrine of shoes and toys and food on the north side of the wall. A man with a TV dinner explains it is a tribute to all those who have failed to make it from the south to the north.

Here is the welcome one would expect, the glad reception. But it is for the dead, not the living.

Who would want to leave the south?

We did, Laura's voice says to you. Because I was about to be arrested and you had an affair.

What that last part has to do with anything, you don't know. She is the one who changed. She is the one who doesn't love you or the children anymore. She is the reason you and the children had to flee from home.

"Why do I have to be a poor Latina girl in the north and invisible in the south?" you hear Carolita cry over and over as the Monarch butterflies do their redundant tango from north to south and back again.

If only you could be like the butterflies – happy and settled wherever you land, for however long you land. If only your transition from north to south could be so free and effortless and full of grace.

If only there was no south or north, no Gringos versus Mexicanos.

Anywhere But Here presents the migrant struggle as a poetic tragedy that neither begs for sympathy nor berates the unsympathetic.

As a child growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, I remember hearing stories about people from the Caribbean travelling on tourist visas to countries like Canada and America and England and disappearing into those vast places in a desperate effort for a new life. I heard, too, of the triumphs of those who survived the years of hiding in basements and working under the table until they achieved legal immigrant status. For every triumph, I understood, there were scores of disappointments.

My family immigrated to Toronto as permanent residents in 1992 under the sponsorship of my aunt and uncle. I know my dad worked minimum-wage jobs, sometimes outdoors in -30 Celsius, to provide for us. I remember how strange it was for my brother and I to arrive home from school to an empty apartment because Mom was working for the first time in our lives. I'm certain, despite their resolve that Canada was a better life for us, that they wished to be anywhere…but here. I definitely had my moments – especially when I had to walk home from school in the snow.

That feeling of displacement has disappeared for me but, as I sat in the second row of the Vancouver Playhouse on February 8, 2020, engrossed in the VocalEye Descriptive Arts described performance of Anywhere but Here, I grieved for those who would forever be stuck in limbo.

It is not lost on me that I would not be where I am, or who I am, if my parents hadn't decided to be anywhere but Trinidad in 1992. In Trinidad, people with vision loss do not attend described theatre performances. Few have the opportunity to attend school or live independently. On that same train of thought, I wouldn't be where I am, or who I am, if I hadn't decided to be anywhere but Toronto in 2003. I'd moved to be with a guy I'd been madly in love with and when he broke up with me in 2008, I knew he wished I'd go back to Toronto or anywhere but Vancouver.

But Vancouver is home for me now.

I suppose this is more a personal reflection than a review but there you have it.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank Electric Theatre Company and VocalEye for arranging the spectacular pre-show touch tour. Another experience I would not have had if I were anywhere but here in Vancouver. To feel the cork chips underfoot, cradle Carolita's stuffed, purple unicorn in my arms, run my hands along the simulated border wall - each action not only enamored me more to the story I was about to see but it impressed upon me the passion and attention to detail involved in every theatre production.

My boyfriend, Shawn, who is blind, was more enamored with aiming the prop rifle at me. What else should I expect from a Gringo dating a brown girl, right?

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