By: Sara Lamerton, TRP Reviewer
In what seems like a Divine coincidence, the city’s original plans for the Mayflower 400 Commemorations were scuppered by a pandemic. Just as the roots of this turbulent part of history were infected with a virus spread by the Pilgrims, which irreversibly changed the Wampanoag’s fate forever, so Covid 19 altered the telling of those stories 400 years later.
However, much like the proud, resilient Wampanoag people, the showcasing of those stories adapted. Growing into something else; something unique. This Land became We Are The Land as our city intertwined with the Wampanoags once more to showcase their multi-layered, thoughtful, sincere perspectives.
Plymouth is synonymous with the Pilgrims. Even our football mascot carries their torch. Yet, despite the enmeshed relationship we hold with the Mayflower and the journey they undertook from these shores in 1620, the darker, more honest version of events hasn’t always been so freely acknowledged. A white-washed, sanitised tale has, up until more recently, been the official retelling. Yet the truth is far more complex, much deeper and darker than many of us might recall from our Primary school history lesson days.
Recently, a more accurate version has been widely spoken of, particularly leading up to the Mayflower 400 Commemorations plans of 2020. We Are The Land did indeed continue that reflective, authentic stance of a troubled history. Of course, our national narrative around colonisation has fundamentally shifted since the last significant Mayflower anniversary in 1970. And, although we can’t simply judge and condemn history through the lens of a modern mindset, we certainly can and should learn from our past by being transparent, honest, and embedding changes that span across generations to come.
Generational trauma clearly exists within the Wampanoag Nation. How could it not? However, even more apparent was how passionately determined those representatives, who travelled across the Atlantic to where their people’s troubles began and stood up on stage to present their personal homage to their past, present and future, in fact are. Even in the face of recent oppressive political figures, they continue to struggle and fight for recognition. Like the very foundation of their culture, survival is rooted in a spirit close to nature in ways we can only enviously admire.
The cold harsh truth is rarely easy to face. It’s much easier to turn away or excuse what happened. Yet it needn’t be that way. With allyship, understanding, and the merging of creative projects like We Are The Land we collectively take huge steps forward; opening our eyes, ears and hearts to the harsh reality of that dark period of history, and subsequent real-life ramifications felt to this very day.
Of course, We Are The Land is unlike any other performance at TRP to date. As unique as it is culturally significant, reviewing the merits of this show in the same way you would a touring stage performance isn’t appropriate or fair. The stories of those affected by past and present struggles deserve the utmost respect. So I’ll simply conclude with a sincere thank you to everyone involved. What a privilege it was to experience it.