The Road Not Taken
The Road Not Taken is a collaborative Site-Specific project designed by me and my friend. Based on Shoreditch Town Hall, London, we conveyed two different immigrant stories in a 40-minute show.
We were asked to design the speculative performance based on either the Island by Armin Greder or the Arrival by Shaun Tan. After careful considerations, we decided to combine the stories to make our show.
Also, we got inspirations from real historical events, like WW2 or Gold Rush.
Inspiration and Development
To tell two different stories at the same time, we tried different ways. In the end, we separated our audience into two groups. Group A is going upstairs to enjoy an immigrant-welcomed community while Group B is going down into the ditch where immigrants are discriminated.
AB00 - The Immigrant Office 1
Performers and audiences queue in here, waiting to be called by immigrant officers.
Commercial advertisements and books against immigration are hanging on the walls alternately.
The original Shoreditch Town Hall is kept here to give a realistic atmosphere.
AB0 - The Immigrant Office 2
They will be here divided into two groups, Group A for the Arrival journey and Group B for the Island journey. Group A will be led to the right while Group B goes to the left.
B1 - The Staircase
Lighting is kept to a minimum in this narrow, shabby staircase leading downstairs, in stark contrast to the bright and well-kept upper floor.
After going down, Group B might look back and take the last glance upwards, considering the possibility of getting back and taking another way. However, the door of the staircase then shut tightly in front of them.
Group B will walk through a humble share house with over thirty immigrant workers lying in their tiny cubicles made up with bunk beds.
If the audiences take a closer look at the beds, they will find posters, newspaper clippings, pictures and notes. Some of the papers show their previous connections, some show attractive upper floor's life and some show how the immigrant people are rejected here. Real historical documents will be mixed in the papers.
This is a secret factory where most of the workers are immigrants. All the windows are covered by curtains and everybody has to remain quiet so that their working will not be noticed. The workers here are making simple industrial products repeatedly and monotonously, which they can only earn a little money with it.
Also, cracks of the windows are covered by newspaper pieces, and some workers are listening to the radio in a low volume, these information sources allow the audiences to have a thoro
The original Shoreditch Town Hall Archive was adapted into a counter, where the immigrant workers line up and wait to be paid for their daily work. While Group B are queueing with the workers, some workers will kindly advise them to put their salaries in a safe place for immigrant people are easy to be stolen or robbed.
They will hear the workers around them talking about saving money and going somewhere else, which is called “Upstair” among the immigrants.
The ceiling cracked in this area, so the light above can come through. The audience can hear the music coming from upstairs and feel people dancing on the upper floor.
A few workers are smoking under the light. They will have a little talk, from which the audience will know that immigrant people living in “Upstair” have much better lives.
This dark room is filled with televisions, computer monitors, radios and speakers. most of them are completely broken, some are glitchy and some are still functioning. The devices are playing anti-immigration programs, commercial advertisements, live video from Group A upstairs and local people’s gossips respectively, leaving the audiences an intense impression.
When Group B are walking pass a local’s house, a child living in this house are playing in front of the door. Seeing a group of immigrant people, the child lifts his/her head and ask them a question innocently: “Why Mama said you are different from us?” But before the immigrants answer, his/her mother rush out of the house and force the child to go back inside. Through the half-open door, Group B can see there is a staircase in the house reaching from upstairs.
This is the busiest street in the town. Although all the storefronts are open, immigrants are not welcomed in here.
The audiences may try to do some shopping with their salaries withdrawn from the counter. However, they will soon find that they are not popular customers.
While our audiences are standing on a crossing, waiting for a tram to pass by, there will be some performers local people suddenly pushing the performers immigrant from behind, shouting out some aggressive words against immigrants before fleeing away. The performers will almost lose their balance and could get crushed by the tram. Is it a trick or a murder? The only thing we know is that they will not receive any help from the performers pedestrian because they are immigrants!
The immigrants start being upset, trying to hide their identity. They wrap their outfit to cover their linings. Children are warned not to say a single word in case of being recognised.
Polices stop them for certificates. The lead police officer threatened them to bribe. Group B has to give him all the valuable things. However, the police officer refuses to return their certificates and orders to arrest them. Fortunately, one of the performance immigrants knows an escape.
In this room, Group B who are desperately escaping from being arrested by the police, accidentally find a secret junction between the upper world and the ditch. They can see people looking down from upstairs with confused looking faces. Can they explain what is going on in the ditch and persuade these people to help them before being caught?
I made storyboard for Group B. Inspired by the story of the Island and other events, I depicted a miserable immigrant life.
Group B (The Island Group) followed a long route include twelve stops.
While locals are wearing ordinary outfits, immigrants wear more worn items with patterned lining indicating their ethnic regions.
The ticket and the poster were made to give a better idea of the show.