Last Updated on 9th October 2022
Mark Ludmon reviews Windrush Secret, a new play by Rodreguez King-Dorset now playing at Watermans Arts Centre, London.
Watermans Arts Centre, London
The injustices of the Windrush Scandal and the systems that lie behind it come under the spotlight in Rodreguez King-Dorset’s hard-hitting new solo play, Windrush Secret. Drawing on extensive research, it ambitiously explores the legacy of British imperialism and slavery, present-day neo-Nazism and the systemic racism in British society.
Performed and directed by the author himself, it is told through three characters across a single day in London in April 2018 – fictional but inspired by real-life people. Marcus Ramsay is a Black campaigner, born in Trinidad, who addresses a rally in Parliament Square to protest the Home Office’s inhumane treatment of the Windrush generation – people who came to the UK from the Caribbean between 1948 and the 1970s. He provides much of the context for the drama, highlighting the history from slavery through to the eruption of the scandal in 2018 when the Home Office tried to deport Black British Caribbean people who had lived in the UK nearly their whole lives.
The systems behind the Windrush scandal are further exposed by another character, Charles Henry Williams, a white Home Office special adviser who, like many in power, has accumulated his views of race and society within the elitist bubble of Eton and Oxbridge. Through him, we are reminded how the Home Office destroyed documentation and then exploited this with its hostile immigration policies.
But racism is presented in its full horror through King-Dorset’s third character, Trevor Smith – the leader of a neo-Nazi group called England for the English. Dressed in a suit modelled on one worn by 1930s British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley, he spits out violently anti-Black invective that is shocking and unsettling but based on the author’s research into far-right groups.
Fully inhabiting these three very different characters, King-Dorset gives an intense and compelling performance. With intelligence and clarity, he serves up lots of ideas although some are not fully explored, not least an intriguing thread that unexpectedly emerges late in the drama around racial identity. As a piece of political theatre, it searingly brings to life the cruelty of Britain’s immigration system and, more generally, the cruel and cynical way that populist governments and politicians dehumanise and oppress marginalised minorities.
Originating in a shorter play staged at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich last year, Windrush Secret has been performed at various London venues including Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford in west London where King-Dorset is an artist-in-residence.