A guilty pleasure of mine has always been a harmless bit of pantomime, so when I returned to the U.K this Christmas I was disappointed to learn that all the theaters were showing that stupid old one where immigrants come to the U.K to take our jobs. They Don’t Speak the Language, it was called. I’d actually seen it before, a million times, but with little else to do, I went to watch it anyway.
In a bid to keep things current, this year’s antagonists are Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants (or the Robuls as they were referred to in the piece) as the U.K recently opened its boarders to their citizens.
It’s a story that gets regurgitated every few years or so, and being of Polish descent it wasn’t long ago that the controversial right wing director was dehumanizing my relatives as a homogenous swarm of slovenly feudal serfs slowly making their way towards our boarder in their sorry wooden carts pulled by tuberculosis-ridden horses fed on feces and swan meat, all the while not speaking the language
Now although I do take grammatical issue with the show’s title, with its use of the definite article, it is reasonably accurate. I can attest to the fact that many of these potential immigrants don’t speak English, and are for the most part uneducated, and that’s why the whole thing falls so short.
It’s not so much that I found the play so offensive that really irked me though, it’s more that the narrative had so many holes in it. The story itself is essentially your classic horror story, which in terms of its conventions is relatively straightforward. You need a monster, and a victim who you can feel enough empathy for to maintain an invested interest, and for me this is where the remake falls apart and never really recovers.
Just before the curtains came down and the actors had left the stage they projected a grainy short of a dystopian future where a montage of defeated working class U.Kians trudge away from the nation’s agricultural fields to a polka version of god save the queen, leaving us with a few departing shots of commandant like supervisors explaining the semantics of the now vacant job posts to the dreaded immigrants with the use of a hand puppets, which are used to transcend the language barrier as they nod earnestly with their disgusting toothless grins smeared across their vapid expressionless faces.
I know I was supposed to feel sorry for the ousted workers, but I just couldn’t do it somehow. They’d grown up in a country where education is mandatory, and at the end of it the best they could do is perform pre-industrial tasks like picking potatoes, please!
The story just doesn’t make sense, and I just feel like the writers wanted to have their cake and eat it. On the one hand they want us to feel such reticence to the mere idea of sharing a bus seat with these godless heathens who ‘don’t even speak the language’, yet at the same time feel sorry for the people they have some how managed to replace. Utter tripe it was.