We Are The Land & Wampanoag Takeover Review

The Mayflower ship has become an iconic symbol of Plymouth’s history since it set sail in 1620, with our ocean city having large-scale plans to celebrate the Mayflower 400 that were halted, just as the world was during the pandemic in 2020. But what’s come of this is a beautiful coincidence that’s allowed a silenced culture of Wampanoags to grace our stages in a series of culturally significant theatrical pieces including We Are The Land, a one-night only phenomenon presented in The Lyric on Sunday 23rd April, alongside the Wampanoag Nation Takeover, with the tribe sharing their stories in an array of methods from 25th to 27th April. 

This three year wait to tell their stories has allowed the tribe to reflect on their culture and their future lying ahead in reclaiming their land as they push forward to also reclaim their culture and the truth of their history–with the show initially being produced as This Land, with this opportunity giving them the chance to adapt and reflect. The result? We Are The Land. A moving piece that presents the inhabitation of Mashpee Wampanoag homelands for over 12,000 years, where the tribe continue to fight their 400-year struggle with the federal government for legal protection of their homelands. All telling a completely true story of commitment to a nation of people and a beautiful way of life. 

Through the use of earnest confessions throughout this theatrical piece, We Are The Land allows the Wampanoags to become one with our land, in order to present their stories to a fascinated full auditorium–as we gain a whole new perspective on history as we know it. 

Despite the Mayflower and Pilgrims being iconic symbology of our ocean city, this performative piece unveiled the darker, more honest version of events from native Americans that hasn’t been so widely acknowledged in our culture. As the Mayflower arrived to The New Land in 1620, the tribe were looking for allies; but what they received instead was forced religion and the denial to plant on their own land if they didn’t comply. It goes against everything we know in our history books…but it’s the tribe’s truth and We Are The Land allows this troubled history to come to life in a way that has you transfixed from the very beginning, as you realise what an authentic viewpoint you’re getting to witness live on stage. 

Intergenerational anguish is apparent through the Wampanoag tribe, shown through the individual stories portrayed and their strong bonds with their ancestors, connected to us through collision and conflict. Coming to Plymouth to tell their story is significant for many reasons, but it stands for our shared future and connection. Facing their years of pain and struggle, fighting for recognition and against oppression, this talented tribe root their spirit into the stage resulting in a tremendous narrative that’s become a once in a lifetime experience, allowing for a profound level of belonging.

Through the use of the tribe coming forward to tell their own stories of their lives in the present day in a final series of testimonies–complete with photographs of their lives in Massachusetts behind them through the use of limited set design, this performance allowed the audience to be captivated up until the very last second. Complete with live singing in their native tongue, this was truly a sight to behold; with the tribe filling the auditorium with their shared community values and hope. 

We Are The Land has Siobhan Brown to thank for direction, supported by Hartman Deetz and Mandy Precious as Creative Director and Executive Producer, with the stories of the Wampanoag having an intense cultural significance to those then and now. What a true privilege to be able to experience this live on stage and a true thank you to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for coming to Plymouth and to everyone involved creatively for bringing this story to us. 

But it’s not just We Are The Land that’s had a sheer historical impact on the audience; as the tribe have now moved to The Drum to continue their cultural exchange within the Wampanoag Nation Takeover. Attending the night of singing and dancing; this was a theatrical event like nothing I’d ever seen before…with audience participation highly encouraged to make the show live up to its full potential, which it absolutely did, with the auditorium coming to life with a celebration of native song and dance. 

An extension of the testimonies shared within Sunday’s shows kicked off the night in a heartwarming way; with each of the tribe members touching upon the sort of jobs they do in their daily lives; adding a sense belonging both within their modern day lives as well as their historical truth they’ve travelled across the Atlantic to share. And I’ll start by summing up the Wampanoag Takeover as monumental. 

Transformed into a jovial dancefloor, with the Wampanoag tribe, audience members and Theatre Royal staff members joining in; the Drum stage became an extremely lively space packed to the brim with those participating in a series of dances that each represented something to the Wampanoags; all with heartfelt meaning. The first of which brought everybody together by joining hands to create a protective circle, keeping the good vibes in and eliminating any negative energy; linking back to their ancestral belongings, with each of these having been passed down for generations. Many of the tribe helped lead these celebrational movements, but others stayed on their microphones to provide live vocals and play live instruments, making them beautiful scenes to witness in person. 

It was incredibly touching to be in a creative space that the tribe called “a safe space” for them to construct something so historically significant. The night resulted in stories of belonging, with each song paying respect to an array of creatures such as the mosquito, alligator and robin; all completed in partner or follow the leader dance arrangement that almost emptied the auditorium into a celebration. The construction and meaning behind each dance was moving, and it was clear to see the impact the Wampanoag tribe have had on a South West audience since their arrival in Plymouth; with these stories having impact for many years to come–with both performances having deep rooted context behind their origins.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *