The promised land

posted in: Teaching in Lesvos | 1
The statue of liberty at the harbour entrance in Mytilini

I had been wondering what topic to focus upon for today’s post, and then the answer popped straight into my lap… though not really in a good way. I was conducting a rather chaotic rehearsal, guided by who happened to be there, and called upon Isaq, playing the part of Azdak, to give a cue.  He is normally the most attentive and reliable of actors, but on this occasion was on his phone.  And clearly he was not to be disturbed, waving away any attempt to gain his attention.  When the call finished he was in a state of manic excitement – “I have to go!” – and rushed around the room shaking hands.  I assumed it was some temporary emergency; it was only when he thrust his script into my hands that the reality dawned, swiftly confirmed by others: Isaq was off to Athens, leaving within the hour.  Azdak was gone.  The storyteller was gone.

It did call for a rapid re-think. Zarifeh, my newly-acquired stage manager, offered to step into the breach, but this was a big ask.  The alternative was me, but this would torpedo my desire to have the play acted in Farsi and English.  The solution struck: Zarifeh would take over Azdak – an important role, but only appearing in the final scenes.  And I would be the storyteller, who only speaks in English. 

Iqbal, who plays the soldier in the play, was unexpectedly at the rehearsal, as his interview about his future had taken place that morning.  He too was receiving a series of phone calls, and after each one I was expecting that he would tell me that he too was on his way.  Luckily (for me) and unluckily (for him) no such news came.  Not yet, at any rate: it does seem that people are on the move, so nothing is certain.

Isaq had clearly been very excited about his move to Athens, a place he saw as the promised land, but it is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it is another step in his journey, and moving forward off the island makes it less likely that he will be sent back.  On the other, there will be less support; there is nothing like Gekko available for him there, much less chance to continue his education.  But it is an important step.  In many ways, the person I feel most sorry for is Pam, one of the American volunteers, who has spent hour after hour helping him with his lines, coaching, coaxing, encouraging, listening; she had so looked forward to seeing him on stage.  He won’t have anyone like her in Athens.

Oh, and a new Michael turned up today, the best yet.  Yippee!

  1. Krystyna Hewitt

    If I was asked to name the qualities most needed if someone is to work in similar circumstances to yours, from your articles I would say that ‘flexibility’ and ‘resourcefulness’ are top of the list! I’m sure your optimistic nature will be rewarded by a great performance.

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