Shafiqha: “Last night we had a performance at Gekko X. We performed The Chalk Circle at 8.00 p.m. It was perfect!!
In the beginning we were nervous, but when we started, everything was great. The actors spoke loudly clearly and with feeling. When the old man Salman said lies everybody laughed. In the play two old people wanted a divorce and the judge granted them one.
My favourite part of the play was when I reserved a room in the hotel. I spoke loudly and angrily because the innkeeper told me and my friend, “we don’t have any rooms.” Then we had to go to the dirty stable where the animals lived. I held my nose and I waved my hand. I liked this part because I got to be a long time on the stage.”
Chris: Arriving at the venue as usual, with just over an hour to go to curtain-up, I noticed a problem: the lid of the trunk – in our production, the Queen’s trunk, which she rummages through to choose the best dresses to take with her and then the ‘baby’ gets left behind in – had come adrift. This was an old, rickety thing, the first prop I had noticed in the Gekko X store room (and actually belonging to the Flying Seagulls, a travelling theatre group, famous throughout the refugee hotspots.) Luckily, we had the right person there to fix it: Andrew, a director of Better Days, who had first cut his teeth in refugee assistance being a dab hand at fixing tent-zips – a truly wonderful skill, and vital in that world.
It took him some time to find the required bits and pieces from the chaos that the store-room had degenerated into, but after that, he said the job was easy enough. I would not agree, seeing as he had to work in a narrow corridor, with performers constantly stepping over and around him. Many a man would have exploded at such a point; he carried on, until the job was done.
Val: I was on duty backstage. Which you can see from the video clips doesn’t appear like any backstage I’ve ever come across before. Standing there, you can clearly see and hear everything happening on stage, but the audience can’t see you!
My job – to help make sure everyone had the right props and cue entrances. But I was redundant, if anything I was in the way, because the kids have got it all sewn up. Ali in particular, stands in the middle of backstage, orchestrating everything; not that the performers need telling, but he adds just that extra crispness that keeps each scene flowing from one to another. In the many, many productions I’ve helped with, I have never known such an organised, focused and professional bunch – no messing around, no whispering or giggling, no showing-off. Magnificent.
Andrew had been worried when he put the curtain up, that it would be too flimsy (and admittedly, it might not stand the test of a day-time performance), but last night, from my point of view I agree with Shafiqha, it was perfect!