The journey begins

posted in: Hotel Lessons | 2

I had managed to type out four pages of script, based on the interviews I have had with Hamed, Aisha and Tulsi, and I am quite pleased with it.  It is much wordier than most plays I write; one of the aspects of having a small cast is that it leaves less room for the physical theatre that often brings theatre alive.  But their stories are compelling, and in adopting a Brechtian, story-telling approach, it means we can cope with huge changes of setting, mood, atmosphere.

Our style of presentation will inevitably be quite stark and simple, with nothing in the way of scenery or costume.  But if possible, it would be good to recruit someone with the technical ability to create a rich soundtrack, as this could be a way to give our play edge and vibrancy, as well as being entirely portable.

Nonetheless, the script so far is just a draft.  I am quite comfortable creating dialogue for characters to speak, but on this occasion I am putting words into people’s own mouths, so I have to give them the right to challenge or change this.  There were also one or two occasions when my interview notes did not provide enough detail, and rather than rely entirely on my own imagination, I wanted to grab some more detailed account of what was said.

But I was pleased on two fronts.  First of all, they had no serious disagreement with the words I had chosen for them to say (though Aisha did suggest that he words be simpler, which is something I will look at.)  And secondly, it does seem to be holding together, with the three stories weaving in and out of each other.  I am used to creating plays, and so trust my ability to create something which carries dramatic weight.  However, it is already turning into quite a lengthy script, and that is without adding a fourth voice, for Abdulaziz is also keen to tell his story.

Which is how I spent the last half-hour of the session.  Abdulaziz’s English is improving, but is not sufficiently good to manage the retelling of his story, so I had recruited Yasser (who had briefly been a part of the group) as interpreter.  And the story which emerged was similarly harrowing.  In a way,it is good to have too much material; if one of the participants drops out (there are hopeful signs for Aisha) there should still be sufficient material.

But we have begun, the cast seem excited (as well as a little daunted) by the new play, and we will see where this take us.


posted in: Hotel Lessons | 1

Apologies that there has been an absence of posts just recently.  I have, in truth, been quite busy with various events, not least my daughter’s wedding, and then appearing for two weeks in Romeo and Juliet in Oxford.  But actually, though the classes have continued to run, it has all been remarkably low-key.  We have lost some of our strongest performers, either because they have moved on in their lives, such as Dasha and Frishta, who have both been accepted for and scholarships for their college courses, or because they have somehow lost interest, such as Thomas and Ali.  However, while there is still enough of a demand for what I do, I will keep the class running. 

We have started to look at creating a new performance, and both Aisha and Hamed are keen for the work to be about their experience as asylum-seekers, so we are starting to look at the idea of Journeys, focusing specifically on their journey to England – why it came about, and then how.  And since to some extent this physical journey also mirrors the story of their lives, we have begun by looking at some of their stories from their childhood.  It is most interesting that, so far, both the stories we have been told, and have looked at in a theatrical sense, also reflect the motivations and ethos of that person.  Not a particularly inspired observation – the child is father to the man, after all (and mother to the woman), but still it is remarkable to have that demonstrated so clearly.

Aisha’s story, of a small girl playing in a muddy pool, also marks her out as a rebel, one who is reluctant to accept society’s strictures; while Hamed, telling how as a small boy he stole from a local shop, yet went back the following day to pay for what he had taken, reflects his strong sewnse of right and wrong.

I interviewed both of them about their escape from their home country, (and subsequently, have done the same thing with Tulsi), and it was, as you can imagine, harrowing and tense – the challenge will be to bring those stories to some sort of theatrical life in as simple as way as possible, yet which still reflects the tension, the fear, the despair.  We have been contacted by an organisation organising a migrant festival in September, so that might provide an opportunity to share our ideas, at whatever stage they have reached by then.