The show brings to the stage three personal stories from the refugee crisis.
By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS – February 22, 2017) — Fresh from a show at The Barbican in London last month and an MBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours list, the next production with award-winning hip-hop artist Kenrick Sandy’s name on the credits, is at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Tottenham, on February 25, 2017.
One of the former judges on BBC Four’s Young Dancer, and choreographer on the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, in collaboration with Danny Boyle, Sandy is creative consultant on the collaborative dance theatre production “What Are You Doing Here, Mate?” which brings to the stage three personal stories from the refugee crisis.
This highly-charged fusion of film, physical theatre, breakdance, ballet, street dance, tap and African dance, from Pamodzi Creative Productions, features a cast of 40 actors, dancers and visual artists, and is set to an eclectic musical score and visuals, aiming to reflect the international nature of the crisis.
Set in a detention center on a fictional island off the coast of Africa, but using transcripts predominantly gathered from refugees, the performance focuses on the frustration and anxiety people go through in detention while seeking asylum in a foreign country — often after a life-threatening journey.
Writer and producer, Roni Edwards, founder of Pamodzi Creatives, said he wrote the piece as a “creative response” to the shocking death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on September 2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea. He and his family were Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe amid the European refugee crisis.
“As artists, we should be at the forefront of trying to depict the ‘stories behind the stories’ and challenge people to empathize with an issue that we can easily disconnect from,” he said.
The first storyline uses transcripts from Sierra Leonean refugees, who highlight their anxiety in the UK detention system, and their treatment within this process. The second is built around interviews with John Bosco, a gay Ugandan (who now works for the UK charity Friends Without Borders), and considers homophobia within conservative African cultures. The third is based on a female Syrian refugee called Doa, and explores attitudes to refugees.
Writer and producer Roni Edwards trained at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and is the founder of Pamodzi Creatives and of Dance-Africa. Pamodzi works to enable artists from different genres to collaborate on projects with a social commentary. Dance-Africa exists to facilitate collaborations between cultures. Every year, Dance-Africa enables young people from the UK to travel to Zambia and creatively collaborate with young people from disadvantaged communities.
Creative consultant Kenrick Sandy is co-director of Boy Blue Entertainment with Michael Asante. Boy Blue Entertainment is an Associate Artist of the Barbican.
Dramaturge Gail Oakley is a freelance theatre practitioner who provides bespoke workshops for schools.
“What Are You Doing Here, Mate” is being staged in association with Haringey-based Phoenix Community Care, which works to house unaccompanied minors (children aged under 18 who arrive in the UK seeking asylum), as well as those leaving care and children requiring foster care placements. (www.phoenixcommunity.org).
Notes: Detention Action and Refugee Women are running current campaigns against the detention of asylum seekers in the UK. http://detentionaction.org.uk/campaigns/indefinite-detention-in-detail/takeaction and http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/campaign/.
Doa’s story is told in this TedTalk: https://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_fleming_a_boat_carrying_500_refugees_sunk_at_sea_the_story_of_two_survivors).
“What Are You Doing Here, Mate?” matinee on February 25 at 4pm followed by a Q&A with producer, dramaturge and lead cast members; evening performance at 7.30pm. Tickets £12 from www.eventbrite.co.uk.
Notes for editors: For more information or to arrange interviews, please call Sinead Kanlioglu on tel: +44 (0) 7846805644.
Photo captions: 1) Three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying lifeless on the beach. (Photo: Nilüfer Demir). 2) Dancer and choreographer Rachel Stella Layton (right) plays Syrian refugee Do in a scene highlighting the 10,000 migrant children missing in Europe. 3) Young actors from Portsmouth (left to right) Aaliyah Mathieu, Antonio Yildrim, Denzel Panou, Izzy Wakefield-Jones, Charlie Glen Rust, complain about school life in a scene from “What Are You Doing Here, Mate?” 4) Kenrick and Roni collaborative working together. From (left to right) actor/dancer Sasha Biloshisky, producer Roni Edwards and son Nameembo Edwards-Cheesman, creative consultant Kenrick Sandy, dancer/choreographer Rachel Stella Layton, and performer Sasha Shadid. 5) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.
About the writer: Adrian Hawkes is married to Pauline — Dan Wooding was best man at their wedding — and they have three children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He is still part of the Rainbow Church north London which he used to lead and he also works with Sri Lankan churches in France, Switzerland, Norway, Canada and Sri Lanka. He helped to form Phoenix Community Care Ltd, which looks after some 30+ unaccompanied minors, and vulnerable adults in housing in North London; alongside his wife Pauline, he established PCC Foster Care agency and has launched London Training Consortium Ltd., which trains refugees and asylum seekers with ESOL, IT, and Literacy. He has also written various books, the latest of which is Perspectives — The Alphabet of Life. He can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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