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“What Are You Doing Here, Mate?”

by ANS Editor

Challenging Dance and Theatre show against injustice is coming to Tottenham, north London

By Adrian Hawkes, Special to ASSIST News Service

Roni EdwardsLONDON, UK (ANS – January 13, 2016) — Awesome, harrowing, influencing storytelling. is how I would describe the show that I went to see at a Portsmouth theatre, but I jump ahead.

My wife, Pauline and I, have a friend of many years who we understood was putting on a dance / dramatic theatre production at the Portsmouth Theatre. This is quite a way from London, but we wanted to support our friend Roni Edwards, who originally comes from Lusaka, Zambia, but now lives on the south coast of England.

Roni studied for her degree in International Politics at the University of Portsmouth and then went on to study Dance Teaching & Learning at Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, Goldsmiths’ College at the University of London.

For those of you outside the UK, let me explain a little about Portsmouth, a port city and naval base on England’s south coast, mostly spread across Portsea Island. It’s known for its maritime heritage and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The dockyard is home to the interactive National Museum of the Royal Navy, the wooden warship HMS Victory, where Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar, and HMS Warrior 1860. The Tudor ship Mary Rose is also conserved in a dockyard museum.

But although there is so much to see in this historic city, we wanted to see Roni’s show, and frankly it was well worth the more than 82-mile drive to Portsmouth to see it.

The production was an ambitious initiative that had refugees & asylum seekers interviewed to help create a musical score, lead choreographers worked with dancers & actors to bring these stories to life. This production fuses Physical Theatre, Breakdance, Ballet, Street, Tap & African dance.

Scene from the showThe production was so exciting that Pauline and I knew we had to bring this production to London and specifically to Tottenham, an area in the London Borough of Haringey in north London, where we house so many of our vulnerable young people. And so, this February we will transport the dancers from the south coast of the UK to inner-city London and the the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, a £15 million purpose-built multi-arts centre, which includes a 274-seat auditorium, studio/rehearsal space, café/bar, enterprise centre and open spaces. It is located next to the Town Hall in Tottenham.

And now it’s becoming a reality, for on February 25th, 2017, Phoenix Community Care (www.phoenixcommunity.org), along with Pamodzi Creatives, will present “What Are You Doing Here, Mate?” at the Bernie Grant Arts Theatre in Tottenham.

I’ve written previously about my charities, all gathered together under the umbrella that is Phoenix Community Care. A core part of what PPC does is provide semi-independent accommodation for 16-18-year-old refugees and asylum seekers who are unaccompanied. We get them into college and support them with integration into their local community. So, last year, when my wife and I were in Portsmouth to see a dance theatre performance, telling the story of three asylum seekers, their journey and struggle with the asylum process, it moved us immensely.

The performance includes over 40 dancers and used transcripts from mostly local refugees to create a world based around an asylum-seeker detention centre on a fictional island off the coast of Africa.

The piece itself reflects the “personal crisis” themes of the transcripts highlighting the frustration and anxiety of ‘the waiting process’ whilst seeking asylum in a foreign country, often after life-threatening journeys.

Kendrick has MBEThe eclectic musical score and accompanying visuals also reflect the very international nature of this crisis.

The first character story line explores a world where someone from the UK is in fact stranded and now himself an asylum seeker. It uses transcripts from Sierra Leonean refugees who spoke about the anxiety of being within the detention system and their treatment within this process.

The second character is built around interviews with John Bosco, a gay Ugandan who now works for Friends Without Borders (www.friendswithoutborders.org.uk). This section sought to explore the extent of homophobia within more traditional, conservative African cultures, including, sadly, some first-generation Africans within the UK. The ultimate end of people in such a situation is terrible death often by being burnt alive.

The third character was of a Syrian refugee woman called Doa; and her section also explores the not so positive attitudes that can be found towards refugees. Using a “lips sewn together” motif, the finale exposes us to the uncomfortable desperation that some refugees and asylum seekers experience.

Given the displacement we are seeing day after day, (currently running at 65.3 million people according to UNHCR) to week after week, month after month, it’s incumbent upon us to keep telling these stories and keep doing what is within our power to make life a little better for everyone who shares this planet with us.

For some like Zrinka Bralo (https://www.assistnews.net/index.php/component/k2/item/1411-the-migrant-tragedy-continues-london-and-lesvos-calling), this is dedicating our careers but for some it could be buying a ticket to support a charity like PCC. If you are reading this report before the event on the 25th of February, 2017and want to come, there are two shows one at 4.p.m. and one at 7.30 p.m. and tickets can be bought online by clicking www.phoenixcommunity.org/tickets.

Pictures from injustice show useRoni Edwards with Pauline Hawkes and Phoenix Community Care, have issued a joint statement about the upcoming show, saying, “We are so very proud of the South Coast collaborations, dancing over injustice! The “What Are You Doing Here Mate?” The production will again include auditioned cast members from FuzzyLogic, Most Wanted, Streetforce DC, South zone, JoJo’s Street dance & LucyKate School of Dance. The fabulous Kenrick Sandy of Boy Blue Entertainment will again be our Creative Consultant with Gail Oakley as Dramaturge. (Kenrick has just received an MBE from Buckingham Palace for his services to dance & the community). Lead choreographers include the fabulous Mr Sasha Alexander, Grace Hall, Rachel Layton, Syxx Isaac & Roni Edwards [original choreography also by Sasha Shadid].

I hope many of you can make one of the shows and I look forward to seeing you there.

Photo captions: 1) Roni Edwards. 2) Scene from the show. 3) Kenrick has just received a top award from Buckingham Palace. 3) Two more scenes from the show. 4) Adrian and Pauline Hawkes.

Adrian and Pauline HawkesAbout 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: adrianhawkes@phoenixcommunity.co.uk.

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