Performed by thirteen Syrian women, all refugees and none of them professional actors, this extraordinary piece combines a new adaptation of Euripides’ famous anti-war tragedy The Trojan Women with the performers’ real-life experiences.
It is harrowing, humbling and often discomfiting. As a viewer you are acutely aware of the fact that you are sitting in the safety of a darkened theatre listening to heart-breakingly tragic events that these women have recently lived through, and are still trying to come to terms with.
The women present their accounts with calm dignity – and for some it is clearly not easy. Urgent and raw, these are stories that need to be told; they deserve to be heard. And we must listen. In the starkest reminder of the gulf that exists between the theatre-going public in the UK and those who have been forced to flee for their lives, two of the actors approach the front of the stage and, speaking in the patronising sing-song tone reserved for addressing either the very young or very old, deliver a series of revealing questions. ‘What is your story?’ ‘Don’t you have a sadder story?’ ‘How come you have a smart phone?’ ‘Can we make a play out of your story?’
Ultimately, despite the terrible experiences these women have endured, their message is one of hope for the future and a determination to return to their beloved country and rebuild. Their final rallying cry is a lesson for the world ‘we will arm ourselves with education, love and forgiveness’.
By Yvette Huddleston
At West Yorkshire Playhouse