'I have a scream I want the world to hear'
QUEENS OF SYRIA - INTRODUCTION
First staged in Amman in 2013, and the subject of an award winning documentary, Developing Artists presents Refuge Productions' Queens of Syria, an adaptation of Euripides anti-war tragedy, The Trojan Women.
Performed by an all-female cast of Syrian refugees, the production skilfully amalgamates the women's own narratives of bitter exile and ferocious war into the ancient Greek text. Footage from the documentary is fused with the stage play for the first time to create a powerful, extraordinary and unique piece of theatre.
These are not the voices of political commentators or journalists, but of ordinary women whose lives have been turned upside down by the turmoil of the Syrian conflict. The stories of these women need to be heard.
Queens of Syria comes to the UK for a three week run in 2016. This will be a life-changing opportunity for the refugees themselves, and an eye-opening experience for British audiences who will hear first hand the harsh realities of life as a refugee.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
In November 2013 Refuge Productions brought sixty Syrian refugee women in Jordan from all walks of life together with the Syrian director Omar Abusaada, to adapt and perform an Arabic performance of Euripides anti-war tragedy, The Trojan Women. Not one of them had ever acted before.
Set at the fall of Troy, and written in protest at the playwright's home city Athens' brutal suppression of the independent island of Melos, where all the men were killed and the women and children sold into slavery, the play explores the bleak future facing the Trojan women as they contemplate a life of exile and slavery. Reading the original play, the Syrian women were astonished with the parallels to their own real life experiences, and quickly identified with the female characters of the tragedy.
Over three weeks of workshops, and a further two weeks of rehearsals, Omar Abusaada and his cast went through a process of exploring the women's devastating experiences.
These stories of exile, loss and suffering were worked into the play, creating an extraordinary and unique piece of verbatim theatre that made headlines around the world. If telling the story of their experiences and escapes from the Syrian war was difficult, the cast's achievement was made all the more astonishing by the fact that they had never acted before. Added to this was the social pressure from some members of their community who did not want them to go on stage, and differences of opinion within the group itself; some wishing to speak out publicly against Assad, others not, and yet others fearing the consequences of speaking freely for once in their lives.
But in spite of all the problems they faced the women formed a close knit group, helping each other to face their fears and the depression caused by the conflict, and to rebuild their shattered confidence. Above all, through their work on the play and their performance, the women discovered a new voice and freedom in bringing their previously untold stories to a global audience who, it turned out, wanted to listen.
Now, three years later, Developing Artists have teamed up with Refuge Productions to remount the production in Jordan, and tour into to the UK.
Queens of Syria will be remounted in Jordan in June 2016 before touring to the UK. This project will be delivered in four stages:
1. REHEARSALS IN JORDAN
From May 2016 we will re-rehearse Queens of Syria in Amman, Jordan, incorporating some new refugees and their stories into the narrative of the original piece.
2. UK TOUR
The refugees and creative team will then fly to the UK to premiere the piece at London's Young Vic Theatre from the 5th – 9th July, before embarking on a tour of the UK for a further two weeks, and finishing up with a gala show in the West End.
3. JORDANIAN PRODUCTION
On their return to Jordan the refugees will once again present the play for a further three performances at the National Centre for Culture and Arts in Amman, Jordan.
We will make a new documentary about the process following the production and cast from Jordan to London and beyond.
A key aim of the project is to inform and educate the UK public about the realities on the ground in Syria, and also, crucially, to develop their understanding of the realities of life as a refugee. The project will be a life-changing opportunity for the refugee women of our cast, and is part of Developing Artists long-term commitment to broaden and deepen skillsets and opportunities within the refugee community in Jordan as a sustainable legacy.