Friday, July 24, 2009

The Wall in the Sahara

Last night there was a showing of work-in-progress by our old friend and colleague Giles Foreman, who played James in the first run of Double Tongue. Giles now runs Caravanserai Productions, which is an acting studio and production company; and includes Candis Nergaard, who is also a member of the Romany Company, and will be in O Patrin in the autumn. Caravanserai has teamed up with Sandblast to work on the refugee crisis in the Western Sahara - a story which is hardly ever covered in the press and is all the more important for that.

When Spain de-colonised the Western Sahara, Morocco illegally occupied the territory, which is (surprise) very rich in mineral deposits. That was as long ago as 1975. The occupation has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council - but still it goes on. And the Saharawi people, who are denied the right to self-determination, are largely banished behind a huge wall, living in refugee camps in Algeria. Danielle Smith, who runs Sandblast, has been lobbying for them for 18 years: so she has a battle on her hands. She and Giles are trying to raise awareness through performance.

The show is still developing, but has potential to be very powerful. It's based around interviews with Saharawi refugees, but manages to avoid the traps of the "verbatim", and has a theatricality about it. Given that I'd just come from a dramaturgy session with Brian, I was thinking about structures and conflicts - and felt this was where the play needed to grow. The problem with directly political work is that it can be a bit short on moral complexity. If we see and hear a lot about brutality, we will all agree that it's wrong - so where is the drama? Maybe the play should not be "There is a refugee crisis", not even "We're not helping to solve the refugee crisis" but "Why are we not doing anything about this refugee crisis?" That's something we can and should usefully be asking a British audience.

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