Sunday, 3 November 2013

Welcome To Dreamland

Hello all!!

As promised last week, today's post is going to be about a show I have been working for quite some time. The performance is called Welcome to Dreamland and it is about a young woman who flees her home country due to torture and rape and looks for safe haven in the UK.
After applying for asylum and subsequently after being rejected, she ends up on the street, with no money, no food and no help from anyone. New immigration laws in the UK are particularly harsh. People are rejected asylum on a very random basis, without the applications being checked and investigated properly. Once the person is rejected, they are free to appeal the Home Office decision. However, all the support is taken away. That creates a huge number of destitute rejected asylum seekers. They are left on the street, with no legal representation and only a £10 voucher that is given to them by the Red Cross. They are often detained (practically imprisoned) without a reason or notice, for months on end. 
These people are invisible. You never see them on the street begging, as they do not want to do anything to get on the wrong side of the law. They refer to themselves as "shadow people". Not many people know about their treatment. It is inhuman and barbaric  yet it is happening all over the western world.
I spent years on research; reading stories, meeting people, thinking up ideas and images for this piece and earlier this year I have been invited by The Platforma Conference to perform an excerpt from Welcome to Dreamland. The Conference was in Manchester and it had performers, refugees, immigrants, theatre and art makers from all over the world. I performed at the Manchester Museum and was really honoured to be a part of such great event. Although my director Anna and I are making a one hour long show to be staged at a theatre, this time we performed first 20 minutes of Dreamland in the reception of a Museum. We had about 50 people, some from the Conference and some passers by. It was wonderful and feedback could not have been better. An Arts Council woman (for my overseas readers, that is a government body that awards grants for art projects) loved the piece and wants to have a meeting with me to see how she can help. Usually, when you are staging something you have to beg Arts Council to come and see you. I was very, very lucky that she was there. Talk about right place, right time.
I also had a great response from other theatre makers and some art organisations too.

Here are a few pictures of the performance. The Museum is not ideal for what we want to do, so the pictures do not exactly tell our story. Nonetheless, here they are. I sectioned off performing space with glass ramekins which I later use to create a journey, a path for our character:

My woman's daily routine, washing herself and getting ready for work:

One day, she puts make up on and as a result she gets lashed and then later raped for speaking against the torture:

Next, she walks to the Home Office (where you apply for visas). The walk is strenuous and scary. We have our woman walk on glass to represent the danger and fragility:

My feet and the floor are covered in lipstick that looks like blood - result of her journey:

Amazingly, even though we of course didn't have theatre lights or good floor, all these things translated to the audience. I know that it will look more powerful in the right setting too.

So, the hard work begins now. Contacting all the people that I met in Manchester;  networking to get us out there; raising money; applying to the Arts Council; meeting people to create new opportunities and of course finishing the show. We aim to premier the show early in the 2014 somewhere in London and then tour it. Berlin, for sure, but also other venues. I am sort of itching for Edinburgh again, but we'll see.

I met a woman who runs a women's theatre company Open Clasp in the north-east of England. She introduced herself as a political activist who wants to change the world one play at a time. I love that. I am on my way to join her, and I have not felt this alive in a very long time.

What makes you feel alive? What is the situation for the immigrants in your country? I'd love to hear it.

Thank you for visiting. I see in my stats that people from all over the world come and read my posts. I am very grateful for that. Thank you.

Red xx


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Good luck with the Arts Council. Have a good week Diane

Mary Jo said...

I am so blown away by your creativity, passion and work on this project! I wish I was there and could help out! It's obvious people are responding because of all the effort and thoughtfulness that has gone into this timely piece, and of course talent :)

Immigrants are the story of the country where I live, although many of us forget. My grandparents on both sides were immigrants and it shapes who you are.

xo Mary Jo