Bronx Gothic | Production Photos

Part theatre, part dance and part visual art installation, Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic delves into her memories of growing up in the Bronx, before emerging into a breathtaking exploration of girlhood. Directed by Peter Born.

This UK premiere is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June.
Book tickets now from just £10.

Photography credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Bronx Gothic is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June. Book tickets from £10.

Calais: A write up from the Jungle | Part 4

Lily Einhorn is the Two Boroughs Project Manager at the Young Vic, working with local residents and community groups in the neighbourhood. She is also a freelance writer and community theatre practitioner. In a series of posts Lily shares her experience of a recent visit to the Good Chance Theatre, a newly constructed creative space in the refugee camp in Calais.

There are hundreds of stories. All different. These people are labourers, students, artists, shop keepers, restauranteurs, engineers, public administrators, children.

Those children will never make it over the fence, though. They may have walked for eight months to get here but here the journey ends. Except the Jungle isn’t an end for anyone. It’s stasis. A place where life crawls along, not forward, not back, just along. That’s why the Good Chance Theatre is not a luxury, not a panacea, it’s a lifeline. Its breath for those gasping for air. There is, in the act of imagination, of illusion, inherent hope. In the small moments between reality and fiction there is a space to exist in that transcends the mud, the tents, the asbestos, the unwashed hair and damp clothes. That space is the theatre tent. And without it these people’s lives would be moments bleaker.

I don’t doubt that there are tears in the jungle. There must be depression. Despair. The children’s mothers can’t keep them washed, fed, warm. Men can’t reach their families. Loved ones are held apart by invisible immigration laws so strong you can feel them. It is unimaginable to me. Me with a red passport which means I can keep my child close, keep her washed, fed, warm. That means I don’t have any other recourse but to imagine a horror that might compel me to put her on a boat, leave her behind, or send her ahead. These refugees don’t have to imagine that reality. They’re living it. There must be tears in the jungle, but I didn’t see many of them. People are too busy surviving to cry.

*            *            *

As we drove out, groups of men in black clothes trudge towards the fence, towards an uncertain future. The fog hangs thick in the air but it’s hard not to look at their bent backs and feel hopeless. A high barbed fence. A drop. A run through a dark tunnel or a ride in a suffocating lorry. A field in Kent. Many of these men have family in the other side. A daughter in Wembley. Parents in Manchester. A brother in Bradford.  It’s impossible to say whether they’ll ever achieve the reunion that keeps them going, one foot in front of the other, into the night.

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Calais: A write up from the Jungle | Part 3

Lily Einhorn is the Two Boroughs Project Manager at the Young Vic, working with local residents and community groups in the neighbourhood. She is also a freelance writer and community theatre practitioner. In a series of posts Lily shares her experience of a recent visit to the Good Chance Theatre, a newly constructed creative space in the refugee camp in Calais.

The preservation of hearts is really how, and why, the Good Chance Theatre exists. Two young playwrights, Joes Murphy and Robertson went to visit the camp and decided it needed an arts space. So they set one up. A large, white dome stands glinting in the sun in the middle of Afghanistan. Originally pitched in Sudan to compensate for that area’s lack of infrastructure, it was moved after the French authorities decided to build there – to date nothing has been started. So they moved it. Took it down, set it up again, with around 50 volunteers – scrambling and banging and heaving it into existence. It is a space for expression. For joy. For hope. To talk. To sing. It is a space to feel a little bit normal in. To re-imagine yourself not as a refugee but as someone who can dance or draw or simply listen.

It has been up and running a relatively short time in its new home when my colleagues and myself visited. Men drift in and out, sometimes curious, sometimes bored. If there’s something going in they might join in. Both Joes want to establish a routine – they have an event every night at 7pm. A film night, a music night, spoken word nights. We were there for all three. We learned Afghan dancing to the strains of Sudanese music played on iPhones, guitars, and sung – loudly. We listened to mournful laments, so beautiful they silenced the din. We stood back as men danced with abandon in their coats as rain splattered against the white sheeting. For the spoken word night we set up the stage, lit hundreds of tea lights and settled down in the glimmer. Joe and Joe performed poems and speeches to start the men off, Gbolahan performed one of his poems, then the refugees – the participants – took to the stage. Stories were told in Arabic, Farsi and Pashtun. Some were translated. Some were not. A young man sang a love song to his feet. At some point we had to call it a night but it could have gone on into the small hours, story giving rise to story to song. In the day the tent is a workshop space. Anything can happen. We ran sessions on games that turned Into drawing. We played Grandmother’s Footsteps. We taught children the Hokey Cokey and Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. They learned fast. Whenever we did drawing, everyone, adults and child, drew flags or homes. The places they had left behind. We decorated the tent walls with colourful images. And I wondered how many British children could draw the British flag. Or would ever feel the need to.

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Calais: A write up from the Jungle | Part 2

Lily Einhorn is the Two Boroughs Project Manager at the Young Vic, working with local residents and community groups in the neighbourhood. She is also a freelance writer and community theatre practitioner. In a series of posts Lily shares her experience of a recent visit to the Good Chance Theatre, a newly constructed creative space in the refugee camp in Calais.

Walking through the settlements, people stop, we shake hands, everyone wants to say hello, ask where you are from. Britain, we say. England. London. Eyes widen. England is the promised land. It’s just not clear who it was promised to. Not these people. Some have walked for eight months to get to the UK. They have trekked over mountains in Afghanistan and desserts in Sudan and paid people smugglers to ride in lorries. They have sailed on make-shift rafts. They have jumped on trains. And then they reach Calais. Between this existence and a new life stand five, tall, wire fences. Wide rolls of barbed wire perching on top. It’s the only option. ‘Each one harder harder than the next,’ says an Afghan man. By the fifth you have to stand, three men on each other’s shoulders. Then you haul the last man up by rope. You’ve done this? I ask. ‘Of course,’ he shrugs. Shows me the scars from the wire, on his face, his hands, his ripped jacket. Then the police send them back. A fair cop. He lived in Stevenage for nine years before being deported on the 26th March of this year. After 11 days at home he fled again: ‘Taliban everywhere,’ with his two younger brothers. It cost them £36000 to get out. He dropped them off in Germany. They’re under 18 and being fostered by a family, ‘They’re happy.’ But he wants to return to the UK. He showed us his British driving licence. He will try again tonight. Five fences, then jump on a goods train or find a place under a stationary lorry. Or not. If he makes it, he’ll claim asylum immediately. ‘I don’t want to be illegal. I’ve never had nothing, no benefits, I work.’

Mish Mish is also from Afghanistan. Older, he has adopted his two year old boy’s nickname for food. He wears the toddlerism like a protective badge. He hasn’t seen him for months. He left, to try to get to England so he can send for his family. He asks me if I have children so I show him a picture of my own two year old. He looks for a long time. ‘She is yellow hair!’ He can’t show me his – the French police took his phone with all his pictures on it. He tells me he managed to speak to his family the night before. His boy, Akhbar, asked him when he would be coming back to play with him again. Then he asked him why his voice sounded funny. Mish Mish mimed holding the phone away from his head while tears streamed down his face. He couldn’t tell him why. The older man’s heart is already broken, he is trying to preserve his son’s.

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Calais: A write up from the Jungle | Part 1

Lily Einhorn is the Two Boroughs Project Manager at the Young Vic, working with local residents and community groups in the neighbourhood. She is also a freelance writer and community theatre practitioner. In a series of posts Lily shares her experience of a recent visit to the Good Chance Theatre, a newly constructed creative space in the refugee camp in Calais.

In early November four of us from the Taking Part department and Directors Program at the Young Vic  – myself, Sharon Kanolik, Gbolahan Obisesan and Elayce Ismail – travelled to Calais to support the Good Chance Theatre that has been erected in the refugee camp there.

At a volunteers meeting to organise aid for the Jungle, a refugee camp in Calais, a young man stands up. A refugee with faltering but excellent English. He thanks everyone there for their help but he wants to know what’s next. ‘I am living in nowhere.’ He says. ‘I am living in no hope. We want real life.’

 *            *            *

The strangest thing about being in the Jungle is how ordinary it can be. How oddly familiar. People have naturally congregated into nations. In Sudan young men play a casual game of kick about. Five men, two balls, idly scuffing across the ground. Boys on bikes whizz between tents, grinning and spitting in Bedouin Kuwait. A main road in Afghanistan hustles with restaurants and shops while people wander, browsing the goods. A chai tea shop is lined with synthetic Afghan rugs and papered with posters for an Ed Sheeran concert long since screamed out. The tea is hot and very very sweet.

We’re not in Calais anymore. We’re not in France anymore. This is every man’s land. A liminal space where time passes slowly whilst life moves fast. When we arrived at midday a group of men were hammering large wooden supports into the ground. Five hours later the structure had a roof. Another restaurant. Eritrean food – a gap in the market.

In the bright sunshine the jungle almost – almost – looks like a tolerable place to live. A community of communities, cohabiting peacefully. Children playing, running up and down banks and chatting with friendly adults. Men washing, smoking, talking, even a few women (though they walk without making eye contact. Chatting. Smiling. Looking at the ground). But in the rain, the mud thickens into trenches, puddles gather in the pathways and seep towards habitations. A glimpse inside a small green tent near the theatre reveals no ground sheet. Small mounds of human faeces are dotted about the camp. They’re avoidable when it’s dry. When it’s wet the ground is a sodden cocktail of waste.

 

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Rain, rain..

Fevered Sleep’s And the Rain Falls Down. Photo by Keith Pattison

And the Rain Falls Down has been playing for the past 3 weeks to full-houses here at the Young Vic… it’s been such a delight seeing children, parents, teachers and guardians coming in all dressed up in wellies and rain gear! With only a few performances left, we will be very sad to see it go. If you haven’t managed to buy a ticket, it’s not too late – the show will be touring to Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool over the next month.

Some of the things we’ve overheard in the theatre…

It’s going to rain The water! He got some boots What that lady doing? It’s raining Puddle!! Uh-oh They’re having lots of fun aren’t they? She needs a towel Water finished now It’s all full of water Her hair’s wet Whoa! Fishes! Quack Quack Quack I wanna to do that That’s funny It doesn’t matter if my boots get wet An Umbrella, an Umbrella, an Umbrella Drip-drop, drip-drop Umbrella in the sky Little ducks She wants the water Haha, I got wet Wow! The sun! It’s a rainbow This show’s about getting wet and deception is about goodies and baddies

Were you there too? Let us know what you thought of the show!