Street performers use touring caravan to tell refugee stories

Street performers use touring caravan to tell refugee stories
5 years ago

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SAADNAYEL – A travelling caravan theatre group from Lebanon is bringing the experiences of Syrian refugees to life, giving audiences a multimedia dimension to storytelling.

'The Caravan' uses pre-recorded audio stories of refugees alongside performances by young Syrian refugee actors to explain how life is for them.

"The Caravan is a project that started at the beginning of this year. It is based on a hunt for personal stories that happened to Syrian refugees in the country, especially in the Bekaa region - which we will record and base a street performance on them, to tour with across Lebanon on Lebanese and Syrian audience," explained the artistic director of the project, Sabine Choucair.

Members of the team spent forty days in Lebanon's Bekaa valley working with over 200 Syrian refugee men, women and children from different camps in the area. This provided them with many tales of love, death, discrimination, humiliation and happier memories.

Choucair said the project's main goal is to ensure people identify with refugees on a humanitarian level, rather than merely seeing them as statistics.

"The whole goal of the project is to tell these stories and get to know each other on a Humanitarian level. After this, we would have the choice to love each other or not - but at least, we would have heard (each other)," added Choucair.

Artists from 'The Caravan' initially talked to women between the ages of 20 and 85 years old, men between 30 and 65 years old, and older children about their needs, thoughts and experiences in Lebanon. They then collated twenty stories which were recorded and excerpts of the audio are now used in the performances.

Team members ensured they selected their actors and a sound engineer from a group of young Syrian refugees living in Bekaa.

Amongst those refugees performing with 'The Caravan' are 15-year-old Hanane and 20-year-old Ahmad Assaf, both from Syria's Homs.

"I am very excited for this first performance, it will be the first time I perform in front of people and I am not stressed at all, I am very energetic," said Hanane ahead of the first performance on June 21, in the Souks of Bekaa's Saadnayel.

"I participated in this play to make Lebanese people feel with us and our situation. We made a lot of friends on Facebook now that are following us, and this is why we did this play in which I am participating," added Assaf.

However, due to legal restrictions in Lebanon, Hanane, Assaf and the other actor refugees will not be able to tour outside the Bekaa valley. Another cast of Syrian actors have been employed to bring the performances to the people of South Lebanon, North Lebanon, Mount Lebanon and Beirut.

Members of the audiences seemed taken with the budget multimedia experience.

"I honestly loved the play a lot and I hope it reaches everyone. Let everyone hear this whole performance, I really liked it a lot," said Oussama Hammoud, among the crowd who attended the first show.

"It made me laugh at times; it reminded me of times in Syria. It is like our days in Syria, we used to watch plays and laugh," said a refugee in the audience, Khalil Mechref.

The Caravan project is managed by Beirut DC in partnership with Sawa For Development and Aid, Clown Me In and Theater Temoin. It is co-founded by Drama Diversity and Development project, the EU as part of the Med Culture program, Prince Claus Fund, UNICEF and Geothe Institute.

The Caravan performances will last till July 23 passing through the cities of Bekaa, Sidon, Tripoli, Kefraya, Zgharta, Aley, Ehden, Akkar, Byblos, Jounieh, Tyre as well as Beirut.

The team hopes that by bringing real life stories to the masses they will be able to promote a greater level of kindness, understanding and tolerance towards refugees.