Syrian actors in a play about refugees’ love of life

Migrants and refugees stranded in Idomeni, find shelter in train ‘sleeping cars’. About 11,000 migrants remain stuck in Idomeni, most of them for over a month, not knowing how to deal with the shut European borders. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

Migrants and refugees stranded in Idomeni, find shelter in train ‘sleeping cars’. About 11,000 migrants remain stuck in Idomeni, most of them for over a month, not knowing how to deal with the shut European borders. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

In a one-act play of tragedy and comedy, six Syrian actors are huddled in a small vessel headed for Europe on a “Love Boat” journey to escape the conflict that has ravaged their homeland.

The vessel mounted on a stage in the Jordanian capital, breaks what its director calls the “three biggest taboos in Arab society: religion, sex, and politics”.

It tells the story of the five-year conflict that has killed more than 270,000 people, forever maimed many others and forced millions to flee their homes. With their theatre company back home suffering from the war, the actors who survived are reunited in their flight and by a determination to restart their broken lives.

They act under their own names, and some drew from personal experiences and bring it to life on the stage.  In the play, the actors set off across the Mediterranean first to Greece, then Italy, Spain, France, Britain, and Germany, with only a map of Europe and a telescope, hoping one of those countries will take them in.

As each country appears on the horizon, the actors perform a scene from classical plays written by Aristophanes, Goldoni, Cervantes, Moliere and Shakespeare. The texts are carefully chosen to mirror life in conflict-plagued Syria, as well as the taboos of Arab society.

Director Nawar Bulbul said of this project, “I wanted through this play to pay tribute to those who have died at sea, those forced to flee their country because of the war and the destruction,” according to Al-Shrouq news.

Last year, he directed Syrian refugee children in a version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and the year before he produced “King Lear”, also with child actors from Zaatari camp in northern Jordan. In “Love Boat”, Bulbul borrows from the grand masters of European drama to send out his message of the perilous voyage these immigrants go through because of their love of life.

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