Such Stuff Podcast

#SuchStuff s3 e3: Refugee Week 2019

  In the latest instalment of our Such Stuff podcast, we talk to some of the incredible artists taking part in Refugee Week

34 minute read

SEASON 3 EPISODE 3

Refugee Week 2019

To celebrate World Refugee Day, we catch up with some of the extraordinary artists who have joined us here at Shakespeare’s Globe for Refugee Week. We chat to our Refugee Week artist in residence Sabrina Richmond and American director, artist and educator Madeline Sayet.

We ask: what can art offer when it comes to telling the stories of lived experience of displacement and migration, how can we tell these complex and layered stories and what role can Shakespeare’s work play in that dialogue?

‘What is the price of admission to society? Is the ticket price my story? Because there’s something cheapening about that’

— Sabrina Richmond

You can download the episode transcript or read it below.

refugee-title-2019-Standard Image

Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events.

Transcript

[Music plays]

Imogen Greenberg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Such Stuff, the podcast from Shakespeare’s Globe.

Today is World Refugee Day, and we’re bringing you an episode with some of the incredible artists who have joined as at
Shakespeare’s Globe for Refugee Week.

Here’s producer Matilda James to introduce the festival, and the Globe’s involvement, properly.

IG: Matilda, can you tell me a little bit about what Refugee Week is?

Matilda James: Yeah, so Refugee Week always happens around World Refugee Day, which is the 20th June every year and in the UK the nationwide sort of arts festival which is Refugee Week is organised by Counterpoints Arts, who are an amazing organisation that do a lot of work in the field of migration and art for social change. And they’re extraordinary, they work with charities and arts organisations and individuals to match artists to endeavours and they’re fantastic.

So last year, Michelle Terry when she took over… you’ll have heard of her, no doubt, if you’re a listener of this podcast. She wanted the Globe to engage properly with Refugee Week and it was one of the things that she knew very early on but we didn’t know what that would look like. It became a kind of glorious festival over 8 days celebrating all kinds of things but because she’d only started in April and it was in June, it was lots of the beginnings of
conversations. And what’s really delightful about this year is that we’ve been able to grow and think about what the correspondence is between Shakespeare and these modern day issues. Modern day in that our understanding of refugees and migration are kind of inevitably formed and informed around the news, and the world in which we live today, which can be a very distressing thing and which can just feel very sad and very hopeless I think, and a really problem. And then there’s a version of it which is about celebrating the fact that the UK, that England, that Britain has always been a place of travel, and a place where people have travelled to and travelled from, a place that has had migration at its core of understanding of itself. You know, in Shakespeare’s England, part of the reason that he was writing about Venice in the way that he was in The Merchant of Venice was around the fact that London was this trading city, where people were coming and going. We’re increasingly being reminded of versions of our own history that doesn’t tally to the kind of ‘Britain has always been a straight white country’. It’s really exciting to see how those narratives are being deconstructed and ripped apart and where we’re seeing that this place has always been a place of meeting and of multiculturalism and has always been made richer as a culture by the fact of cultural exchange, by the fact of people coming there, talking, sharing, cooking for each other, falling in love, falling out of love, all of that.

So Refugee Week, in short, come on Matilda, be brief, is a chance to sort of reflect on our communities, reflect on the things that make them brilliant and different and diverse and inclusive, and sort of rescue some of those stories from the margins a little bit.

IG: And the Globe’s role in Refugee Week is sort of evolving and changing. How do you see that relationship?

MJ: I think it’s really exciting. I think when Sam Wanamaker set up the Globe, he wanted it to be an international landmark for Shakespeare, a national theatre for our greatest writer and a local theatre for Southwark. And I think Southwark is one of the… I don’t think, I know that Southwark is one of the most diverse boroughs in London, and I think the huge work that goes into making the work we stage here representative of our world can only be made more interesting by these kind of festivals; that erupt and disrupt the standard programming of a building, that make it a surprising place to be, a place that you come into and be like ‘oh gosh, I didn’t know the Globe would having something to say on something like this’. You know one of the things that I find so amazing about the Globe and audiences here is the fact that it’s not for any one person, it is for everyone. But at the same time, that everyone is only as inclusive as the people who feel like they can come into the building, and the work that we’ve been doing around Refugee Week has been around making sure that people that have lived experience of displacement feel like the Globe is somewhere they can come and be listened to.

I’m so thrilled that Sabrina Richmond is our Artist in Residence this year. She’s an extraordinary performer and artist who came to us through Counterpoint Arts, and I’m really excited by the programme we’ve put together this year, which celebrates all kinds of different things. I think about Shakespeare, around what we learn from Shakespeare by seeing him through the prism of voices that we don’t necessarily traditionally associate with Shakespeare. For example Madeline Sayet, an indigenous artist from America, from Sabrina and from the incredible young people we’ve been working with from British Red Cross, who come from all over, all of whom who’ve arrived in the UK in the last year, unaccompanied, and who are using Shakespeare as a jumping off point to talk about their own experiences. We did a kind of glorious thing where we were looking at all the mentions of football in Shakespeare – there are two – because these guys are football mad. Or where we talk about chickens in Shakespeare, because they love eating chicken. You know, these kind of ridiculous ways
of kind of connecting these stories on a tiny, tiny level and then at the same time in a breathtaking way thinking about the fact that  for 400 years we’ve been talking about people travelling great distances to find people who they need to be close to have a better understanding of themselves, to find places of safety. You know, the tour shows this year – Pericles, The Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night – were directly programmed by Michelle to be on stage during Refugee Week because they are the three plays that most explicitly acknowledge that overseas travel has always been dangerous, has always had its real risk, and that people are trying to find their families, people are trying to be reunited with people who love them, people arrive as strangers in cities and on coast lines and ask for asylum, ask for refuge, ask for sanctuary. The question around ‘What country, friends, is this?’, you know as Viola appears on the beach in the early scenes of Twelfth Night, this idea of ‘where is place and am I welcome here?’ and we, at the Globe, really want people to feel like this is a place they can come and be welcome.

IG: So, this week on the podcast we’ll be chatting to artists Sabrina Richmond and Madeline Sayet, and we’ll be asking what art can offer when it comes to telling the stories of lived experience of displacement and migration. We also look at how to tell these complex, layered stories, and what role Shakespeare can play in reflecting on and expressing contemporary experiences of displacement and migration.

[Music plays]

First up, writer and performer Sabrina Richmond. This year, Sabrina has joined us as the Artist in Residence for Refugee Week, as part of the Refugee Week Leadership Programme with Counterpoints Arts. We chatted about her involvement in Refugee Week, the importance of telling your own story, and how art can shape the narrative around displacement and migration.

MJ: So Sabrina, will you first off introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about how you came to be at the Globe?

Sabrina Richmond: Well, so I’m a performer and a writer with a background in journalism and last November, Counterpoint Arts which is a national organisation dealing with migration through the lens of culture and the arts… I think the first line of their callout was ‘Do you care or are you interested in changing perceptions of refugees and migrants?’ and I was just like ‘Yes’! You know? And I think 116 of us applied for 5 positions to be part of the Refugee
Week leadership project, which to me said a lot about the hunger and the desire to… one of the things about the project that’s very different is about ‘nothing about us without us’? So having a seat at the table, being able to talk about your lived experience, because you are the expert on that, you know. And one of the components is doing an internship with an organisation, and I didn’t even know that the Globe was part of that, so it was sort of during the interview process that that came up and I was like very cool! As an artist, knowing what the building was about and what it stood for and stands for, I was like yeah this feels great!

MJ: Had you had much sort of exposure to… what did Shakespeare mean to you before that?

SR: I had a really good high school English teach, Mr Benjamin. I don’t know, suddenly getting teary. He was really a cool guy, you know what I mean? And we all did the mandatory you know, you have to read a couple. And just he would create the space where afterwards you would debate them, and discuss what text means. I was a fan of The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet. And he always took the time. So that’s kind of my connection to Shakespeare. As a performer, I’ve probably only done one little bit to play with? And I think being in England there’s always this conversation around who gets to do Shakespeare. And I think sometimes as a black woman I’ve wondered what’s the right role for me. And also even as a woman, I feel, because some of the roles I really like – like in The Tempest, which I really enjoy – are the creatures. So yeah, that’s my connection to Shakespeare. And I think there’s a time now as England evolves or the UK, whatever we want to say, there’s also time and space for us to think differently about texts that we revere. Because there’s no point in having these texts that we love if it doesn’t mean anything today.

MJ: Yeah that’s so interesting.

SR: You know?

MJ: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a thing that we as an organisation are really trying to… it’s a kind of daily tussle, I think, around why it is that this work matters. The work can’t matter just because it’s Shakespeare, there has to be a kind of direct and progressive and provocative questioning I think about why that’s important, what was he talking about 400 years ago that can make us think and recognise each other differently or respond to each other differently, which is really exciting.

SR: And I think for me, seeing opening night with Richard II was just… it was just some of the lines, you were just like, ‘oh my god, everything that the country’s going through’. You could feel that intensity in the room, and I think there was almost a bit of mourning, and also understanding that we not only have a responsibility but it’s also an opportunity actually, despite what’s on the news, despite what feels like a scary time, we actually have a chance to remake how we live together. And that’s a tough thing to say because I think on the day-to-day there’s these sort of micro aggressions, all this silliness you experience, but I think in the end we still have to live together, so at least artistically that’s kind of what I’m always interested in, how do we find that space?

MJ: Yeah, I want to probe on that a little bit more, thinking about how we create art that tells stories about the migrant experience, about the lived experience of migration. Can you talk a bit about how this has informed your work or framed it?

SR: I think it’s such… genuinely I’m continuing to question that for myself. Earlier this year, one of the things Counterpoint Arts organised, or assisted in organising, was a conference in Coventry where young people were sort of at the forefront of bringing together organisations who work in the sector with people with lived experience of migration. Just discussing what plans we would make for Refugee Week. And some of the questions that came up out of workshops, was ‘Should we focusing on the pain?’ And artistically that’s a big question, isn’t it? Because I think there’s this one, beautiful important vehicle… and I say beautiful because I believe in honouring what’s happened to you, in looking at your scars, emotional and physical, and knowing that’s part of your
journey. And I think where we’re at in the sector in my opinion, and even in the arts, is how much should we continue? Because that has a place in helping people understand what is the purpose of someone leaving everything they know and love. But I do worry that has its own experience on how people view people with lived experience of displacement and migration, because sometimes you walk into spaces, and this is from my own experience, and the price of admission is your story. And so we’ve got to have this really careful, well thought out, intense and difficult conversation of: what is the price of admission to society? Is the ticket price my story? Because there’s something cheapening about it. And that’s a difficult thing for me to say because I love autobiographical work! [Laughs]. But at the same time, also asking… yeah, just, what is the right… and right isn’t the right word… but what’s the avenue to
go down and I think there are certain people who make theatre who think that’s the only thing we need to be focused on.

But I’m also very worried about this idea of vulnerability because sometimes you walk into a space and if you mention the word ‘migrant’, whatever the political status is, which I don’t think is necessarily connected to your identity, there’s just a face people sometimes get. And you’re just like, yeah if something terrible happened to you, you would feel bad but you’d also still walk around, so you’re kind of caught between this ‘I’m brave and amazing for surviving my journey’ and then there’s also like ‘You’re super vulnerable, we need to protect you from everything’. And it’s kind of a bit of both because you’re different every day and some days certain things annoy you or some days things are hard, and I do hope we’re moving towards a point where that’s just accepted, that it’s the human experience. You know what, I don’t want to go to a dinner party and talk about X, Y, Z. Likewise, even if somethings happened to me, I’m still educated, and qualified, and amazing, and funny, and I love comedy and… do you know what I mean? You’re so many layers of things, and what we in the arts sector need to get to is protecting diversity of thought in storytelling. Because I think that the stories of people with lived experience of displacement, migration fall into this diversity conversation but I’m worried that we’re being very cookie cutter. They’re kind of like ‘oh no you’re kind of migration’s not what we’re covering here!’. And it’s just like, oh ok. But we’re trying to protect diversity of thought. So someone can be a refugee or daughter of refugee, but maybe they want to write a sci-fi! Do you know what I mean? And you don’t decide, as in by you, as in society shouldn’t place on you what’s attached to your description. So for me personally, I have a very varied migratory story, but I don’t like walking into a room and being like ‘Oh meet my so and so friend’. It’s just like no actually, most days I just want to be introduced as a performer or a writer or you know some days, I want to say I’m an aunty, because that’s the proudest thing I am. You know what I mean? But I feel like the arts have this wonderful ability to go into spaces where nothing else can because it’s human, it’s healing. The question I’m asking is, sometimes do we use the arts in the movement, migration sector just for healing and that’s a closed circuit thing? Which I actually personally enjoy! You go into a room, you do a workshop, you chat to the people, that’s kind of what I’m in it for! The politics of the sector are complicated. And I think there’s room for that to just be OK. But also I understand that to convince the public sometimes, we need to tell certain stories. But I think much like with advertising, you never see sick people on fast food commercials, so obviously it can work to give a much  more fuller picture of what it means to be a migrant or a refugee in a positive light.

MJ: Yeah. It’s so interesting, it’s making me think about… a few weeks ago I saw the sharing of your beautiful play An African in the Snow and I know you’re reworking it a little bit for the RADA festival. But there’s such a kind of layered way to the way that you talk and the way that you think about that work. So, when you were writing that play, and telling your story but a version of it for stage, and thinking about… for example one of the things I loved so much about it was how it was the lens you saw it through was food, and how you’ve collected those stories from those different places. Yeah, how did that come about?

SR: It’s a tough one to answer. I think to be honest, I think I was designed because of the history of my family, to be interested in migration and movement and what it does to family bonds and how we keep culture alive and how you define your own identity. Being the daughter, well I’m the third generation in my family to have a migratory experience, and I’m the daughter of South African exiles. So I grew up with that story of ‘we’re here, technically it’s my home, but I know also my family’s displaced, that’s not there’. In the bulk of my childhood, South Africa wasn’t free, and of course ‘free’ is a term we can debate. So kind of growing up with that longing. At least, this is how I’ve tried to intellectualise it. But just knowing that they had a dream to return and you listen to stories about how they grew up or whatever. And I think one of the things that I just connected to was family recipes. Because you never force the elders in your family to just ‘tell me what happened, tell me all about it!’ You know what I mean? My grandmother for example hardly ever said much about it, but what I learnt about my heritage through her was everything through food and music and dance, because that was just like a religion in our family. And when I first left home, that was how I connected back because there was something physical happening in my body where I was just craving stuff I hadn’t even eaten since I was ten and I was just like OK, this is weird. And I just started cooking and I cooked and I cooked and I cooked. And what I realised that that’s been such an important thread, and more importantly I’m also curious about how we can use food in the country as a cultural exchange, because all of us have grandmothers who made things we loved, and we can all sit in a room and be like ‘this is what childhood means to me, this is the memory of growing up’. And then we’re not so foreign anymore. It doesn’t matter how you sound or how you look, but all of us can relate to enjoying something made for us by someone we care about. And I think for the play what I’ve loved is that food was also not just expression, but also healing? So you had this wonderful opportunity to met people who are not related to you at all, but would open their doors and say come and eat in my house. It was a way of having family when your own family were absent. Yeah, so I’m very connected to that food connection.

MJ: I think it’s a very reasonable thing to be connected to!

[Laughter]

SR: And we all have to eat, right so yeah!

MJ: Thank you so much, it’s so exciting that you’re here, I’m really thrilled.

SR:
Thank you for having me, I’m really happy to be in this building.

[Music plays]

IG:
Sabrina will be performing in her brilliant play An African in the Snow at Rada Festival on the 2nd and 3rd July. She offered us a sneak preview at some extracts from it… Here’s Sabrina…

[Extract]

SR: My granny Annie said, the region she’s from, whom I spent hours following as we walk around from place to place. She likes walking and she walks fast. She hates moving things, escalators, cars, planes. I think she’s grounded when she walks.

A chain smoker, always humming ‘Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.’

She still has her ballroom dancer frame, always in beautiful handmade dresses, and that silver hair. Part down the right, clipped at the back. Often in a headscarf. That’s a doek in Afrikaans or chitambala in Nyanga. And that silver hair just peeking out in the front. And she always has some of those plastic wrapped boiled sweets and loose change tied in a handkerchief placed in her bra.

Granny was heavily pregnant with twins when they fled their home in South Africa for Zambia. Middle of the night, no goodbyes, just leave everything the way you do when you leave home in the morning for work. Grandpa Frank was a freedom fighter my Granny fell in love with, for which she endured frequent raids on her home. A train ride to Zambia for Granny and the kids. Grandpa travelled separately and my Ma, little Irene was one of the younger of seven siblings, so she was told it was just a little holiday. She played and played in the new home, Zambia, my birth home, but soon she started to miss her friends and her home. So she asked, ‘When are we going home?’ And Grandpa Frank told her he didn’t think it was going to be possible. That day little Irene vowed to return to South Africa one day, no matter how long it took.

My British born nephew asks me ‘Did anyone in our family, from our people, do anything important in the war?’ He has only seen white faces in the books, at museum exhibitions, and the first time they were shown black people in a classroom, they were chained, slaves, no context. Who is responsible for creating slavery? They  are learning about countries being discovered. How do you discover a place where there are people? We are sending our children to school to be educated.

Summer 2018. Although our leaders have missed the opportunity to unite the country around the momentum for our new football team, competing at the World Cup, in my home we know that this time can do something that words can never teach. This is the new face of Britain, with a national football team with players that look just like my nephew and his sisters and our family, and most importantly unchained. That is the England and world I want for him.

[Music plays]

IG: Next up, director, writer, performer and educator Madeline Sayet. Madeline’s relationship with Shakespeare goes back to when she was growing up, reading the plays alongside the traditional Mohegan storytelling she grew up with. Now a renowned director of Shakespeare, her work brings a fresh
perspective, looking at gendering, indigenous perspectives and reimagining the plays to give voice to those who’ve been silenced. She performed her show Where We Belong in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse during Refugee Week, and it was also part of the Border Crossings Origins Festival at Rich Mix. It was
inspired by her time studying Shakespeare here in the UK. Here’s Matilda and Madeline.

Madeline Sayet: My name is Madeline Sayet and I’m here with my solo performance piece Where We Belong? as part of the Origins festival for work from indigenous peoples, which also gets to come to the Globe as part of Refugee Week.

MJ: And thank you! Thank you for coming. I’m so thrilled that you’re here.

MS: Thank you, I’m thrilled to be here.

MJ: Michelle Terry and Michael Waller who’s the producer at Border Crossings met a few months ago and talked about your performance, and since then, it’s made such perfect sense that it was here, because of the thing which we’re trying to do. Which is, if we say that Shakespeare has this transformative impact on the world, then that’s quite a licence to talk about making sure that the world includes as many different perspectives and prisms through which he’s seen and prisms through which we see the work and also what we learn about the work by seeing it through these different voices. Your story is kind of responsible on that term. How did you get to Shakespeare, what does it mean and where did the play come from?

MS: Sure. So Shakespeare has like trickled through my life in a lot of different way. So I was exposed to Shakespeare very young. So in the States, there’s a lot of outdoor Shakespeare, free outdoor Shakespeare all over the country. So I grew up going to see free outdoor Shakespeare performances from the time when I was lke 6 or 7, and so they very much framed a part of the way I saw the world in combination with traditional Mohegan stories. So I always saw the bridges between those kinds of stories instead of the divides. And so then when I switched over to directing, the first production I ever directed was a production of The Tempest that asked the question: what would happen if Caliban could get his language back? So really centring the freedom journey on that question of language repatriation. And I was very lucky because there was so much Shakespeare in my area growing up, like I’d gotten to perform a large portion of the canon before I even got to university. So it was never something that was like a remote, far away thing, it was always like very much a part of my culture. But then as I became a director who happened to be a native director, there was an increasing expectation that I would represent that
sort of… that I’d always talk about The Tempest basically! And so the piece very much deals with both like the love of Shakespeare but also the expectations that come with being with being the indigenous Shakespeare person. And how complicated it is sometimes to be allowed to love the thing that you’re not supposed to culturally.

MJ: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Because when you came to Britain to sort of study Shakespeare, that wasn’t quite the experience you’d hoped it would be…?

MS: I think its more complicated, because a funny thing the piece works to continuously like dismantle the us versus them that gets set up by everything in our society, so it was really the fact that as an indigenous person trying to apply indigenous dramaturgy to Shakespeare, when there are no other native people around, it suddenly became more and more alienating because I’m trying to explain a perspective that is so far away from what people here are used to and accustomed to, especially in the place of a dominant culture with a dominant art form. Whereas like in the States, you know, like if I started talking about native theory, there’d be more people who even knew what that was. So there was just like a lot of gaps in terms of how there could be other
functioning models for other ways of seeing things and then just feeling like I was constantly explaining myself and explaining myself to the point at which I started to like question myself. So the piece is like very much about that journey of ocean crossing and also the fact that like, so I mean in the States, Shakespeare is very enmeshed in all of the education system, so nobody doesn’t grow up reading a ton of Shakespeare plays. By the time I graduated High School, as part of the curriculum I had to read at least seven Shakespeare plays. But the education system in America also historically goes back to the schools where native children were taken and forced to learn English. So there’s also this thing of a lot of us really love Shakespeare but we’re aware that that’s at the cost of our own culture. It’s not something that we got to choose at the beginning, it’s something that we love but it’s a very complicated relationship.

MJ: I mean it’s really fascinating isn’t it, because our Refugee Week programme is about celebrating different people coming into the arena of Shakespeare, that can feel very exclusionary. And we have all of this… the battles I think that are so fascinating about the ownership of that, and who gets to say Shakespeare their’s and all of that stuff. And so having it as something that you realise comes at a cost is really interesting. In this country I feel like we don’t have to interrogate it in the same way, and so actually then there’s a real resistance when you go ‘Well we should be interrogating it, because why him?’ Why him and not loads of writers whose work hasn’t just existed through 400 years? What about all the women who got forgotten? You know thinking about
that idea of, it’s not just about being the native director, it’s just my experience. It’s something that’s often levelled at female directors, which is ‘you did this feminist version of the play’. I didn’t do a feminist version, I just did my lived experience version, which I as a woman direct in this way. Unknotting some of that is really fascinating.

MS: Yeah, I mean it was interesting because… normally I don’t do solo shows, this is a very vulnerable piece for me to begin with but yeah normally as a director, I have a tendency to do a lot of works that are all native or all female or obviously also including nonbinary folx plays, but it is interesting that thing of like ‘Oh, you put native people in your Shakespeare show, how innovative’! Instead of like, why would I imagine I was going to build a world where I didn’t belong? That would actually be a lot stranger. And it’s been interesting in the States as well to deal with this like ‘well the way we’ve done things is the way we do things’. So like the actual fight to diversity Shakespeare as even being ongoing, and also to examine some of the ideas in the work that maybe we can like talk about in different ways now that it’s 400 years later, has been just a really interesting ongoing conversation. I just came from doing a production of doing Henry IV 1 and 2 at Connecticut Repertory Theatre and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream at South Dakota  Shakespeare. And it was really interesting directing South Dakota’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream because it’s in an area where there’s just tons of native folks, but this was the first time that half the cast was native. And there was a lot of expectation that that meant we were going to like talk in indigenous languages, and it was actually just really exciting for little kids who were in the show, who were Lakota, who were from the area, to have their mentors also be native and like that is OK. We don’t have to
explain our presence every time we show up. So it’s been really exciting to get to see the spectrum of the manners of inclusion in these things. Or even like the Henry IV I just did, it wasn’t all female, but we had a female Hotspur, a female Falstaff and a female Henry IV. And so what is the line with in like, who are they playing, are they playing male, are they playing female, and what now becomes the spectrum of gender now our understanding of gender is more complicated.

MJ: It’s really exciting and this idea of like where your existence is political and pushing through that to a point where your existence doesn’t need to be political?

MS: Yeah exactly.

MJ: And working out the problematisation of that, that being an ongoing conversation, that you might return to and be like ‘we got that wrong’ or ‘we mis stepped that’ or ‘ah yeah of course there was that beat where’, like you say getting used to our responsibility to use language properly and inclusively in order to keep those conversations as wide as they should be.

MS: Yeah, for sure. And acknowledging that like Shakespeare isn’t perfect at that. If he wrote it today, maybe he would have been. But like you know, there are things in the text that are going to be sexist and racist because it’s 400 years old and that doesn’t mean that you can’t do the play, it just means that you shouldn’t pretend that that line doesn’t mean that.

MJ: Quite. And what is our responsibility to quote unquote ‘solve’ the plays? And what is then to just pose them as a provocation to be thinking about ‘what does this mean in the world today’? What is that thing that makes me feel really uncomfortable? And why is that important that we’re still asking that question?

MS: For sure. I mean I think that the thing that’s so interesting that I was exploring actually in the play, more than anything else, was this weird, strange moment of arriving back in the States and I missed the UK. And I was like ‘oh my god, does that make me a traitor?’ You know, as a native person, to miss the UK. And then it made me think about, there’s so many things over here that are supportive, that are community-driven in policy that we don’t have in the States. And things like that, that actually… the lines between kinds of communities aren’t as severe as I think a lot of people have been trained to think that they are? You know, things like having healthcare. Traditionally, like everyone had healthcare in indigenous communities! But in the States now it’s like a big deal to have healthcare. So yeah, I’m trying to do a lot of work in this piece. It was me just trying to sort of like unpack some of the borders that created between people and see what happens through the doing of that. But my relationship to Shakespeare outside of that is so very different because normally I’m not doing this like confessional piece, normally I’m like ‘I’m directing a show and we’re going to talk about how we build a world together!’ So this is like a very different, more vulnerable thing, in a lot of ways.

[Laughter]

MJ: Oh it’s good to do that too though!

MS:
Yeah! It’s just a lot scarier.

MJ:
I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you’re part of this festival. And I’m so glad that the show is as beautiful as it is. It’s an extraordinary piece of work.

[Music plays]

Refugee Week happens in the UK every year around World Refugee Day and is a chance to engage with and support arts by and about refugees & migrants, as well as an opportunity to get to know our neighbours better. Here’s Sabrina on how you can get involved today, through this year’s Seven Simple Acts.

SR: So this year’s theme for Refugee Week is ‘You, me and those who came before’, which is such a lovely thought because I think often there’s this idea that migration is a recent thing but actually if we look back we know that it’s been happening since time. And kind of looking into our own history, both as a country and individually, we’ll kind of have this chance to look at this generational approach to migration. And one of the things this year that I’m really excited about is the Seven Simple Acts, which is a campaign where you can choose one or more of seven simple things that you can do to be part of events and activities.

So the first one is share a story on your social media platforms, or even in person actually, because we don’t get a chance to talk to each other that much, about someone with lived experience of displacement and movement that you know.

Another is find out who you are, which I love because even little kids can do this and it’s this wonderful opportunity to talk to the people in your family to find out what’s your history, what’s your
story.

Share a dish, where we can exchange recipes from our heritage. And that goes both ways, whether you were born here or you weren’t born here.

Feel the beat, and that’s basically Refugee Week is going to have a Spotify list with music either by people with lived experience of displacement and movement or that means something to people with this experience, so you get to get a wonderful cross section of global sounds.

One fact. Yeah, if you don’t know too much about what Refugee Week is about, just find out a couple of things.

And one of the initiatives I like is write a poem. We’ve been experimenting with kind of just 20 words. 20 little words you want to say and that’s you poem. And that’s something you can share with mates or on your social media platform as well.

And join the movement, which is just find out more and do it in your own way. I think there’s an idea sometimes that activism has a specific face but I think we all are activists, just by doing something.

IG: That’s it from Refugee Week this year at the Globe, but we’ll be back next year with more incredible artists.

An African in the Snow previews at the RADA Festival on the 2nd July at 7 pm and 3rd July at 2 pm. Both performances will be integrated with British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation. You can find tickets online at the RADA website.

You’ve been listening to Such Stuff with me, Imogen Greenberg, and Matilda James.

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FINIS.