A Curious Monkey, Northern Stage and Newcastle University co-production:
HERE by Lindsay Rodden
A powerful new play by Lindsay Rodden, HERE is about finding sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places and is part of Curious Monkey’s long-term work with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
Four seasons, four people, from four corners of the world, collide. The strange city folds and unfolds around them, a story that opens up like a book to get lost in. This powerful new play by Lindsay Rodden is about finding sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places. About dancing on rooftops, blossom in winter, and re-writing the story of the city as your own. About two best friends with a library card and the power they summon through friendship and books to make something magical. To say WE WERE HERE.
The play is part of Curious Monkey’s Arriving project. Collaborating for 18 months with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from all over the world including Sudan, Syria, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Bangladesh, Congo and Nigeria, writer Lindsay Rodden worked closely with more than 80 people who are now settling in the North East and Derby to create authentic characters.
Lindsay says, “As a writer, I was determined not to take a story from anyone. Because stories are so powerful that the Home Office will demand yours from you, question it, doubt it, perhaps use it against you. But stories have been given, and invented, and shared, and that’s how we made HERE. The play is only one part of a huge project, and a growing community writing its own story, reclaiming and harnessing that power in the hope of happy endings. That’s all any of us want, isn’t it?”
The cast includes professional actors from refugee backgrounds:
Arieta Visoka plays Lulja. Arieta came to the UK aged two as a refugee from Kosovo. The R&D process for HERE was Arieta’s first professional job and she is excited to share the play with a live audience. “I can’t wait to see the characters interact on stage, and show the truth behind their own history. The story is very important to me personally, and I feel so lucky to be working with the whole creative team again.”
Joana Geronimo plays Pauline. Now living in Newcastle, Joana is from Angola, and her theatre credits include The Space Between Us (Open Clasp) andFrom the Sky to Your Hands (Live Theatre).
Karen Traynor plays Janet. Karen is an actor and theatre director based in the North East. Stage credits include Beauty Sleeps (Young Vic), Brand (RSC), The Lady in the Van (Hull Truck), Beauty & The Beast (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), Rendezvous (Live Theatre) and A Doll’s House(Northern Stage). TV and Radio credits include Doctors (BBC), Tracey Beaker (BBC), Vera (ITV), Stannington (BBC Radio 4) and Suffragette Dramas (BBC Radio 3).
Murat Erkek plays Salim. Previous stage productions include Bitterenders directed by Maxine Peake, The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre directed by Sam Mendes, The Virginity Project at Tristan Bates Theatre, directed by Chris Mellor. His film, radio and TV credits include Gangs of London (SKY TV),Silent Witness (BBC), The Bastard of Istanbul (BBC Radio 4) and Ruptures which opened at the BFI London Film Festival 2019.
HERE is directed by Amy Golding and written by Lindsay Rodden. Amy founded Curious Monkey in 2013 and her directing credits include Leaving by Paddy Campbell, Beats North by Luke Barnes and Ishy Din, and Mamela by Gez Casey and Ziphozahke Hlobo. A writer and dramaturg, Lindsay was selected for the Royal Court and Northern Stage’s NORTH writers’ group and is a former writer-in-residence at Live Theatre in Newcastle. Her writing credits include The Story Giant (Liverpool Everyman, adapted from the book by Brian Patten) and Cartographers (Theatre by the Lake), and she is currently writing a musical for the National Theatre.
Composer/Sound Designer Niroshini Thambar has worked with a range of companies including National Theatre Scotland, Dundee Rep and Selina Thompson. She has an interest in belonging, identity and migration and her work includes Home Is Not the Place written by Annie George for the Traverse, and The Arrival, a Solar Bear production inspired by the award-winning graphic novel by Shaun Tan, adapted for the stage by Jonathan Lloyd. Designer,Katie Scott was the inaugural recipient of the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Prize for Theatre Design after graduating from LIPA in 2012. She was recently shortlisted for the Old Vic 12 and is an Associate Artist of Box Of Tricks Theatre Company. Credits include Narvik (Box of Tricks Theatre Company – National Studio Tour- Winner of Best New Play UK Theatre Awards) and Held (Liverpool Playhouse Studio – Winner of Everyman & Playhouse Design Prize and Daily Post Arts Award for Best Design). Lighting/AV Designer, Simon Cole works across multiple artforms including large outdoor events, immersive cinema, dance and theatre. Dramaturg Laura Lindow’s experience as a theatre maker includes directing Open Clasp’s multi award winning prison drama, Key Change and adapting The War of the Worlds for Northern Stage’s sell out tour.
As part of the Arriving project, Curious Monkey also ran workshops for children and young people inspired by Beverley Naidoo’s award-winning children’s novel about Nigerian political refugees, The Other Side of Truth which included Byker Primary School children speaking to the author via Skype. And in December 2019, they became the first theatre company of sanctuary in North East England, working across the city to make sure people feel the theatre is somewhere they feel welcome. On 8 and 9 March, Curious Monkey’s Arriving group will perform a curtain raiser at Northern Stage plus there will be post-show talks, including a presentation of Newcastle University research: Refugee Youth in Public Space on 10 March. Professor Peter Hopkins will host the panel discussion, responding to the themes of the show and comparing them to the research. Printed copies of the research will be available.
Director Amy Golding said, “HERE is a beautiful story full of hope (and challenges!) It’s about unlikely friendships, it’s both very funny and heart wrenching in parts. Set against the backdrop of austerity in a struggling library, it is also about the power of books and storytelling. The show was due to open in the week of the very first lockdown in March 2020, it was about to open and tour the UK when the theatres were all shut down. Two years on and the play is more urgent than ever. The increased hostile environment fuelled by Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill makes it all the more important that we humanise people who are seeking sanctuary, this play helps us (those involved in making it and audiences alike) to understand the commonalities between us as humans despite where we’re from and what circumstances we have found ourselves in.”
HERE is at Northern Stage from 4-12 March. All performances are relaxed, BSL interpretation and captioning on selected dates is available, and translated synopsis available in seven languages. The show will also be available to stream online. Tickets start at £10 from northernstage.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.