Migrants and refugees take centre stage

I’m an actress, theatre maker and a founding member of Haringey Welcome. Like many Haringey residents, I’m a migrant. I was born in Italy but moved to the UK in 1997. And in my 22 years here, I’ve seen a forward looking and welcoming country progressively turning inwards, and the attitude towards migrants and refugees drastically changing.

There’s a growing sense of insecurity, even in those who’ve been here a long time. Most of my European friends have left – those privileged enough to have the option of a career in another country, of course. I still love London, it’s my home, so I’m not going anywhere, but I feel the need to use my skills – to use theatre – to do something to oppose the current situation.

I founded LegalAliens Theatre with a group of fellow migrant actors to advocate for more and more nuanced representation of first generation migrants on UK stages. And to bring theatre to migrant and refugee communities, and use it as a tool to foster social inclusion, fight isolation and empower those without a voice. We began to offer free workshops for migrants, refugees (and low income members of the community) in January 2019, with the support of the Migrants Resource Centre, Haringey Welcome and Arts Council England.

3 LegalAliens actors train and rehearse at the Engine Rooms in Tottenham.

The original idea was to run 9 sessions culminating in a small performance. We had participants from Turkey, Syria, Sudan, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, Brazil, France, Latvia, as well as second generation migrants of Afro Caribbean background. And we saw them literally transforming under our eyes.

LegalAliens Workshop.
LegalAliens Workshop

People with very basic language skills, who had never performed publicly before, made their stage debut in English, in our devised piece “Who am I?” Refugees found the courage to share their dramatic stories for the first time. We had participants telling us they felt more confident at interviews, because they knew how to use their voice and posture. We shared life achievements, joys and personal losses, with everyone finding in the group an incredible
support network.

The sessions proved such a success, we have decided to turn them into a regular weekly appointment. And thanks to The Engine Room, in Tottenham Hale, and to a grant from the Harnisch Foundation, we are now able to resume running them from Monday 23rd September 2019 at 6.30PM. They are open to everyone, with any level of English, and no previous acting experience is required. Come play with us!

Thanks to our theatre games, inspired by Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the oppressed”, even the shiest found the courage to express themselves, take space, become part of the ensemble. Vocal training allows people to regain control and ownership of their voice and presence. This is crucial for those of us who often feel their voices and opinions not listened to. And devising and improvising together helps creating an incredible sense of shared achievement, of agency.

Lara Parmiani is artistic director of LegalAliens LegalAliens’ free theatre sessions for migrants and refugees take place at the ENGINE ROOM, Unit A, Eagle Heights, Hale Village,¬†Tottenham Hale, London,¬†N17 9FU.
Places are limited, you can turn up on the day but it’s much preferable to book ahead by emailing hello@consonant.org.uk For more info please visit legalalienstheatre.com

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