Sally Bavage and Mary Francis write:
Saturday afternoon saw a huge audience hear Benjamin Zephaniah (author of the book Refugee Boy) and Lemn Sissay (adaptor of the work for the stage) in conversation - and what a joyful occasion it was! A fascinating session in which both writers were thoughtful, informative and funny.
Eight years after Zephaniah first received requests for a stage adaptation of his book, he had agreed and, because he knew Sissay, had then left it all to him. On Saturday last he had not at that time even seen the play, though was to do so later.
We learned a great deal more about the two men as they talked and responded to a host of questions, including some things quite surprising - to me, at least. One such snippet was that when poet Benjamin Zephaniah was about to attempt his first novel he asked for advice on how to begin from a friend of his, the very successful writer of historical novels, Philippa Gregory - and her advice was spot-on!
.. and so to the play itself.
Powerful. Thought-provoking. An emotional journey. All well-tried phrases but nevertheless very apt descriptions of a must-see new performance in the Courtyard theatre. Above the display of art in the Courtyard foyer is the phrase: “A story about arriving, belonging and finding home.” This adaptation explores this theme through the eyes of Alem, the Refugee Boy, whose arrival and wait for family to claim him takes us all on a journey.
The sense of displacement starts with the ingenious set of many piled suitcases and there are many narrative metaphors for the changes in Alem, his new friends and his families whose lives subtly intertwine. Politics determines his journey from Africa to England and his moves round the south. What is the meaning of ‘home’ when yours is destroyed, moved, changed? Your cultural references change? Your food and language adapt? You will ponder as you leave the theatre to go home – wherever that is.
The play runs until 30 March.