Benjamin Zephaniah's REFUGEE BOY to Play Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 8-12 April

The critically acclaimed production of Benjamin Zephaniah's powerful novel, Refugee Boy, comes to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 8 to 12 April.

Adapted for the stage by Lemn Sissay, this gripping tale charts one boy's courageous fight for recognition in a realistic, painful, but hopeful picture of the challenges facing a young refugee alone in a strange country. This compelling adaptation is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse's Gail McIntyre.

Alem is fourteen, in London with his father on the best holiday he has ever had, only then the unthinkable happens, Alem awakes to find himself alone, a stranger in an unfamiliar country. As a violent civil war rages back home, Alem's Ethiopian father and Eritrean mother make the heartbreaking decision to leave him in London, on his own but hopefully safe at last. Guided by the Refugee Council and social services Alem's new life brings with it new challenges from court hearings to children's homes to life changing friendships and loving foster families. Amidst this turmoil Alem determines to take control, to transcend his refugee label, to become Alem Kelo - an African, a Peacemaker and no longer just a Refugee Boy.

This newly commissioned adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah's powerful novel Refugee Boy has been created by West Yorkshire Playhouse with award-winning poet, playwright and performer Lemn Sissay. Sissay's stage version of Zephaniah's gripping tale charting one boy's courageous fight for recognition reflects Lemn's own journey to discover his past. Of Ethiopian and Eritrean heritage Sissay describes himself as Habersha, and like Zephaniah's protagonist was brought up in the social care system in the UK, (a story which he recounts in his play, Something Dark). Refugee Boy paints a realistic, painful but hopeful picture of the challenges facing a young refugee alone in a strange country.

Benjamin Zephaniah is a world renowned poet, novelist, playwright, lyricist, musician, presenter and professor. His first book of poetry Pen Rhythm was published when he was 22, yet it was through the performance of his work that he revolutionised the British poetry scene. Performing both on stage and on television he brought poetry out of the academic world and into the living-rooms of ordinary people. He is a prolific writer of poetry, novels, plays and non-fiction for both adults and children. Benjamin has performed his poetry and music throughout the world to critical acclaim. He also spends much of his time working with human rights, animal rights and other political organisations.

Lemn Sissay is a poet and a playwright and an associate artist at London's Southbank Centre. He is author of five books of poetry spanning twenty five years. He reads on stages throughout the world. He is an honorary Doctor of Letters and was awarded the 2010 travelling award scholarship from the Society of Authors. His play Something Dark is the winner of a RIMA award and has been performed throughout the world. Internal Flight, a television documentary about his life was made by the BBC. In 2010 he was made a MBE by the Queen for services to literature. Patron of The Letterbox Club and The Reader Organisation, he is Education Ambassador for Arvon Foundation and Trustee of World Book Night.

Gail McIntyre is West Yorkshire Playhouse's Associate Director - Young People, her work is seen both on stage at the Playhouse and on tour in schools across the region. Gail was inspired to develop Benjamin Zephaniah's acclaimed novel after working with playwrights and 'fighters' in Eritrea. Her work at the Playhouse includes Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Beauty and the Beast and Flat Stanley. The First Cut and The Worm Collector which were created for schools have toured several times to great acclaim.

Reprising the role of Alem is Fisayo Akinade, following his role in the highly praised Waiting for Godot. His other credits include Shiverman (Theatre 503). The cast also includes Dominic Gately who has just completed a tour of the critically acclaimed Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Andre Squire whose television credits include The Vice, Sarah Vezmar who has worked with Shared Property, Becky Hindley performs regularly with Northern Broadsides and at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, including their recent production of The Importance of Being Ernest and Dwayne Scantlebury whose television credits include Bound (Tiger Aspect/Endemol).

Adapted for the stage by Lemn Sissay Director: Gail McIntyre, Designer: Emma Williams, Lighting Designer: Malcolm Rippeth, Sound Designer: Ian Trollope, Movement Director Lucy Hind, Casting Director: Kay Magson.

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