Rehearsals Begin for National Theatre's DE GABAY

Rehearsals Begin for National Theatre's DE GABAY

Rehearsals are starting today for the first production in National Theatre Wales' third season, De Gabay [The Poem] - a one-day, site-specific exploration of the Butetown area of Cardiff, home of the largest Somali population outside Somalia.

The performance will begin with visits to private houses across Butetown for a series of intimate performances by poets and residents. Later, two extraordinary parades will emerge from secret locations nearby - representing different generations that have come to the bay area - and travel to Wales' political heart - the Welsh Assembly's Senedd building, in Cardiff Bay. On arrival, the audience will experience a one-off parliament in which young Somali poets will take the place of politicians, linked digitally to young people and artists across the world. The day will end with a stunning finale across the bay.

De Gabay will include videos sent from key Somali communities around the world, including Toronto, Amsterdam, Minnesota and Somalia itself. Audiences will be able to interact with and watch the production online.

The core cast will include Sarah Amankwah, Peter Bray, Anthony 'Wella' Corria, Hassan Farah, Tomos James, Anne Langford, Laila Mason, Jo Munton, Keith Murrell, Adura Onashile, Dean Rehman, Caroline Sabin, Yusra Warsama, Juliana Yazbeck and Wibidi.

Audiences who book tickets will receive an email in the days before the show, with details of where to begin their day on Sunday 3rd March. All proceeds from ticket sales (which are payable by voluntary donation, min. £1) will be donated to future community projects in Butetown.

A group of young poets including Daud Farah, Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, Ali Goolyad, Hassan Panero and Ahmed Yusuf came to National Theatre Wales two years ago with their idea for De Gabay - the song of their lives as young British-born Somali men. Eager to change media and public perceptions of the Somali community, they were inspired by their involvement in National Theatre Wales' January 2011 production in Butetown, The Soul Exchange. On 3rd March 2013, they will tell their own stories of what brought them to Butetown, and what happens next.

While producing De Gabay, National Theatre Wales is also running a wider residency in Butetown - relocating much of the company's activity to the area and supporting a range of new initiatives throughout February.

The Butetown residency includes support for five new ideas through National Theatre Wales's WalesLab initiative:

A Wibidi Musical, by Wibidi
Last Words, by Anthony Brito
SEEN but not HEARD, by Genaya Parris
Our Mothers Were Sisters, by Wella Corria, Leila Mohamed Mason & Louise Osborn
Aftaag Legacy, by Said and Mohamed Dualeh
There will also be TEAM events in the company's Butetown space throughout February and March, including:

Weekly workshops with local artist Kyle Legall using photography, film and spray paint
Word4Word - our spoken word and poetry event showcasing talent from Butetown and beyond
Full details of National Theatre Wales' Butetown residency can be found on the De Gabay group on the company's online community: http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/group/degabay

De Gabay is being produced with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's participatory performing arts programme. National Theatre Wales was awarded £175,000 in June 2011 for the development of a new performance piece of uncompromising quality which brings together leading professionals and people from local communities.

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Director, Andrew Barnett said: "We are supporting arts organisations committed to pushing the boundaries of their work with professional and non-professional artists in a way that gives voice to some of the most marginalised in society. Four Somali poets based in Butetown, Cardiff, sought to change negative public perceptions of British Somalis and have worked with National Theatre Wales to bring us an inspiring, community-led production drawing on a rich Somalian poetic tradition. This is an exemplar initiative which will engage local and international audiences and participants with uncompromising quality and which we hope in turn will influence artistic practice more widely."

National Theatre Wales' Artistic Director, John McGrath, said: "Poetry's place in Somali culture, as it is in Wales, is fundamental. The poets who inspired De Gabay - and whose writing has driven its development - document their lives as young Somali men through their words. They have a wealth of stories to share about their experiences as members of the international Somali diaspora. We can't wait to share those stories with audiences in Cardiff and worldwide."

Jonathan Holmes is the director and founder of Jericho (www.jerichohouse.org.uk). In 2007, he wrote and directed the testimony play Fallujah in a found space on Brick Lane. In 2008, with The Sixteen he revived Henze & Bond's opera Orpheus Behind the Wire at the Southbank Centre, and in 2009 his testimony play Katrina was produced in association with the Young Vic. In 2010, his documentary feature Perpetual Peace was premiered at the South Africa International Film Festival. With the Royal Ballet he recreated the Inigo Jones/Ben Jonson masque Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly in 2011, and he also wrote the libretto for Liza Lim's opera The Tongue of the Invisible. His original play Into Thy Hands premiered at Wilton's Music Hall in June 2011, while in autumn of the same year his production of The Tempest ran for five weeks at the Barbican and became the first to tour throughout both Israel and the West Bank. In 2012, he premiered four monologues by Samuel Beckett, performed by Alan Howard as part of Spitalfields Festival.

Community Engagement Associate Yusuf Mohamed was born in Buro, Somalia, in 1978. His father was killed in 1989 by the Somali government, his house burnt and his livestock stolen. Yusuf came to live in Butetown - where his great uncle had owned a café - in Oct 1990. In 2008, he set up Heeso Cymru (the Horn of Africa Education and Entertainment Society), a voluntary organization that offers advice and support for the Somali community in Cardiff). He joined National Theatre Wales to develop De Gabay in Oct 2011.

Community Engagement Associate Gavin Porter was born and bred in Butetown. He studied film and television at International Film School Wales, then Design for Interactive Media at UWIC. After graduating, Gavin was one of a group who set up Community Helps Itself, an arts and media social enterprise that delivers participatory arts projects. He was a filmmaker on National Theatre Wales' The Soul Exchange. Directing credits include Sweet Sixteen, which won a BAFTA in 2012 (Best Short Form & Animation).

The poets will include Daud Farah, Ali Goolyad, Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, Hassan Panero and Ahmed Yusuf.

Daud Farah was born in 1986 in Somalia, and came to Cardiff with his family in 1993. He has been writing poetry for two years.
Ali Goolyad was born in Somalia in 1990, and came to live in Cardiff two years later. He's been writing for six years. Ali writes about the reality of struggle of being young, black male, and has a large fanbase among his age group in Butetown. Identity is the biggest theme of his poetry.

Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan was born in 1981 in Cardiff. His father had come to the city in the 1960s, to join his brother as a sea merchant. For the last two years, Ahmed has been a teaching assistant at a primary school in Butetown. He has been writing poetry for 10 years, and says he now documents his life through poetry.

Hassan Panero was born in 1987 in Denmark, and came to live in Cardiff at the age of 15. Since then, change has become a huge subject in his writing. Attending poetry workshops in Somalia in summer 2012, Hassan has noticed that writing and sharing poetry has an intense impact on community elders and younger generations alike, clarifying misunderstandings between them and strengthening their bond. Hassan is CEO of a security company in Somalia, and wants to bring business and poetry together.

Ahmed Yusuf was born in Somalia in 1985. He came to the UK in 1990, settling in Cardiff in 1994. He wrote his first short story when he was six, but became a serious writer at Cardiff University, where he studiEd English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing - the first Somali student to do either in Cardiff.

For more information on National Theatre Wales' shows, visit: nationaltheatrewales.org

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