Royal Court Theatre Sets Syrian/Lebanon Readings, The Big Idea & Live Lunch

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The Royal Court has worked with a group of 12 writers from Syria and Lebanon over the last two years with workshops supported by the British Council in Broumana and Beirut. These workshops have been led by playwrights David Greig, Sam Holcroft and Royal Court International Director Elyse Dodgson. Excerpts from all of the plays were presented at Al Madina Theatre in Beirut in May 2015 directed by Richard Twyman.

Now as the final drafts have been delivered, the Royal Court are proud to present three of the most urgent plays as works-in-progress performances in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs throughout the week of 7 March. These plays give a rare insight into one of the most dangerous conflicts of our times by young voices who are living the situation from the inside. The works-in-progress will be directed by Royal Court Associates Lucy Morrison and Richard Twyman (International).


By Liwaa Yazji (Syria)

Translated by Yasmine Seale
Directed by Richard Twyman
7 & 8 March 2016, 9pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

A small government held town in Syria. Coffins pile up as grieving families struggle to cope with the impact of civil war. The local mayor decides to compensate the families: a goat for each son martyred. As the town slowly fills with goats, the community tries to hold on to its sanity.

Liwaa Yazji studied English Literature and Theatre Studies in Syria and has worked as a filmmaker, poet, playwright, scene designer and translator. She published her first play Here in the Park in 2012, her poetry book In Peace, we leave Home in 2014, and published a translation of Edward Bond`s Saved into Arabic in 2014. She is also a Board member of Ettijahat - Independent Culture. In 2015 she had a residency at the Poets House- New York to work on a new poetry book. Her first documentary Haunted was released in 2014 and premiered in FID Marseilles where it got Special Mention in the First Film Competition, and since then has been invited to other festivals and screenings in many different parts of the world. Liwaa took part in the Royal Court/British Council New Writing Project in Lebanon 2013-15 where she developed her play Goats.

Ghalia's Miles

By Maya Zbib (Lebanon)
Translated by Katharine Halls
Directed by Lucy Morrison

9 & 10 March 2016, 9pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

Ghalia tries to escape from her violent family and an arranged marriage, by fleeing to Beirut in the hope of reaching Europe. On the way she sacrifices almost everything she has to make the crossing. A journey through a Middle East in turmoil told by a chorus of women.

Maya Zbib is a theatre director, performer, writer and founding member of Zoukak Theatre Company. Her work including The Music Box and Silk Thread has been presented in festivals in the Middle East, Europe, the United States, Africa and South Asia. She has been commissioned to create work for NYU-AD's Performing Arts Center, UAE; Krefeld/Monchengladbach City Theaters, Germany; Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center, University of Houston, Texas; Shwindlefrie Festival, Mannheim, among others. She was artist in residence at Goldsmiths University, London; Williams College, Massachusetts; LIFT, London.

Since 2008, Maya lead with Zoukak psychosocial interventions within marginalized communities across Lebanon, focusing on youth, women and gender issues. Since 2013 she co-curated Zoukak Sidewalks a year-long international performance platform.

Zbib is a Goldsmiths College Alumni (2007), a Chevening/KRSF Alumni (2007), a Cultural Leadership International Alumni (2010), a fellowship recipient of ISPA, New York (2010), was selected as the protégé of Peter Sellars, American theatre, opera and festival director, as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (2011), and was a finalist nominee in the Gilder/Coigner International Theatre Award, New York (2014). Maya took part in the Royal Court/British Council New Writing Project in Lebanon 2013-15 where she developed her play Ghalia's Miles.

The Final Return

By Ghiath Mhithawi (Syria)

Translated by Victoria Lupton and Stefan Tarnowski
Directed by Richard Twyman

11 & 12 March 2016, 9pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

Houssam, a soldier, returns home from the frontline. Broken by the conflict, he seeks approval from his family to desert the Syrian army. He soon learns their belief in him as a "hero" is the only thing keeping them together.

Ghiath Mhithawi was born in Damascus and has a BA in Theatrical Studies from the Higher Insitute of Drama in Damascus. He has worked as a trainer and writer for theatre with young people and he wrote three plays for children in 2009-11.

In 2014 he wrote Our Tent which was a project with Syrian refugees in the El Marreej Camp in Lebanon. He now lives in Leipzig where he is training as an audio visual media designer. Ghiath took part in the Royal Court/British Council New Writing Project in Lebanon between 2013-2015 where he developed The Final Return which is his first original play.

Lucy Morrison is Associate Director at the Royal Court where her credits include Plaques and Tangles, Live Lunch Presents Hidden, Who Cares, Pests and Product (Traverse Theatre and European tour). Pests was a Royal Court co-production with Clean Break for whom Lucy has worked as Head of Artistic Programme and directed Billy the Girl (Soho Theatre), Little on the Inside (Almeida Festival and Latitude), it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now (Arcola Theatre) and This Wide Night (Soho). Morrison also originated and commissioned the Charged and Re-Charged seasons at Soho Theatre in which she directed Fatal Light and Doris Day.

Richard Twyman is an Associate Director at the Royal Court. For the Royal Court his credits include You For Me For You, Fireworks, The Djinns of Eidgah, Phil in Space, PIIGS and A New Song. His other theatre credits include Harrogate (Hightide), Henry IV Pt II (RSC), Ditch (Old Vic Tunnels / HighTide), Sixty-Six Books (Bush Theatre) and Give Me Your Hand (the Irish Rep, New York).

International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project.
The workshops in Lebanon were supported by the British Council.

Listings Information:

Told From The Inside: New Plays From Syria and Lebanon
International Playwrights: A Genesis Foundation Project
7 - 12 March 2016, 9pm
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Age Guidance 14+
Tickets £10

The Big Idea

The Royal Court Theatre announces three Big Ideas.

Writer-performers Ellie Kendrick and Sue MacLaine collaborate with performers to create two short plays as part of The Big Idea: Two Duets and actor/director Noma Dumezweni revisits her past for the first time in the documentary film Noma (Forgiving Apartheid) for The Big Idea: I See You.

The Big Idea: Two Duets

Two writer-performers collaborate with performers to create short plays to perform together.

Untitled by Ellie Kendrick

Jerwood Theatre Downstairs
Wednesday 10 February 2016, 9pm

performed by Jason Barker and Ellie Kendrick

A short play about how we refashion the events and characters of our past to tell us who we are.

Jason Barker is a filmmaker, youth worker and cartoonist among other things. Having done occasional stand up gigs over the years, Jason loved performing but never thought there would be any roles that a person like him could do. Then, last year, he did the Trans Acting Course run at Central School of Speech and Drama by Gendered Intelligence and felt like anything was possible.

Ellie Kendrick is a writer and actor. She was a finalist for the 2015 Bruntwood prize for playwriting with her play Tabs, developed at the Royal Court, where she has written on the Young Writers' Programme and the Studio Group. As an actor she has performed at the Royal Court (Pests, The Low Road, In The Republic of Happiness) and the Globe (Romeo and Juliet), and screen work includes Game Of Thrones, The Diary of Anne Frank, An Education, Upstairs Downstairs, Being Human and Misfits.

£5 or free with a ticket to that evening's performance of Escaped Alone.

The Dry Season by Sue MacLaine
Jerwood Theatre Downstairs

Tuesday 23 February 2016, 9pm (captioned)

performed by Caroline Hunt and Sue MacLaine

A short play about fragility, bodies and porousness.

Caroline Hunt trained as an actor at LAMDA. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Abbey Theatre Dublin and performed in The Archers. Later she became a script reader for the RSC and the Arts Council which gave her the experience to start a new writing company CV ONE, which commissioned, amongst others Anthony Minghella's A Little Like Drowning. She has since gone on to direct plays for Bristol Old Vic, the Tobacco Factory, Theatre 503, the BAC, the RSC Swan Theatre, Theatre Royal Bath, Soho Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End.

Sue MacLaine is a theatre-maker, writer and performer based in Brighton, England. She has created three works; Still Life: An Audience with Henrietta Moraes, The Sid Lester Christmas Special (with Emma Kilbey) and Can I Start Again Please. She is a freelance director, dramaturg and mentor with a particular interest in working with dance artists. She qualified as British Sign Language/English interpreter in 1997 specialising in performance interpreting.

£5 or free with a ticket to that evening's performance of Escaped Alone.

Please note this Big Idea will follow the captioned performance of Escaped Alone or hard of hearing.

The Big Idea: I See You

Documentary film: Noma (Forgiving Apartheid)
Directed by Sarah Townsend
The Wilson Studio, Royal Court Theatre

Saturday 19 March 2015, 12 noon

Noma Dumezweni, once a childhood apartheid refugee from South Africa, is now a critically acclaimed stage actress in London. In this documentary she revisits her past for the first time, as she takes on a new role that will bring her back to her birthplace and face to face with a father she hasn't seen in over 30 years.

During the 1970's, the apartheid regime in South Africa was at its height. Seven-year-old Noma Dumezweni only knew a life on the run from the police until one day, her mother chose to leave Noma's father and his life of activism for refuge in the UK. Fast-forward to 2014 and Noma, now an award winning stage actress in London has been offered the role of a lifetime portraying a legendary South African psychologist famous for her interviews with convicted apartheid-fuelled mass murderer Eugene De Kock. Noma gladly accepts the role but in doing so, plunges herself into a journey of self-discovery as the play moves to South Africa and forces her to reconnect with her childhood past and a father she has not seen in over 30 years.

Running time 40 minutes.

£5 or free with a ticket to a performance of I See You that day.

Live Lunch
The Wilson Studio, Royal Court and Birmingham Repertory Theatre
By Khush Chahal, Stephanie Ridings, Suriya Roberts-Grey, Susie Sillett and Richard Walls

1.15pm at the Royal Court Fridays 4, 11 & 18 March and 1 & 8 April

12.30pm at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Saturdays 5, 12 & 19 and March, 2 & 9 April
Running order to be announced

Five writers from the Royal Court/Birmingham Repertory Theatre Live Lunch Writers Group have created new plays to be performed live as lunchtime readings in the Wilson Studio, Royal Court and also at The REP.

A View from the Moon

by Khush Chahal

A play about love, fear and a journey to the moon.

Accidental Brummie which was performed at The REP in September 2015. In 2014 she was selected as one of the writers for BBC Writers Room competition. She is also part of a writers group called Cucumber.

Khush Chahal is a member of REP Foundry, Birmingham Repertory Theatre's professional artist development programme, as part of which she participated in the writing of Accidental Brummie which was performed at the Birmingham Rep in September 2015. In 2014 she was selected as one of the writers for BBC Writers Room competition. She is also part of a writers group called Cucumber.

Dylan's Parents

by Stephanie Ridings

A play about blood ties, re-living grief and being able to go home again.

Stephanie Ridings recent credits include Unknown Male produced with Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which won the Peter Brook/Mark Marvin award; Me, Mum and Dusty Springfield premiered at the Edinburgh Festival and toured nationally with support from the Lowry, Salford. Her latest work The Road to Huntsville is commissioned by China Plate, Warwick Arts Centre and mac Birmingham and will premiere this year at the Edinburgh Festival before touring nationally. She is currently part of Creative England's iWrite scheme for which she has been commissioned to write a short film and develop a feature.

Nine Nights

by Suriya Roberts-Grey

A play about feeling out of place when you're close to home.

Suriya Roberts-Grey is a theatre practitioner, spoken word artist and social entrepreneur. She fell in love with theatre at eight, and has since taken part in ITV Junior Television and National Youth Theatre and most recently been a part of REP Foundry. Her social enterprise 'STAMP' was developed by matching a degree in Psychology with her interest for skills development through art and performance. She is a passionate advocate for youth leadership, and has been leading creative workshops in confidence building, enterprise skills and spoken word for a number of years.

I Took My Mother for a Walk

by Susie Sillett

A play about softness, orange and political violence.

After graduating, Susie Sillett wrote and performed her show I'm Not Like Other Girls at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014, followed by Shoot Festival in Coventry, and later at the University of Warwick for students studying the Performance of Gender. She regularly writes for concerts supporting and working with homeless and vulnerable people around Stratford-upon-Avon. Most recently, as part of Rep Foundry, she has written for and performed in Accidental Brummie, HOME Theatre, Bedlam Festival, and showcased an extract of her play Wank.

Violet Fields

by Richard Walls

A play about heroism, loss and chicken piccata.

Richard Walls is a REP Foundry artist. His play Clubmartyr won the Judge's Award at the 2014 Coventry Shoot Festival whilst his play Urban Legend was shortlisted for the 2013 Play for the Nation's Youth Award. He is an Associate Artist of Theatre Absolute and Associate Playwright of And So Forth.

Running time for all plays is 50 minutes.

Directors, cast and running order to be announced.

The Royal Court Bar & Kitchen will be serving lunch pre and post show.

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