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New hope in Jordan

| June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Zaatari is the biggest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, ‘home’ to more than 90 000 occupants – more than half of them children, whose schooling has been disrupted due to conflict in their home country. Only three schools operate, on a haphazard schedule, in the camp. For many, just getting to one of these institutions poses a threat to life and limb.

Famous Syrian actor and director Nawar Boulboul recently brought a different kind of education experience to Zaatari’s youngsters; labelled ‘Syria’s lost generation’ because they have been ‘absent’ from school for more than three years.

Boulboul, renowned for his social activism as much as his appearances on Syrian television, set up a simple tent in the camp and started rehearsing scenes from Shakespeare’s plays with his troupe.

Steadily, curious children joined in scenes specially adapted for them. Boulboul has struggled to keep his programme going with sporadic funding, but has taught the children that all a great actor needs is imagination. The goal of the programme was a free public performance on World Theatre Day, on 27 March 2014, to draw attention to the plight of children around the world affected by war. Adds Boulboul: “Our programme builds children’s literacy and social skills, and provides them with a safe space to discuss and understand their feelings of loss, fear, isolation, and anger through the universal themes of Shakespeare’s works.”

On performance day, 100 young Syrian refugees made their professional acting debuts in shortened versions of Hamlet and King Lear in front of a crowd of thousands. Explaining that the children had been involved in every aspect of the production, an emotional Boulboul said: “I wanted to show that these children are not worthless… that they have something real to contribute.” Significantly, both plays deal with exile, leaders losing touch with reality and countries divided by rivalry.

Said a young Lear, “I do not feel lonely any more in this place.”

Category: Winter 2014

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