[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A Church-of-England sponsored play about the plight of a refugee stuck in France while trying to reach the UK has been nominated for two prestigious awards. Several million people have made their way to Europe in recent years fleeing persecution and conflict in their homelands. More than half of them come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, according to figures from the UNHCR. Some are trying to reach Britain, leading to the creation of an ad-hoc refugee camp known as the Jungle in the northern French port of Calais.
The "verbatim" play, “Still Here” is based on the experiences of an Eritrean refugee. It was written by the artistic director of Theatre for Justice, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School student Rachel Partington, drawing on interviews conducted in the Jungle in December 2015. The play documents the man’s journey as he fled persecution for his faith, and the journey of the British woman who interviewed him.
The Church of England is sponsoring the play – the first time it has ever done so – because of what it calls its shared responsibility “to speak up for the poor and the marginalised.” It is being performed in the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh as part of the annual internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
It has now been shortlisted by National Student Drama Festival for its Edinburgh Award 2016 and also by Amnesty International for its Freedom of Expression Award 2016.
“After my visit to Calais I was determined that this man’s story must be heard and that these people must not be forgotten,” Rachel Partington said. “Our vision for the show is to take it to places where it could have real influence and we believe that Edinburgh is one of them. We hope that the Fringe will open doors to take the piece beyond, where it has the potential to move the hearts of those in power to further action.”
The C of E’s director for communications, the Revd Arun Arora, commented: “We are delighted for Rachel, the cast and the crew for their achievement of being in the running for two national awards.
“It is a privilege to sponsor and support a play that deals so powerfully and skilfully with one man’s journey of faith and flight. We share with Rachel a responsibility to speak up for the poor and the marginalised – for people of all faiths and none – and this play is a powerful and creative away of doing just that.”
The results of both awards will be announced at the end of the Fringe Festival, which concludes next Monday.
Theatre for Justice’s trailer for its play, Still Here.