Refugee Week: from Sudan to the stage
As part of Refugee Week, director Sophie Besse brings her satirical comedy Borderline: A Comedy About Tragedy to Southbank Centre.
The performance is a satire on life in the Calais Jungle created in collaboration with refugees from Syria, Sudan, Palestine and Afghanistan who has experienced life in the Jungle first-hand. Here, one of those performers, Mohamed Sarrar, shares his experiences of escaping Sudan for London, and finding light in the darkness of the Calais Jungle.
I'm Mohamed Sarrar from Sudan. I disagreed with the government of my country and was arrested by the police, and held for 18 days. It's difficult for me to talk about the details, but my life was in danger. I had to run away.
My uncle paid a smuggler to get me out of Sudan, first travelling to Libya in a small lorry. Then I took a boat to Italy; there were 70 of us in the boat, but we made it. From Italy I took a train to Marseilles and then I went on to Calais. Initially I didn't mind staying in France, but when I saw the police in the Calais Jungle I thought they seemed as bad as the police in Sudan, so I decided to try to go to the UK.
I remember one day in Calais when I was inside the train station. I was trying to jump on a train to the uk, but there was a lot of police and security guards around so I couldn't. Some friends and I decided to stay there and hide, and so we hid in a big pipe ‘til it got dark. During the night we tried again to jump a train, but again it wasn’t possible, so we went back in the pipe.
By the morning we were very cold and hungry. The Jungle is a three hour walk from the train station - meaning we would often walk for six hours everyday - so we decided to go to the police, rather than hide, hoping that they would arrest us and drive us back to the Jungle to save us the walk.
The police put us inside the car, so we were happy, we thought our plan had worked, but then they just took us outside the train station, and opened the doors telling us to ‘go back to the Jungle’. But my friend didn't want to get out of the car, he didn't want to walk. So we couldn’t get to the UK, but we also couldn’t get arrested by the police! We laughed a lot in the end, it was so important to laugh. For a moment you can forget about everything.
I spent two and a half months in the Jungle. I miss the Jungle community, the solidarity. I miss my friends who are still stuck in France, I miss them a lot and I am worried about them. And I miss the food as well. In the Jungle we cooked our food and used to eat together. When I arrived in the UK I was eating only plain pasta and rice, which was the only food the hostel gave us. I felt lonely, but I was less stressed.
Here in London I was able to get involved in Good Chance Theatre. I had done a one week workshop with Good Chance before, but that was more text based and I love dancing and moving. Joining Good Chance Theatre again in June 2016 to do workshops, was more enjoyable as this time we did physical theatre.
For me Borderline is very important because people are only used to to hearing about us on the news. But when you watch something on TV, it's not completely real. There's a screen. Through Borderline people hear our stories, they hear my story and no one else can tell my story like me. People can see what it was like, they can meet us and ask questions. That way our stories are never forgotten, and people don't get a wrong idea. They meet us for real.
I feel Borderline is also important so we don't forget the people who had to leave the Jungle when it was destroyed. Things became more complicated for them, because at least when there was the Jungle we had a place to live, where the charities could reach us with food and donations, but now it's much more complicated. People have to hide.
Borderline means a huge amount to me. The show, but also the people. I am not lonely anymore, I have a family here now.
Borderline: A Comedy About Tragedy is one of a number of events Southbank Centre to mark Refugee Week.
Mohamed’s fellow performer, Enayatullah Jalalzai, also shared his story, of his journey from Afghanistan.
Refugee Week at Southbank Centre is celebrated in partnership with Counterpoints Arts.