Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Steve Lambert: The Journey

By | Published on Sunday 28 October 2018

There’s a lot of creative focus on issues of migration, immigration, and those seeking refuge at the moment – many plays, and even a whole festival, choosing to take a look at these themes.

One of those companies tackling this often thorny topic is TW favourite Badac Theatre, who head to London’s Draper Hall this week with ‘The Journey’.

To find out more about the play, I arranged for a catch up with director Steve Lambert.

CM: Can you start by telling us something about the narrative of the play – what story does it tell?
SL: The play tells the story of one family (Mother, Son, Daughter) who are forced to flee their home because of war and the total collapse of their country/society. It follows their struggles and experiences as they journey from their unnamed city to a place of perceived safety.

CM: What themes does the show explore?
SL: The main theme of the piece is to explore the circumstances that force people to leave their homes and undertake incredibly dangerous journeys. What informs that first step away from someone’s home and life? No-one abandons their home for a life of danger and uncertainty if that home is safe and welcoming.

CM: What made you want to tackle this subject and these themes? What was the inspiration for the show?
SL: We (Badac Theatre) always use an aspect of human rights issues as the basis of each project we undertake. Usually interest in a particular area is formed by either watching a documentary or meeting someone who has experienced some form of human rights abuse or issue. For this project a friend of mine (who has worked on, and advised us on past projects) explained to me that his family had recently been forced to flee their home in Syria and had been split up, living in refugee camps in different countries. From that I started researching the experiences of refugees and very quickly decided there was a story to be told.

CM: I understand that it’s based on real life experiences. How did you gather those stories, and what research did you do in creating the piece?
SL: We were lucky to get some Arts Council funding for a research project and from that I travelled across the UK interviewing refugees, and people who work with them, gathering their testimonies and experiences. I was also very fortunate to be able to visit and stay in refugee camps in Lebanon and on the Syrian border. It meant I could get testimony from the people living there. The whole research project was amazing. I met so many people who were so inspiring despite their situation. It felt a real privilege to be able to do so.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the team you’ve worked with to bring the show together?
SL: From day one we have worked with refugees and organisations that work with them to put the project together. We also worked with various venues who helped with introductions to organisations and individuals within their areas. So Draper Hall in London, Norwich Arts Centre, Colchester Arts Centre, all of them helped with introductions and with use of workshop and rehearsal space. This has been a big partnership project from the day was first conceived.

CM: Can you tell us about the cast?
SL: The cast is a mixture of company members, refugees, and migrants. There are two of our regular company members and two migrants from different areas of Eastern Europe and one refugee. The aim of this casting combination is to both perform the piece and then also contribute to the post show discussion that accompanies each performance. This is really important as the project is designed to create discussion around issues related to immigration and refugee issues.

CM: Would you describe it as a political play?
SL: Yes, in the sense that the project is designed to engage with individuals/groups that don’t necessarily agree with immigration or helping refugees. We are taking it to venues and areas where we may find some opposition to those issues in the hope that it will at least raise questions and give people a visceral insight into the refugee experience. By performing in non-theatre spaces as well as more traditional arts centres and theatres we hope to at least bring the issues to people’s attention and make them think. We’re not expecting to change people’s minds but to give them food for thought. Suppose that makes it political? Perhaps if we had a better understanding of the dangers refugees face and the battles for survival they have endured we may be better able to show compassion.

CM: What’s next for it after the London dates?
SL: The Journey will tour around the UK until 7 Dec. As I mentioned, we’re taking it to a mixture of theatre/arts centre venues and non-theatre spaces. After that we’ll see what happens, I’d love it to have a longer life, the refugee issues aren’t going to go away anytime soon!

CM: What plans does Badac have for the future? Anything new in the pipeline?
SL: We tend to fully commit to one project at a time but I do have a vague plan for the future! About twelve years ago we created a play called ‘Cage’ that focused on domestic violence. The subject matter and the women I worked with who told me about their experiences totally blew me away. Since then I don’t think that this massive issue has really been tackled by society and by theatre specifically. There have been a very few notable exceptions like Rhiannon Faith’s ‘Smack That (a conversation)’ but it seems that, in many case, the situation for women trapped in violent relationships has worsened, facing not just physical abuse but mental cruelty and isolation. So I think I would like to focus on exploring that subject again, perhaps by reviving ‘Cage’ as this is an issue that affects every level of society.


‘The Journey’ is on at Draper Hall from 2-3 Nov. Head to this page here to book your tickets.

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