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Guest Blog: Plays Should Be About People, Not Statistics

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He said he was 19 when we met him. But the authorities thought he was older. And that he was lying. Which is entirely possible. But wouldn’t you do the same thing? If what you had to go back to was the Taliban?

As the co-writer and director of All the Queen’s Children I spent months researching unaccompanied refugee minors who go missing from Care. A mouthful which seems quite specific and it is. But it’s an issue that needs attention, because of the hundreds of children (and those claiming to be children) who arrive in the UK, usually trafficked, two-thirds of them go missing. And that’s a government statistic.

Where do they go? Why do they leave Care, seeing as that’s what they’ve been seeking, care?

It’s impossible to give answers because as the phrasing suggests, the kids are missing, we can’t find them to ask what they’re doing. It’s assumed they’re working illegally, as servants, in kitchens, drug factories or brothels. So, that’s all stuff that’s happening to children, here, in Britain. The young refugees and asylum seekers we met in our research were those attempting to stay in the system and were often going through “age disputes” with Immigration.

All the Queen’s Children follows the stories of four young refugees. We depict everything from flying with false passports, trafficking on lorries to riding the top of a land-cruiser across the Sahara. The latter mode of transport was the actual experience of one teenager, H, who has since gone on to form part of our company and will be with us in Edinburgh.

From escaping a military training camp aged 14, H will now sit in a small venue just off the Royal Mile as his life story is played out in front of him by his teenage counterpart. H decided not to be in the play, but came to rehearsals. He’d always wanted to make his story into a movie, so we’re halfway there.

Yet just as we’re jetting up to Scotland, one of the teenagers we spoke to is being deported to place he spent one year escaping (from Afghanistan to England if you walk, hitch-hike, hide in airless containers and do stints in foreign jails). Not that we don’t respect the decisions of the authorities, but if it weren’t for people like him we wouldn’t be able to tell the enriching and fascinating stories we do.

Stories that are worthwhile, relevant, and of course, entertaining: plays should be about people and experiences, not statistics and shouting. I don’t need to go to the theatre to feel bad about my inability to help the Third World. With All the Queen’s Children we’ve included all the silly and funny bits people told us, as well as lyrical choreography, a Chorus and gritty dialogue. We owe it to the people who have lived these extraordinary lives, not to wallow in “what should be”, but to celebrate diversity through theatrical innovation.

- Rosanna Jahangard,

Rosanna is co-writer and director of All the Queen's Children and is a post-graduate researcher of Iranian Theatre, with publications coming out later this year. She is a choreographer, writer and director who recently started the company Nothing to Declare with award-winning television writer Dawn Harrison. She  is a regular blogger and commentator for student newspapers and is active in campaigning for refugee rights, a subject very close to her own heart.

All the Queen's Children is running at C aquila, 7-14 August at 16.50


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