An epic journey of identity and self-discovery is coming to The Freedom Theatre stage, with actor Ahmed Tobasi in his work “And Here I Am“. This series of tragicomic episodes is vividly brought to life by award winning Iraqi writer Hassan Abulrazzak, transporting us to the heart of the hardships, struggles and contradictions of a young Palestinian man growing up under occupation in Jenin Refugee Camp.
Combining fact and fantasy, tragedy and comedy, spanning both the first Palestinian intifada and the second, we follow Tobasi through his transformation from armed resistance fighter to artist, and his journey as a refugee from the West Bank to Norway and back again.
Tobasi will be performing at The Freedom Theatre at the end of December and then go on to tour with four performances in 2018 across the West Bank. Tobasi gave us a brief insight about the play and what to expect on the stage:
Why did you decide to make a play about your life?
“After performing in ‘The Siege’, I started to think about making a show that focuses on Palestinian identity, is on a smaller scale and easier to take to audiences all over the world. I was keen to produce something that represents the complexities of Palestinian life in occupied land, the unending and countless problems, different circumstances and the realities of growing up as a Palestinian. A play by renowned Palestinian Director, Mohammed Bakri was presented 23 years ago and it was re-launched 2 years ago which portrays the life of a Palestinian in Israel and his journey in self-identity to find himself under the constraints of living with the occupier. I felt I could really relate to this story and that there was many similarities to what I wanted to create. Speaking to my Director, Zoe, made me realise that all I had been through and my individual circumstance was no less than anyone else’s.
There are millions of refugees all over the world and I decided to bring my story to them and the rest of the world to illustrate the complexities of being a refugee; It’s a huge problem and the cycle needs to be broken. I quickly understood that Palestine is not alone in its struggle; there are many other countries in a similar situation. For me and many like me, young people do not choose their life, they do not choose where they end up and do not have the luxury to think about what they want to become. When I look back at my life, there is s stark reality and understanding that it has not been my choice. After being in prison, I was unable to work, study or move easily and all because of my situation, where I was born and who I am – a Palestinian refugee in occupied land. My story, not dissimilar to thousands of others, portrays people, old and young, Muslims, Arabs that our only fault is to be born here. If you are born during the intifada, you carry a stone, wear the kuffiyeh, protest and do what everyone else does. If you don’t, you are not really a Palestinian. To be a British person, you will go to school, college and then university and if you don’t, you are not really British. In Brazil, you will learn the samba and speak Portugese. If you don’t, your Brazilian identity is questioned.
We become who we are, from where we are born. If I am born here, what am I expected to become? Am I given a different chance or told that another life exists? If I am thrown in the sea, am I expected not to get wet? This is my opportunity to answer some of these questions and portray the Palestinian identity that is forever intertwined with the occupation, with oppression and a refugee status; I am in search for freedom of the body, mind and soul.”
What impact do you hope to have with And Here I Am?
“There are millions of people like me and millions more worse off than me, however, they have not been given the opportunity to tell their story. When I got the chance to see the world through theatre, and tell my tale, the course of my life changed. I believe it’s my responsibility to share these realities on the stage and make a small difference to thousands around the world who share similar experiences to mine.
For Palestinians, during the occupation and following the first and second intifadas, thousands of people were imprisoned (men, women and children), there were many attacks, the wall was resurrected and Gaza became an open-air prison. This life became our reality, it became normal and we got used to it. Performing this to my fellow Palestinians, and to my community in Jenin camp is a way to remind them that we are not living a normal life and it is not our destiny to remain like this. I am not trying to present politics or the concept of victimhood – just my own story, as a Palestinian, living in occupied land.”
And Here I Am is produced by Developing Artists.
Performances of And Here I Am in Palestine:
Thursday December 28, Jenin camp, 4pm
Saturday December 30, Jenin camp, 4pm
Sunday December 31, Jenin camp, 4pm
April 2018, anniversary event, Jenin camp, date TBC
Saturday January 6, Yes Theatre, Hebron, time TBC
Saturday January 13, Ashtar Theatre, Ramallah, time TBC
Saturday January 20, Municipality Cultural Centre, Nablus, time TBC
Saturday January 27, Al Harah Theatre, Bethlehem, time TBC