BLOG Sophie Baggott

NWR Issue 110


‘Scattered’ is a play written by Tim Baker and directed by John Young. It was staged at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on 3 and 4 February, and at Theatr Clwyd on 5 and 6 February. On 13 February, it became the first professional production to be performed at the Calais migrant camp.

This play by Theatr Clwyd has horizons far broader than the single plot of land on which it is set. The script follows conversations between two boys on an allotment in north Wales, but ‘Scattered’’s perspective is global. Owen is a Welsh teen whose parents’ marital difficulties mean he must stay with his grandfather. Yasser is living with a foster family while his asylum application is assessed. He lost his father in wartorn Syria before making the dangerous journey through Europe to reach the UK.

‘Scattered’ does not shy away from the grittier elements of multiculturalism. When Yasser first approaches the allotments, Owen hurls prejudiced opinions of ‘your kind’ inherited from his grandfather’s retrogressive views. Yet the Syrian refugee fights a plucky battle to dispel this bigotry and – after a few more cross words – Owen gradually begins to warm to Yasser.

The atmosphere twists and turns along with the random darts of the boys’ exchanges. Chatter about cultural differences often prompts laughter from the audience. The boys’ giggles over Yasser’s frank details about Islamic toilet etiquette and the uncleanliness of left hands wickedly evoke a typical teenage interaction. Over time, Yasser brings greater depths to their conversations – a habit which Owen eventually embraces despite initial reluctance.

The young asylum seeker understates his traumatic losses, but Yasser’s suffering is expressed indirectly through nostalgia for his past. This is particularly poignant as he excitedly tells Owen of a moment when he spotted his mother gathering food for the family in a teeming Syrian marketplace. His home, Damascus, is now an extremely volatile place. The sheer extent of horror is, again, only implicit – understandably the thirteen year olds make no mention of chemical weapons attacks and aerial bombardment. Audience members’ knowledge of the instability in Syria fills the gaps present in the boys’ dialogue.

Just as the pair seems to be drawing close, a downturn in Owen’s personal life reverses the progress. The young boy’s frustration explodes onto his new friend. Yasser handles the hurtful comments with dignity, but the two boys part ways after Owen refuses to take back what was said in the outburst. Actors Daniel Graham and James El-Sharawy play each role outstandingly.

The ultimate conclusion is moving. At no point does the script undermine the pain felt by Owen in comparison with Yasser’s life experience. Their upbringings are worlds apart, but both carry an intense emotional investment in their families. A memorable stepping stone in their evolving friendship comes in the form of Owen teaching Yasser the Welsh word aelwyd (home, literally hearth).

In February, the company Ifanc took ‘Scattered’ to the main camp in Calais, where the production incorporated refugees who live there. The play’s crux is a breaking of boundaries – and this act of crossing over to the ‘Jungle’ goes beyond Tim Baker’s script to bring its essence wholeheartedly to life. It is this kind of theatre that will help the ‘otheredness’ endured by Yasser on his arrival in Wales to become a thing of the past.

Visit @YoungClwydIfanc on Twitter to see the beautiful photos and messages from the Calais camp.

Sophie Baggott is completing an MA Journalism course at Cardiff University and is a blogger-in-residence for New Welsh Review


previous blog: Shadow of a Quiet Society at Aberystwyth Arts Centre
next blog: The Human Face


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