Some former residents of the Jungle in Calais have created a play from their experience as refugeesby Frank Andrews / November 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Last Thursday some friends took me to the Paris suburb of Créteil to watch “To Be or Not,” a play performed at the university there. The cast were a group of 15 former residents of the Calais Jungle, all of them originally from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran. The University of Créteil, in the middle of a sprawl of government housing tower blocks, was one of the first in France to set up a higher education programme for asylum seekers.
The stage was small, the theatre was bright with crude lighting and the wooden seats were uncomfortable. We sat in silence. Suddenly from behind us we heard singing and clapping. The troupe came down through the audience and danced around the stage, smiling and winking. Most of the men were young. They wore jeans, t-shirts and trainers. The singing stopped and two broke away from the group and assumed the roles of guards, corralling the others into a tight huddle at the back of the stage. They cowered and whimpered. Several were beaten and dragged off by their hair to a part of the theatre out of sight. Their groans filled the hall. The remaining men tried to hide behind one another. One man— bald and about thirty who, as I later learnt, was called Waleed—shrieked and writhed as he was dragged offstage.
None of the men spoke French, so the play was mostly conducted in silence except for the sounds of trainers against the lino floor, the slaps as the men were manhandled by the guards, and the numerous cries of distress. They were very rough with each other in the many mome…