KAMYON Community Performance – Aiding the Migrant Crisis?

Migrant, Europe, Protest, Germany, Prayer

Jessica Clot
BURSTOUT Contributor

Jessica is a student at Queen Mary, University of London. She has a passion for theatre and drama, and often writes for CUB magazine, the university's official arts and culture magazine.

Michael De Cock’s KAMYON is a one woman performance portraying real life experiences of refugees fleeing their homes. As part of LIFT’s supportive participatory arts programme, KAMYON’S free UK Premiere was actualised on 11th October 2016 in the Bernie Grant Arts Centre Courtyard, Tottenham. Surprisingly, the show took place in a truck that seated no more than 20 audience members.

As the audience anticipated the start of the show, waiting in the courtyard, we were herded into the truck and asked to pay the toll. Then the doors shut, trapping us in an unventilated, stale aired truck with no light or windows for one hour. The experience of being in this narrow, confined space, emulated the challenging living conditions faced by many refugees as well as holding a symbolic meaning; the truck started its journey performing first in Istanbul back in May 2015, over the course of a year, this touring journey led to performing in England. 

With an intimate, small space for the actress to perform, the framework of the performance relied heavily on live music by solo musician Rudi Genbrugge, seated at the back of the audience, as well as lighting, projection and soundscapes. This defied my expectations; the uncomfortable experience of being seated in this strange venue space encouraged identification with the fears and hopes many refugees must have felt whilst travelling to the unknown. I did not however, gain extensive new knowledge on the migrant crisis itself. It was a sensory experience, rather than an intellectual one. 

After the performance, the actress, musician and Border Crossings coordinator hosted a free Question and Answer session. They described the script making process revealing that after interviewing multiple refugees, there was extensive material and some personal stories had to be cut. The outcome was a coherent storyline through the eyes of one girl which embedded these real experiences, using real refugees’ words to form the piece. This type of art form endeavours to bridge the gap between theatre arts and social, political issues. 

Taken at the Refugee Rights Protest
at Broadmeadows, Melbourne, by Flickr user Takver ©
As I was walking to work in Westminster, London, there was a large protest concerning the migrant crisis. Banners and placards with ‘REFUGEES WELCOME HERE’ were held high in the air. Later that day, as I trudged through the rain, the remnants of the protest remained; torn banners, trodden on leaflets and a set of dedicated protestors, sleeping through the rough weather in a pop up tent, were all that was left. 

Community based projects are needed; they reflect existent world problems. Performance is a method used to remind a person that just because they are not a refugee themselves, does not mean that the migrant crisis is not their problem. It is a collective problem. It is our problem. Conversely, the main difficulty with this methodology is that theatre does not reach a vast amount of people. With 7.4 billion people in the world, only a maximum of 20 audience members are potentially moved and inspired every time the production of KAMYON is performed. Even then, how many audience members will take action?

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