Skip to main content

West Yorkshire Playhouse is making strides to becoming the first ever Theatre of Sanctuary,hosting a whole range of events around the showing of ‘Refugee Boy’. Alongside the play, the playhouse is hosting awareness raising, a refugee consultation group, a refugee choir and countless cultural ‘tasters’ in a bid to bring refugee communities and the theatre going public closer to understanding one another.

For the first time the work of two of the UK’s most prolific and revered poets comes together on stage at West Yorkshire Playhouse. A newly commissioned adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s powerful novel REFUGEE BOY has been created by the Playhouse with award winning poet, playwright and performer LEMN SISSAY. Sissay’s stage version of Zephaniah’s gripping tale charting one boy’s courageous fight for recognition reflects Lemn’s own journey to discover his past. Of Ethiopian and Eritrean heritage Sissay describes himself as Habersha, and like Zephaniah’s protagonist was brought up in the social care system in the UK, (a story which he recounts in his play SOMETHING DARK). REFUGEE BOY paints a realistic, painful but hopeful picture of the challenges facing a young refugee alone in a strange country. This compelling adaptation is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s GAIL MCINTYRE and is at the Playhouse from 9 – 30 March.

Alem is fourteen, in London with his father on the best holiday he has ever had, only then the unthinkable happens, Alem awakes to find himself alone, a stranger in an unfamiliar country. Overnight he has become a refugee. As a violent civil war rages back home, Alem’s Ethiopian father and Eritrean mother make the heartbreaking decision to leave him in London, on his own but hopefully safe at last. Guided by the Refugee Council and social services Alem’s new life brings with it new challenges from court hearings to children’s homes to life changing friendships and loving foster families. Amidst this turmoil Alem determines to take control, to transcend his refugee label, to become Alem Kelo – an African, a Peacemaker and no longer just a Refugee Boy.