National Theatre Wales tells migrant stories off Tenby coast

  • By Huw Thomas
  • BBC Wales arts and media correspondent
Video caption,

Lourdes Faberes says the production is a 'dream experience' for cast and audience

Audiences have taken to the water off the Pembrokeshire coast to experience a new National Theatre Wales play telling the stories of refugees.

Poet and playwright Louise Wallwein wrote Tide Whisperer to highlight the "real human beings" affected by the migrant crisis.

It is being performed around Tenby and on boats off shore.

Audiences wear headphones to hear dramatic monologues and poems as the action unfolds.

Ms Wallwein, who has volunteered to help refugees arriving on the Greek island of Kos, said it was important to set the production in Tenby.

She said: "I wanted to do a piece of theatre in the landscape and the big reason was that I wanted people in the UK to imagine 'what if this happened here?' and what would you do?

"I wanted the audience to get their feet wet within this and also I really like it when the audience are part of a play. The audience will be providing the pictures as much as we are."

The audience congregates at the De Valence Pavilion for the opening of the show before being split into groups and led to performances on the streets, the beaches and the harbour.

Some are taken on boats, while others view their journey from the shore.

Image source, National THeatre Wales

Image caption,

The audience is split into groups with some taking boats out to sea and others watching performances on the beach

Through headphones, the audience hears dramatic monologues performed by the six cast members, as well as singing from the community chorus of local performers.

With ears covered, the stories - some live, others recorded - are powerful and absorbing.

Guides take the groups to different parts of the sprawling production, where everyone is encouraged to get close to the performers.

While the groups are spread across the shore, all members of the audience are eventually taken to the harbour after sunset to witness the drama's poignant finale.

Ms Wallwein called for greater understanding of the plight of those forced to flee their homes in search of a better life.

She said: "What I hope the audience leave with is the sense that there are real human beings behind these headlines and behind these images.

"One friend, who is a refugee, told me that he wants me to make people understand that those people feel too, that they have heartbeats just the same as you and I.

"It seemed like such a small thing, but I think it is really huge. It is our duty to go out and understand the world."

Image caption,

Ebenezer Gyau is making his professional debut

The cast includes Ebenezer Gyau, a member of the National Youth Theatre who is making his professional acting debut in the show playing a character who endures a "brutal" journey.

He said: "My character Jamil is from Gambia and he has lived there all of his life, but he keeps trying to get to Europe, to Italy, to get what he believes is a better life."

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Mr Gyau added: "It shows first-hand what people go through. It will have a big impact on people.

"Each location is like an invitation into that person's world, for you to experience what it is like.

"My character is an engineer and once you step into my world you see all of my creations, the raft I have attempted to build to get out of Gambia.

"It is very unique, but it is very powerful."

Image source, National Theatre Wales

Actress Lourdes Faberes - who plays a Vietnamese refugee - has spent her holidays volunteering to help Syrian refugees in Serbia.

"It teaches you so much about people," she said. "Nobody chooses to get on that boat, so many want to go back home but there is no home to go back to, they are in danger.

"The biggest thing I found was people are resilient and are forced into living for that day. They have no past to go back to, an uncertain future.

"If they get to play football and the sun is out, it's a reason to laugh, to make the most of the moment, it's a good lesson for everyone."

Tide Whisperer is being performed until 16 September.