Igor Shugaleev is an actor from Belarus. He has been in exile in Poland for two years after posting a video online against the totalitarian regime under Alexander Lukashenko. Igor is unable to return to Belarus, unable to see his family, who due to the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are also unable to visit him.
He talks on stage with Hamza Boulaiz, an actor and theatre practitioner from Morocco. Hamza describes Morocco as very safe for citizens although acknowledges that tourists may have other opinions – It is a country, for example, where being gay is still a criminal offence.
Whilst Hamza has more freedoms and less censorship, to be truly free to create any kind of work he desires, he has founded the country’s first travelling self contained theatre company which moves his work across Morocco in a lorry.
Over the course of an hour and a half, Igor and Hamza talk to each other and on occasion, have questions for the audience. Igor is particularly keen to hear more about censorship in Morocco and why the UK decided to leave the European Union.
The whole experience takes place online, with Igor and Hamza logging on from their respective countries. It’s a literal form of documentary theatre. The Wall, has been co-produced by Tobacco Factory Theatres with Teatro de La Abadia in Madrid and funded by a British Council International Collaboration Grant.
The performance starts during the audience incoming, with a meta live stream of messages between the actors and creatives to a backdrop of creative sound. This immersive device brings you into the conversation from the start. As the actors discuss the impending start of the show, the visuals break into video and multimedia, including mapping the location of Morocco, Belarus and the Factory Theatre.
During the performance, the actors speak in their native language. Their words are interpreted forwards and backwards by multi-lingual actors on stage in front of us. The performance is structured through themes such as ‘borders’, with on stage performers interpreting these through creative movement, interspersed discussion and monologue.
Whilst this sounds like a bizarre peak-Covid Zoom meeting, the result is actually a fascinating look into the lives of others in a way that might not have been as warm or as accessible in other media. Would I have taken the time to really listen to two people talking about their lives in such a way on TV or film? Possibly not. And this is where theatre can reach people in ways that no other medium can achieve.
It connects people, gives time and space to challenge the status quo. Helps people to ‘pay attention’. Breaks down the things that divide us – such as visas, immigration laws, political freedoms. Or, Government, power and money, as one audience member says in reference to entry barriers blocking immigration to the United Kingdom.
All these pertinent and complex themes are presented in cross-continent conversations. It’s a highly unique and compelling live experience, blending fact as it happens with creative staging.
With different on screen performers taking part each night with their own language and life experiences, no shows will be the same.
As some of the best theatre does, it makes you question the way you see the world and your place in it through the eyes of others.
The Wall is thought provoking and moving but also funny and warm. It might sound like a strange experience, but this is definitely worth watching. It’s one of those experiences that will keep you thinking and asking questions long after it’s finished.
The Wall is on at Tobacco Factory Theatres until Friday 24 February 2023.
For more information or to book, visit: https://tobaccofactorytheatres.com/shows/the-wall/
Cast On Screen for 22 February 2023 Performance
Igor Shugaleev (Belarus)
Hamza Boulaiz (Morocco)
Cast On Stage
Yasmeen Audisho Ghrawi
Director: Juan Ayala
Direction in Madrid & Dramaturgy: Egly Larreynaga
Producer & Dramaturgy: Miguel Oyarzun
Audio Visual Design & Tech Development: Andreas Levisanos & Christos Atzinas
Assistant Director & Production Manager: Holly Meechan
Sound & Visuals: Nikki Crowley
Lighting Design: Álvaro Guisado Garavito
Producer: Morag Massey
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