Good Chance Theatre Favorite 


Jan 1 2016


Calais, French

Surrounded by a jungle of tents and mud, the Good Chance Theatre was set up last year by British playwrights Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson. The refugee camp theatre has been derided by many, but for the thousands of migrants who have journeyed across the world to Calais, the small dome has been the first and only place into which they have been welcomed, and their voice valued.

“This is hell,” admits Joe Robertson, co-founder of the Good Chance theatre, on a tour of the camp. “It’s been raining all night. It will rain all day. A lot of people’s houses would have flooded over in the middle of the night. That’s if they weren’t blown down by the winds yesterday.” Scabies and measles are becoming commonplace for residents of the camp, he tells us, coupled with an almost constant fear of bulldozers, police and teargas.

“But,” adds Joe Murphy, the second half of the Good Chance duo, “it is made better by the resilience of the people who find themselves here. It’s that energy that the theatre relies on in order to be a place of hope.”

After a visit to the camp that was meant to last a couple of days, the Joes soon returned and, funded by a crowdfunding campaign the theatre was built in late September. The idea gained backing from theatre heavyweights including the Young Vic’s David Lan, Vicky Featherstone and the Royal Court Theatre, and Natalia Kaliada, artistic director of the Belarus Free Theatre.

But the theatre, a white geodesic dome now covered in graffiti and hung with paintings, is not theirs the Joes maintain – it was built by the residents themselves. “We brought the dome over, but 50 people built it with us, from the community. Since then, maybe a thousand people a week use this space. We have had hundreds of volunteers and amazing artists from the UK, and the whole world – visiting companies and organisations who have dedicated time, resources, money, advice. So many people have come together to fill this dome with joy and expression amid the chaos and the horrors of this place.”

And this applies to their awards nomination too, they say. “I think a nomination is a nomination for not even the theatre. It’s a nomination for a community that has happened in and around the theatre. I suppose it’s a nomination for the ability of people from many, many different countries to get on, to make together, and to make do in a situation that is hellish.”

And the residents of the camp have clearly come to rely on the theatre and its founders, in a huge way. The Joes can’t walk more than a few metres without being called over for a chat and a hug from one of the hundreds in the camp who visit their theatre.

When asked what place he thought the theatre had in a refugee camp, one resident replied: “It simply means to me, for us refugees, reminding ourselves what we have been survived from. The minors, instead of drawing the beautiful dreams, they are drawing their cruel lives and hungry days.” A recent census counted 291 children living in the camp unaccompanied, with the Joes campaigning for authorities to safely register them, and help process their UK residency claims.

Posted by Zhe Tang on

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