INTERVIEW: Abu-Zayd DeGale | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Living In Limbo is a powerful new play which demonstrates extraordinary and intimate displays of humanity, and will be an imperative contribution to Black History Month when it’s performed at Star & Shadow Cinema and Alphabetti Theatre this month. Powerful, principal and passionate, the one-man play is performed by Abu-Zayd DeGale through the medium of storytelling, spoken word and song, and sets out to shatter the damaging myths surrounding refugees and asylum seekers.

Abu-Zayd is a 42-year old refugee from Sudan, who now works as a club doorman in Newcastle. However, it’s clear from the start of our conversation, that Abu-Zayd is no stranger to the stage. “I worked as a stand-up comedian and storyteller [in Sudan] which helped me to have an impact on many people’s lives, economically, socially and politically.” The filmmaker, playwright, actor and storyteller’s philosophy has influenced much of his work here in Newcastle. “The main thrust of my work has always been about social change and integration, acceptance and challenging prevailing orthodoxies.”

Viewing creativity as a way to provide a voice to the voiceless ultimately led him to feel unsafe in Sudan. “As an activist artist I was doing arts with people that did not have a voice, the government did not like it. I’ve been arrested, beaten and detained by the security forces and I had to save my life.” In his role as a Refugee Week Leader, Abu-Zayd – who describes himself most accurately as a social changer and integrator – welcomes refugees and asylum seekers by helping them find new opportunities.

As an activist artist I was doing arts with people that did not have a voice, the government did not like it. I’ve been arrested, beaten and detained by the security forces and I had to save my life

Abu-Zayd believes passionately that interdisciplinary arts have the power to create social change. “You can bring society together and create a good example of coexistence, love and respect to make life easier for us all.”

He was inspired to create Living In Limbo after witnessing firsthand the misrepresentation and stereotyping that refugees and asylum seekers face. Abu-Zayd highlights how problematic it is that people are presented rather than represented. “I hope my audiences can take away some responsibilities regarding the world we are living in today, by understanding what is going on in Sudan and the involvement of the UK.”

A principle for Abu-Zayd is that his production is a celebration of storytelling, featuring spoken-word, a traditional dance from Dafur, music and singing. “All of these elements create a show to educate, empower and entertain at the same time.”

The theme of identity has heavily influenced Living In Limbo. “Of course identity is something big for me, and it is a major theme in this production, as my identity has been challenged in the UK, but I stand tall and don’t accept the abuse I face while doing my doorman job. I hope my honesty will light the tunnel for others to come forward and tell their stories to make life better, by respecting and loving each other.”

Living In Limbo is performed at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle on Saturday 5th-Sunday 6th and Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle on Thursday 17th-Friday 18th October

 

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