STAGE REVIEW: Penguin @ Live Theatre, Newcastle (21.09.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Hamzeh Al Hussien in Penguin – describing life in Za’atari refugee camp, picturesbybish

Penguin is a one-man show documenting the life of Hamzeh Al Hussien, a disabled Syrian artist who arrived in Gateshead five years ago as part of the government’s Syrian Refugee programme.

In English, Arabic and a smattering of Spanish, Hamzeh talks us through memorable vignettes of his life. From his childhood memories in Syria, living in a refugee camp in Jordan, to twerking in Newcastle nightclubs, Hamza’s stories are beautifully observed with enough light and shade to make them truly compelling.

It would be easy for Hamza to dwell on the misery of living in a refugee camp in Jordan, but what we get are stories peppered with levity, beauty and humour. As a performer, Hamza is charismatic and compelling, and his enduring sense of optimism is present in his writing and in his performance. Naturally, there is sadness, beautiful and understated in Hamza’s storytelling, he has a gift of brevity and a way with getting to the essence of an idea (and all in a second language!)

Funny, sad, sentimental and true, Penguin is an important, affecting story. Refugees are a demographic who seldom get the opportunity to tell their stories, and this makes it all the more precious. A special performance which deserves the attention of theatre goers nationally, if not internationally.

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