But you’re not Syrian or Muslim!
Performing any one-woman play is daunting enough but when I was approached by John Hayes and Mark Evans to take on this role the weight of the responsibility to portray her accurately and sensitively was enormous. I knew I was going to have to do more research than I’d ever done for a role before. I was overwhelmed, but the piece and the purpose of it were too important for me not to take it on. In trying to raise awareness and funds I needed to be certain I wouldn’t cause any offense inadvertently or otherwise.
I did a lot of my research online, watched countless eye witness videos and read countless firsthand accounts. I read everything I could find on the war in Syria, the origins of it, the refugee camps in Greece and Germany and direct provision centres here in Ireland. But I knew that wasn’t going to be enough so I reached out to the Syrian community in Ireland. They welcomed me with open arms. I was genuinely blessed to get to know Mohammed Alsaadi and his family. Mo is a chef who has been living in Ireland for many years. He is married to an Irish woman who has converted to Islam and they have two daughters. He has one brother Achmed, who followed him from Syria and is living and working in Ireland and he also sponsored his elderly parents to come to Ireland and live with him here for a while, they have since returned to Syrai. All the rest of Mo’s extensive family are still in Syria. The Alsaadi’s and their friends welcomed me into their homes and helped me enormously with my research, teaching me the correct accent for a Syrian native speaking English, how to put on and wear the Hijab they so generously gave me, the Islamic prayer routine, what life is like in Syria for those who remained, what life is like as a Muslim in Ireland. They also taught me some Arabic words that allowed me to embellished the script and further inhabit the character. As part of my research and preparation I wore Hijab on a number of occasions while going about my daily life in Bandon and Cork city.
Performing at A Taste of Syria to an audience that included a large number of people who were Muslim, Syrian and/or refugees of the Syrian War was one of the highlights of my career to date. The atmosphere was amazing. The Syrian food, prepared my Mo, Achmed, their family & friends was hands down the best I’ve ever tasted. The genuine feeling of an inter -denominational, multi – cultural community coming together with a common humanitarian goal was extraordinary. I will never forget it.
The opportunity to speak for, give voice to and create awareness off the plight of refugees of the Syrian War was an honour and a privilege. To sit down with them afterwards, hear their stories first hand and get their reactions to the piece was humbling beyond measure.