Refugee Week brings powerful stories to life

By Our Reporter
Forced To Flee is a challenging, 90-minute production exploring authentic stories by young refugees who escaped homelands, sought asylum, and have settled in Western Sydney. Pic supplied

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre is commemorating Refugee Week 2024 with a compelling production by Treehouse Theatre titled “Forced to Flee.” This 90-minute performance offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of young refugees who have fled their homelands, sought asylum, and now call Western Sydney home.

Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun highlights the significance of this production, showcasing Liverpool’s role as a welcoming community for refugees. With over 150 nationalities represented in greater Liverpool, the production provides a profound insight into the city’s multicultural fabric. According to Mayor Mannoun, “Liverpool is the heartland of multicultural Australia, and each cast member, their families, and ethnic communities contribute to the area’s rich and vibrant culture.”

“Forced to Flee,” directed by Catherine Maguire-Donvito, resonates with audiences from Year 5 to adults, offering invaluable professional development for those working within refugee communities. The director emphasizes that the production is a testament to the resilience and determination of these young people to belong in their new country. The cast, comprising refugees now settled in Western Sydney and attending Miller Technology High School, shares personal journeys in a moving performance that culminates three months of trauma recovery work.

One young refugee’s story begins with a chilling memory: “I held my teddy bear. My Mum held me. Together, we shivered in the cold, dark room while the men in masks hammered on the door, shouting ‘We will kill you!'” This harrowing account is just one example of the trauma that refugees endure daily, with panic attacks, fear, and anger often triggered by a sound, gesture, or innocent comment.

Treehouse Theatre’s drama-based recovery program for young refugees starts with group counselling in a safe environment. As the sessions progress, many participants choose to share their stories more widely, resulting in short performances rehearsed and ready for a broader audience.

The performance begins with scenes of childhood—games, fun, and laughter, reminding us that these children are like any other. The tone shifts as trauma stories unfold, prompting gasps and tears from the audience. The escape scenes are nail-biting, depicting real-life experiences that these young performers have survived. Finally, the production concludes with stories of recovery, resettlement, and integration into a new community.

Catherine Maguire-Donvito explains, “This is powerful theatre, carefully crafted for audiences from Year 5 to adult. The audience will be inspired by the resilience of the young refugee cast, and in return, the cast will feel buoyed by the audience’s response, feeling understood at last.”

Running from June 20 to 22, “Forced to Flee” is a must-see event during Refugee Week, providing an eye-opening experience into the lives of refugees and celebrating Liverpool’s vibrant cultural diversity.

Production Details:
June 20 to 22, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.
Production and booking details:  Forced-to-flee

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