Somalia Tour 2011
Four Irish based performers and 173kg of circus and musical equipment (imagine the excess baggage fee) have set off to tour with their show through war torn Somalia. Professional fools; Will Flanagan, Colm O’Grady, Bryan Quinn and Arran Towers have taken it upon themselves to ‘play’ in a country that has never seen the likes of it before. In fact no international performance group has toured here for at least 20 years, and no group has ever performed in the displaced people/refugee camps.
The show, called ‘Good News’ is themed around the use of newspapers as props. The performers dress in a newspaper decorated costume, perform highly inventive routines using deft circus skills, newspaper puppetry and comedy all performed to a live music soundtrack.
The entire tour has been has been graciously organized in collaboration with Roberta Russo and the UNHCR (the UN High Commission for Refugees) teams in Somalia and Nairobi, and has been kindly funded by Culture Ireland, the UNHCR and by donations and fundraisers from the public.
The ‘great’ news is that the show really works! The kids of Somalia are really loving it. Though after one particular show a woman asked who are these crazy white people and who will wash them?
One of our favorite ploys has been to perform ‘guerilla’ style impromptu shows. This usually happens when we find ourselves in a market or at a truck-stop cafe and we begin very gently to monkey around and develop it into an impromptu show. Often slightly in shock, the gathering crowds react with cheering and applauding. It is this kind of ‘happening’ that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In light of the infrequent civil unrest and the threat of trouble we have armed escorts at all times. It’s like being in a boy band without the groupies. It sounds scary but its actually not that bad, the threat of violence is not imminent, at least we hope not. The soldiers called have even gotten involved as volunteers for our routines. As a result, what could be a tense relationship has actually proved to be surprisingly quite relaxed.
A translator told us how one of the children who saw the piece had told him how she had come as an IDP from the fighting in Mogadishu 4 months ago. When asked about the show she said that it had helped her to forget for a time what had happened to her family, she felt it had brought healing to her. Another young man who was a local youth leader spoke and thanked us for coming and said the show was now part of his life, not just the war around Mogadishu and the loss of his father and mother. He hoped we could return soon. This quite literally is comic relief.