The Jungle in the Dome

by Dilay Avci

Poorest nation, richest nation (Issue III+IV/2018)

On a Saturday afternoon in August the artists of the Good Chance Theatre are hurrying along at the outskirts of Paris. In front of the Good Chance Dome, a gigantic white dome-shaped tent, which houses a stage for the refugees and volunteers, preparations for the last Hope Show in the city are underway. The British playwrights Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy initiated their art project “Good Chance Theatre” in 2015 in the sprawling Calais refugee camp. The entire team aims to offer refugees living there an alternative to their usual daily concerns, their fears for the future and worries about whether they will be able to stay in Europe. Following Calais and London, the Good Chance Theatre’s third performance venue is an initial reception centre at Porte de la Chapelle in Paris. The tent is filled with noise from the soundcheck for the improvisation dance-show, the film and music installation, and the flashmob.

In just nine weeks the participants of the theatre in Paris were able to garner the creative powers of over 3.000 refugees and volunteers. International curators and artists, camp residents from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Darfur, as well as volunteers from England, France, Hong Kong and 17 other countries join forces for the art project. They shape the Hope Shows through their life stories, their instruments, and their ideas about society and community. Saturday is the highlight of the week –– that’s when the projects developed during the workshops are presented. From solo-concerts to mask presentations, from Shakespearean poetry recitals to an orchestra performance made up entirely of upcycled instruments –– the Hope Show stage has a place for everyone.

“We’re dedicating our work to the freedom of art and expression, which often fade into the background during moments of existential emergency. This is about creating a program together that everyone can identify with at the end. Every participant personally contributes something to the project, and at the same time takes a lot from it,” explains Louise Bernard, project coordinator of the Good Chance Theatre in Paris. The ideas on show in their tent are designed to signal what could be possible within society as a whole –– bringing people together and uniting them to create personal, as well as collective narratives.

In practice, it contains three elements: the Good Chance Production is the project’s creative powerhouse, creating plays like “The Jungle”, which is currently being shown in London. The second branch of the project involves the members of the Good Chance Ensemble working together with the theatre team on the Hope Shows, for which as many as fifty camp inhabitants sing, write poetry and rehearse together in daily workshops during the week. The third element, the performance in the Dome, brings together both aspects of the project. In the autumn, the team will move their dome-tent on towards the Musée National de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris.

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