Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ros Horin.
This is a moving and life affirming documentary about courage, the triumph of the human spirit to overcome trauma, and the power of theatre and art to transform lives.
Four refugees talk about their horrific experiences in war torn countries in Africa – tales of rape, kidnap and violence. We get to hear the stories of Yarrie, Aminata, Yordy and Rosemary as they relive their individual experiences. But there are also some common elements to their stories, which will be familiar to a number of refugees who have escaped violence and conflict to find a safer home.
Veteran theatre director Ros Horin approached a number of refugee women, interviewing them about their experiences, with the idea of telling their stories through a theatrical piece. Empathetic and sympathetic, Horin worked with four women who had no professional acting experience and workshopped her ideas. Working with counsellors and community advocate groups, Horin did her best to protect the women throughout. However the process proved too draining and emotionally upsetting for Yordy, who dropped out on a couple of occasions. She was persuaded to return.
Horin also decided fairly early on to film the lengthy process of workshops, training, rehearsals and ultimate performance, so we get this document of the evolution of the show. This film gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process. Horin has also included some gritty and graphic archival footage of the violent civil wars that have gripped African nations for decades to give us some insights into the life that these women have left behind.
Horin began the project in 2010 and it took five years to reach fruition with a stage performance at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre and the Sydney Opera House. What Horin and the four women stage is a strong and moving and empowering piece of theatre that was something of a cathartic experience.
Horin hopes that The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe will also be a powerful tool to help change entrenched attitudes towards the plight of refugees and to broaden our understanding of their experiences.