Rehearsals are starting today for the first production in National Theatre Wales' third season, De Gabay [The Poem] - a one-day, site-specific exploration of the Butetown area of Cardiff, home of the largest Somali population outside Somalia.
The performance will begin with visits to private houses across Butetown for a series of intimate performances by poets and residents. Later, two extraordinary parades will emerge from secret locations nearby - representing different generations that have come to the bay area - and travel to Wales' political heart - the Welsh Assembly's Senedd building, in Cardiff Bay. On arrival, the audience will experience a one-off parliament in which young Somali poets will take the place of politicians, linked digitally to young people and artists across the world. The day will end with a stunning finale across the bay.
De Gabay will include videos sent from key Somali communities around the world, including Toronto, Amsterdam, Minnesota and Somalia itself. Audiences will be able to interact with and watch the production online.
The core cast will include Sarah Amankwah, Peter Bray, Anthony 'Wella' Corria, Hassan Farah, Tomos James, Anne Langford, Laila Mason, Jo Munton, Keith Murrell, Adura Onashile, Dean Rehman, Caroline Sabin, Yusra Warsama, Juliana Yazbeck and Wibidi.
Audiences who book tickets will receive an email in the days before the show, with details of where to begin their day on Sunday 3rd March. All proceeds from ticket sales (which are payable by voluntary donation, min. £1) will be donated to future community projects in Butetown.
A group of young poets including Daud Farah, Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, Ali Goolyad, Hassan Panero and Ahmed Yusuf came to National Theatre Wales two years ago with their idea for De Gabay - the song of their lives as young British-born Somali men. Eager to change media and public perceptions of the Somali community, they were inspired by their involvement in National Theatre Wales' January 2011 production in Butetown, The Soul Exchange. On 3rd March 2013, they will tell their own stories of what brought them to Butetown, and what happens next.
While producing De Gabay, National Theatre Wales is also running a wider residency in Butetown - relocating much of the company's activity to the area and supporting a range of new initiatives throughout February.
The Butetown residency includes support for five new ideas through National Theatre Wales's WalesLab initiative:
A Wibidi Musical, by Wibidi
Last Words, by Anthony Brito
SEEN but not HEARD, by Genaya Parris
Our Mothers Were Sisters, by Wella Corria, Leila Mohamed Mason & Louise Osborn
Aftaag Legacy, by Said and Mohamed Dualeh
There will also be TEAM events in the company's Butetown space throughout February and March, including:
Weekly workshops with local artist Kyle Legall using photography, film and spray paint
Word4Word - our spoken word and poetry event showcasing talent from Butetown and beyond
Full details of National Theatre Wales' Butetown residency can be found on the De Gabay group on the company's online community: http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/group/degabay
De Gabay is being produced with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's participatory performing arts programme. National Theatre Wales was awarded £175,000 in June 2011 for the development of a new performance piece of uncompromising quality which brings together leading professionals and people from local communities.
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Director, Andrew Barnett said: "We are supporting arts organisations committed to pushing the boundaries of their work with professional and non-professional artists in a way that gives voice to some of the most marginalised in society. Four Somali poets based in Butetown, Cardiff, sought to change negative public perceptions of British Somalis and have worked with National Theatre Wales to bring us an inspiring, community-led production drawing on a rich Somalian poetic tradition. This is an exemplar initiative which will engage local and international audiences and participants with uncompromising quality and which we hope in turn will influence artistic practice more widely."