Theatre group stages musical to mark Refugee Week

Derbyshire based Ava Hunt Theatre, brings to the stage a new musical using the true story of internationally renowned Saad Al-Kassab in Journeys of Destiny next week to celebrate national Refugee Week.

Saad Al-Kassab was 14 when he was forced to leave his home city of Homs, Syria in 2013 after war broke out. Up until then he had been like any other teenage boy who dreamed of growing up with his friends or playing for Manchester United.

All of that changed when his older brother, Omar, 17, was shot in the back during a peaceful protest, and later arrested and tortured for helping to coordinate food-aid in a humanitarian effort against the Asaad regime with his scout movement. Upon Omar’s escape the family decided to flee and embarked on a journey into the unknown…

The family escaped across the border to Lebanon, before flying to Egypt and eventually taking sanctuary in Australia in 2014. Upon arriving in the country Saad and his family spoke no English and in the space of just 3 years Saad went on to achieve the best marks at one of Australia’s biggest secondary schools, and achieve grades within the top four per cent of exam results across Melbourne. He has since gone on to study to become a doctor, and alongside his brother Omar, was granted the global Messengers of Peace Hero award in Australia by the international Scouts movement in 2017 for their contribution to creating positive change through raising awareness of the situation in Syria and preventing radicalisation and extremism.

In Journeys of Destiny Ava Hunt Theatre is taking Saad’s inspirational story of fleeing war-torn Syria with his family for a better life and interweaves it with the young people making the transition from primary to secondary school.

Working with young people from theatre groups and young refugees from the region the professional company will explore themes of change and resilience. Using songs, verbatim material from Saad’s recollections and the young people’s stories of going from the known to the unknown, whether it be changing schools, changing homes or changing countries, Journeys of Destiny explores what we need to take with us to keep us resilient, so we can navigate a world of change and achievement.

Following the performance, the Journeys of Destiny team will join forces with representatives from Derby’s Refugee Advice Centre to lead a post-show discussion around the themes of the show and the themes of Refugee Week.

Ava Hunt, company and show director, pictured above with Saad, said: “We’re delighted to have received Arts Council Funding which has allowed us to share this inspiring story of Saad Al-Kassab to a wider audience.

“Journeys of Destiny comes as a result of two years of international research and new creative collaborations with schools, Derby Refugee Advice Centre  and Derbyshire County Council’s Virtual School to celebrate national Refugee Week and Fly the Flag 70.

“Refugee Week celebrates the contribution of refugees and looks to promotes a wider understanding of why people seek sanctuary. This project is a great opportunity for the young people we’re working with to explore issues of change in a global context and explore links between their own experiences. With this production we hope to be able raise greater awareness about the plight of refugees, but also show that the resilience required to overcome obstacles, navigate change and achieve our dreams is the same wherever you are in the world. We are all journeying into the unknown in our way.”

Journeys of Destiny is at Derby Theatre on June 20 at 6.30pm. Tickets cost £8  and are available by calling the box office on: 01332 593939 or booking online at www.derbytheatre.co.uk

It will also be on at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester on June 21 at 7pm. For tickets go to https://www2.le.ac.uk/hosted/attenborougharts

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