Theatre can be a powerful tool for communication, artistic expression and creating empathy. It can open the watcher to new experiences and make you understand what it is like to be someone else. This can help bring communities together, which is why LegalAliens Theatre, in conjunction with Haringey Welcome, have been running theatre workshops for migrants at the Migrants Resource Centre.
The reasons for attending the workshops are diverse. One attendee said: “It was a dream of mine to attend theatre workshops and try acting.” Adding that the workshops had: “Boosted my creativity.” Another attendee said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to explore yourself. Absolutely positive experience which I will never forget.”
The attendees have come for a wide range of backgrounds, including people from Italy, Latvia, Turkey, Syria and Bulgaria. The length of time they have been in the UK also varies, from three months to three years. One attendee said that they had joined the workshop because they were: “Interested in acting and performing,” and “I wanted to meet new people and challenge myself.”
The workshops are also attempting to address some of the stereotypes about migrants. Lara Parmiani, artistic director of LegalAliens, said: “We’re trying to get rid of the label migrant. They are just people living here.” She added: “[Participants] want to be themselves and assert their identities.”
These workshops have changed how some participants think of themselves as migrants. “Day after day something has changed and continues to change. Day after day I feel less migrant,” one attendee said. “I feel as part of the community,” another said.
Another attendee added: “I obviously still perceive myself as a migrant, as someone different from the others but in the several contexts where I found myself, me being of another nationality was something enriching, an added value somehow.”
The workshops culminated in a short performance on the 26th of March at All Welcome!, an event organised by the local campaign group, Haringey Welcome, to fight against the anti-migrant, hostile environment. Lara said: “We really believe in theatre that has a social value and brings communities together.” She said that this was the origins of theatre: “Communities coming together and telling stories.”
The workshops have encouraged several participants to continue with acting. One said: “I would like to do more acting in the future because thanks to this theatre workshop I discovered that I like and enjoy it.”
LegalAliens are continuing to run their weekly theatre workshops until June. Migrants looking to improve their English and express themselves are welcome to join. The atmosphere is friendly and fun. Lara said that participants have enjoyed meeting other people who are new to the UK, saying they like: “Having a place to come where everyone is in the same boat.”
One attendee said: “I met like minded people from all over the world.” Another agreed: “It was a fantastic opportunity to explore yourself.”