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British artists launch theatre in Calais migrant camp

A drama workshop inside the Good Chance Theatre in the Calais migrant camp. Photo: Good Chance Theatre

Theatre leaders including Sonia Friedman, David Lan and Vicky Featherstone have backed a new theatre that has been created in the Calais migrant camp.

The venue – a dome-shaped tent dubbed the Good Chance Theatre – runs workshops on writing, drama and choral singing, as well as poetry and spoken word events.

It was founded by playwrights Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who plan to stage weekly productions created by migrants, as well as host touring productions by theatre companies and artists from around the world.

Speaking to The Stage, Murphy said he and Robertson had initially wanted to create a piece of theatre with the people living in the camp, and then decided to create a “safe place” to create and share performances and art.

He added: “We say it’s a theatre, and it is, but it performs many functions really. It’s across all art forms, it’s a meeting place – a town hall-cum-theatre – and it’s a really exciting and loved place to be in the camp here.”

Endorsing the project, producer Sonia Friedman told The Stage: “I had to get behind it. I think this is a beautiful idea. The truth is, theatre and the arts can change situations, can pressurise, relieve and help.”

She added: “This project goes right to the heart of the problem. It is attempting to connect with thousands of people in a desperate situation, and through storytelling, music, dance and poetry, provide some way of coping. This is communication locally, nationally and globally. It is too important to ignore.”

Directors Stephen Daldry and Ian Rickson have also expressed support for the theatre, which has received initial funding from several private donors prior to its construction on September 30.

In addition, the Young Vic has donated materials and equipment to the theatre and, along with the Royal Court, has sent volunteers to the site to help out.

David Lan, Young Vic artistic director, said he wanted the Young Vic to do “whatever it can do” to support the Good Chance, because it provided a place for people in the camp to express themselves.

“One of the things that art does is to express, in the extraordinary way it can, that time and geography are not significant, and that we share more than what separates us,” he said.

Murphy explained that he and Robertson first had the idea for for the theatre four weeks ago, but that it had rapidly “snowballed”.

“We’re slowly adding chairs into it, we’ll soon add a curtain into it, we’ve got a couple of lights, and we’re adding slowly to the mix,” he said.

Murphy and Robertson said the name Good Chance had been chosen because, when they first visited the camp, they heard refugees saying ‘no chance’ or ‘good chance’.

“We asked and found it meant how likely they thought crossing the border would be that night. And it stuck. The theatre offers a different kind of good chance,” Murphy said.

You can follow developments at the Good Chance Theatre on Twitter [1].