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22 September 2021

Excursion’s powerful humanitarian message

As the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Afghanistan, a group of Blackfriars students…

As the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Afghanistan, a group of Blackfriars students has been given a new appreciation of the Afghan refugee story.

Drama teacher Bob Becker’s students this week saw Windmill Theatre Company’s Amphibian a play that tells the powerful story of an Afghan boy, Hassan, who has travelled, alone, thousands of kilometres in search of a better life.

While the play was written some years back, its tale particularly resonates now. Dozens of Afghan refugees are currently making new lives in Adelaide after the Taliban took control of their home country.

Amphibian writer Duncan Graham said, in creating the play, he and director Sasha Zahra visited a primary school to ask the students, among other things, “what is your worst nightmare?”.

“The kids were very aware of what was going on in the world, and they knew a lot more about the political reality of our time than we had thought they might,” Graham said in a deep dive into the play.

“We also found they had a keen eye for justice and truth. We stumbled across a thought: ‘Isn’t what’s happening to child refugees all over the world exactly the worst nightmare of children living comfortably in our societies?’.”

He and Zahra then asked former Afghan refugees to share their stories.

Picture: Refugee Alternatives Conference

“Their stories are so epic, they are beyond imagination,” Graham said. “I could not make it up. They are like your worst nightmare. It’s hard to place these tales of survival, compassion and cruelty into a register of reality. Yet tell these stories we must.”

Among those former refugees was Adelaide man Muzafar Ali, pictured, a former United Nations political and human rights analyst, who became Amphibian‘s Cultural Consultant.

“The fall of Kabul (to the Taliban in August) triggered total chaos and disintegration that will have severe consequences for people in Afghanistan and the region,” Mr Ali said.

Mr Becker said Amphibian taught young people about displacement and the importance of making connections.

“The protagonists – Hassan, from Afghanistan, and Chloe, from Sydney – miss their homes, family and friends very much,” Mr Becker said.

“At Blackfriars, we all either know someone, or are a person whose family has been displaced and have had to start a new life.

“The magic of theatre is that, through live performance, the audience can immerse themselves in the lives of the characters on stage and come out with a deeper understanding of what it means to be fully human.”

Windmill Theatre Company is donating the proceeds from the 25 September performance of Amphibian to the Baba Mazari Foundation, which helps impoverished families, child labourers and disadvantaged students in Afghanistan.

Last week, Blackfriars’ student leaders cooked a barbecue lunch to raise money for those affected by the situation in Afghanistan. The Caritas fundraiser also served to raise awareness of the suffering experienced by those affected by the upheaval.

Main Picture: Rami Saaid and Julia Vosnakis as Hassan and Chloe in Amphibian. Picture: Thomas McCammon