Spring Reign

A story from the Syrian conflict, originated, produced and directed by Benedict Power and scripted by award-winning writer Rob Johnston.

TOUR DATES - SPRING 2017

(Click the venue link to book tickets)

The Lowry, Salford - 10th May
Harrogate Theatre - 12/13th May
CAST, Doncaster - 17th May
Live@TheLibrary, Oldham - 18th May
Civic, Barnsley - 20th May
The Albany, London - 24th May
Old Fire Station, Oxford - 25th May
Nottingham Playhouse - 27th May
Assembly Rooms, Durham University - 31st May
Hyde Festival Theatre - 3rd June

'A hard-hitting and incredibly moving piece of theatre.'
★★★★ YORKSHIRE POST
'A bold and innovative new play with a relevance that stretches across continents, and audiences.'
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE

Syria has descended into chaos and Aleppo is besieged. Salah and Aisha have lost control of their lives and are plunging headlong into an uncertain future. The Syria they hoped to change is gone, in its place, violence and destruction - the arbitrary brutality of war. With the unexpected arrival of two Westerners, who have stayed too long in Syria and must now be given refuge, the fragile existence of the Syrian couple comes under even greater threat. How will they survive as they fall further away from hope, from what they know and from what they used to be?

Based on real-life accounts collected from Syrian refugees, aid workers, activists, journalists and photographers, Spring Reign features live per­formance, video, original music performed by Chris Davies, and frontline photography by Musa Chowdhury.

Warning: Some material may be unsuitable for children under 15.

'IN WAR, TRUTH IS THE FIRST CASUALTY' - Aeschylus

"Our aim is to tell a dramatic story that reflects the frustration and suffering of the Syrian people, whilst engaging with a more personal human crisis than the one presented in the daily news.

Alongside our performance, we hope to raise awareness of the UK registered charity, Syria Relief, a non-political, non- denominational, non-governmental organisation, established to provide humanitarian aid to Syria, supporting basic needs, including food, medical assistance, sanitation, education and social welfare to all victims of the war."

www.syriarelief.org.uk

Follow: #SpringReignPlay

Supporters and Associates

Background

Early in 2011, a wave of optimism and hope surged through North Africa and the Middle East. Beginning as anti-government protests, demanding an end to corruption and greater freedom for the people, the ‘Arab Spring’ eventually overthrew the ruling powers of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. When the uprisings reached Syria in March 2011, popular protests quickly evolved into calls for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

As government forces brutally repressed the peaceful protests, opposition supporters took up arms to defend themselves and their local neighbourhoods. This opposition, and the ruthless crackdown that followed, mutated into the horrific war we all now know: maybe half a million dead, millions displaced within Syria and across its borders, and the country in ruins.

11018863_1547486465524828_1065411474882470196_nMany Hundreds of Syrian citizen journalists have lost their lives - tortured and executed - for daring to speak truth to power, daring to bear witness to the horrors inflicted upon ordinary Syrians - men, women and children, young and old. These voices spoke through social media; citizen journalists sharing news and images faster than any mainstream media ever could - the most socially networked war in history. Freelance journalists from around the globe were also drawn to the conflict, reporting back with stories and images of appalling brutality; quickly becoming targets of the regime themselves. With little effort and a few simple internet searches, people across the world were able to see the suffering of the Syrian people more closely than they could ever imagine.

As the accounts of cruelty and brutality poured out of Syria, the less able the general public, and the wider international community, seemed to know how to respond. The hope that blossomed with the initial Arab uprising was very quickly disappearing. Frustrated and angered by the situation, Benedict Power and his team set out to create a new work, Spring Reign that would focus on the plight of Syria and its people - a human story to engage audiences with the crisis.

The piece follows the lives of a young Syrian family opposed to the Assad regime, and two Westerners, one a journalist reporting on the conflict from inside Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. As they struggle to cope with the rising tide of violence, personal conflicts escalate - the fear and anxiety they endure intensifying, as they await the onslaught of the Syrian army. Furious battles ensue, as opposition forces try to hold onto the city, in-fighting and extremism vying for competition against idealist rebellion, with the journalists and locals caught in a desperate situation that very quickly becomes a way of life.

With the uprising and conflict now approaching six years, the plight of the Syrian people has long been overshadowed by ineffective global politics surrounding the region, including half-hearted support for a moderate Syrian opposition and the USA stepping back from Barrack Obama's self-imposed 'Red Line', after the clear use of chemical weapons. With full scale intervention from Assad's newest allies, Russia and Iran, the escalation of the refugee crisis in Europe, and the international threat of ISIS, this story is far from over, with Syria and its people condemned to ever more suffering. We are committed to bringing the story of those affected to the forefront, to question what is happening in Syria and to providing a platform where these discussions can take place.

Development

It was always of utmost importance that the piece we made was grounded and authentic, based on first-hand experiences. One of our first thoughts was that the Syrian story wasn't ours to tell, but because our experience of the conflict often comes through the eyes and ears of Western journalists, this seemed the most appropriate way to begin to engage with what was happening - a feasible scenario through which, as non-Syrians, we might come to experience that situation first hand.

By connecting with photographers and journalists who have been in and out of Syria since the crisis began and through further research into conflict journalism, we began to piece together a picture of the crisis. We also began to collect personal stories from members of the Syrian refugee community in Manchester, many having recently escaped the brutality of the conflict and all with family and friends either missing, dead, displaced, or trapped inside a country at war. Aid workers and volunteers, doctors, lawyers, peace activists, politicians and academics; all have helped us begin to understand the appalling situation that has unfolded over the last four years, and also learn of what Syria was before the conflict began.

After an initial period of research and a devising process with a small group of actors we created a substantial amount of material for a 'work in progress' performance at The Imperial War Museum North in December 2013. The event was for an invited audience of aid workers, photojournalists, reporters and members of the Syrian community in Manchester - who have all contributed to our research - as well as representatives from the Arts Council and other theatre artists and professionals - generating lots of valuable feedback for the future development of the work.

We continued to deepen and widen our research, conduct interviews, meet photographers, aid workers and Syrian people, to hear even more stories from the inside and are delighted to now be in a position to share this work with an audience, to bring that development work to a dramatic conclusion, and to continue to help spread awareness of the on-going crisis in Syria.

Photos by Musa Chowdhury

Partners and Contributors

Our main partner in the development of this work has been the Syrian community group Rethink Rebuild Society, who offer support and advice for Syrian refugees, newly arriving or already living in Manchester, as well as organising conferences, debates and events, to highlight the crisis in Syria and to spread awareness of the problems facing Syrians in Britain and abroad. British based charity Syria Relief has also been instrumental in the development of the work, and one of the aims of our project is to support and promote this fantastic organisation.

Manchester based photojournalist Musa Chowdhury kindly agreed to work with us, offering his knowledge and experience of documenting a culture and community not entirely different from our own, enduring the trauma of civil war. These photos are from his first visit to Syria in 2012. We are working with photojournalist Daniel Leal-Olivas, Matthew Norman from Soup Collective, who has documented the work of Syria Relief inside Syria, and several other journalists and contributors, who have shared their stories of their experiences from Syria, since the conflict began.

We are keen to meet with any other reporters, relief workers, refugees, doctors and any Syrian nationals who have left their country since the conflict, as well as Syrians living in Manchester who would simply like to share their stories and feelings about the conflict. Please use the contact form to get in touch if you are interested in contributing to our work.

Engagement and Community

With each new day the situation in Syria gets more complex, more political and even more dangerous. More innocent civilians die and many more are injured, displaced, or left without family or friends. As of January 2017 maybe 500,000 people have died in the conflict, and half the population has either fled the country or been left destitute and homeless - refugees within a civil war inside Syria. Over half of these are children.

Whatever we feel about the conflict and however difficult it is to know how to help, we have met many people along the way who are working extremely hard to do just that - supporting and intervening in the lives of the victims of this crisis. Their stories have helped shape our work so far, and will continue to do so. Please take some time to find out a little more about who is out there working on our behalf to try to help the people of Syria.

 

Syria Relief - Official UK Charity

Rethink Rebuild Society - The Voice of the Syrian Community in Manchester and the UK

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