The writer spoke to Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon about Jericho’s Rose, playing at the Hope Theatre from the 16th October.
Hi Lilac, thanks so much for talking to me. Could you tell me a bit more about what Jericho’s Rose is about? Jericho’s Rose explores the experience of displacement. For the characters in the play, there was a time when their place in the world made sense. They called that place home, and they spoke the language of that place and perhaps even sang the songs of that place. But suddenly it doesn’t feel like home. Losing their sense of belonging is something many people go through. By paralleling experiences across generations and cultures, the play looks at belonging, remembering, and the need for a place of our own.
How did the idea for the play come about? Lorne Campbell and Rebecca Frecknall from the Northern Stage invited me to be a part of Here’s The News From Over There. This was a nightly sharing at Summerhall in Edinburgh Fringe 2015 which allowed Middle Eastern writers to give an alternative to mainstream news. At the time I had just come back from spending quite a lot time with my grandfather, whose Alzheimer’s was becoming more extreme. He asked me repeatedly “where is home?”. My visa was about to expire and although I felt like my home was London, there was no way for me to stay. This was where the play started: our shared sense of displacement, and the parallel between where the body and mind resides.
Is there anything in particular that you want audiences to take away from the story? Developing this project over the last few years, it’s been fascinating and deeply humbling to listen to what people say after various sharings. Whether it’s because they have a loved one (or are themselves) suffering from dementia, or have found themselves questioning their sense of home in the country they live in, it’s great to find people engaging with the diverse themes raised in the piece. The show asks “what happens when we lose the feeling of where home is?” It’s not a rational decision or a logical choice. It’s an experience. If we can’t feel at home any more then what is our identity, and how can we make sense of the world? I would love audiences to be able to walk away engaged with these questions.
Did you have any challenges writing Jericho’s Rose? It’s funny you should ask that because this might be the play I have found most challenging to write. It tells the story of a time I felt displaced and lost – not only within the world, but within myself. I was trying to help my grandpa feel protected and accepted while not feeling protected or accepted myself. While the play is not strictly autobiographical, there are a lot of my own truths in it. It’s a privilege to share these but also terrifying. So I suppose the greatest challenge is being willing to share the story and to tell it with fresh eyes. The experiences we go through shape who we are but they are only a part of who we are. By telling our experiences to others, as people and as artists, I believe we can find the closest and fullest way to embrace who we are today.
What can audiences expect from the production? I’ve mentioned what the play is about but it’s also worth touching on how the story is being told. The show includes live music composed by San Elwin, movement choreographed by Annie-Lunnete Deakin-Foster and projections and lighting crafted by Will Monks throughout so I hope this multidisciplinary approach means audiences can expect a joy of discovery. We also had fantastic dramaturgical support from Mike Cole. In rehearsals, we constantly ask how the images in our memories appear to us, and what happens when they blur one into the other? We play and experiment with humour and vulnerability and I hope this, along with our fusion of mediums, will translate into a very exciting and thought provoking experience for the audiences. Plus, we always stay for a post show chat. So feel free to stay and share your thoughts and questions with us. The end of the show is only the beginning of the conversation.
By Emma Clarendon
Jericho’s Rose will play at the Hope Theatre from the 16th October until the 3rd November. For more information visit: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/jerichos-rose/