Penguin by Hamzeh Al Hussien
- Live Theatre, Newcastle from Wednesday 20 - Saturday 23 September 2023
- Arts Centre Washington Thursday 30 November 2023
A remarkable debut by Hamzeh Al Hussien, Penguin is an uplifting story of self acceptance and discovery and is part of Curious Monkey’s long term work with people seeking sanctuary in the UK.
Full of humour and beauty, Hamzeh Al Hussien’s extraordinary story takes you on a personal tour of the places he knows best: his village in the Syrian mountains, the Za’atari camp in Jordan, his home in Gateshead, and inside his mind; a place full of music, dancing, fantasies and marbles.
Hamzeh Al Hussien is a disabled artist from Syria who arrived in Gateshead, North East England, five years ago as part of the UK’s Syrian Resettlement Programme. He was first introduced to performing during his six years in Za'atari refugee camp where he trained with a Spanish NGO in physical theatre. He performed in various productions, and facilitated drama and theatre projects with disabled children. He says, “As a disabled man, I want to show the audience what I can do and that I am able to achieve whatever I want despite my disability. I hope people come away thinking ‘don’t give up, just keep trying’. I love music, so there’s lots of dance and movement in the show. This is the story of a journey, my journey, and it’s all true.”
Penguin is directed by Amy Golding. Amy founded Curious Monkey in 2013 to share stories of underrepresented communities, and in 2019 the company became the North East’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary in recognition of their commitment to being a safe space to those in need of sanctuary in the UK. Her directing credits include Leaving by Paddy Campbell, HERE by Lindsay Rodden, Beats North by Luke Barnes and Ishy Din, and Mamela by Gez Casey and Ziphozahke Hlobo.
Amy says, “Penguin really highlights how one person’s normal can be another person’s extraordinary. It celebrates how you can survive anything with a positive outlook and good humour. I’ve felt so privileged to have known Hamzeh for five years and he has shared a lot of his story with me - he’s lived an extraordinary life already and he’s only in his 20s! It’s a joy to spend time with him; the show is intimate and personal, as well as funny - the audience will be invited into his world and it will feel really special to get to know him.”
Set and Costume Designer Jida Akil’s credits include For a Palestinian (Camden People’s Theatre & Bristol Old Vic), How to Break Out of a Detention Centre (Riverside Studios & BÉZNĂ Theatre) and Painkiller (Theatre Royal Stratford East). Jida is Syrian and a migrant-artist in the UK. Jida says, “While I have not experienced seeking asylum myself, this story is very dear to me as I’ve yet to see such a personal and raw story of the Syrian experience. My family migrated to Europe before I was born, but I think this story would touch their hearts and I am proud to represent Syrian heritage on a national platform.”
Sound Designer Hamza Arnaout co-founded two of the biggest international touring Arabic groups, the award-winning 47SOUL, and Autostrad. Assistant Director Olivia Furber’s credits include co-creating The Land’s Heart is Greater Than It’s Map with Ramzi Maqdisi for the Barbican and Shubbak Festival, and she presents an Arabic learning podcast to promote the use and accessibility of the Arabic language.
Movement Director Nadia Iftkhar is founding Artistic Director of Company of Others who work with people who have experience of being ‘othered’, and has collaborated on over 20 works performed at venues including Sadlers Wells, Tramway Glasgow, Dance City and Konzerthaus Wien, and recent credits include Protest (Fuel, Northern Stage, Imaginate & National Theatre of Scotland). She says, “Movement is so central to Hamzeh's identity that it is woven through the entire show. Curious Monkey created lots of space to allow us to explore Hamzeh's way of moving that is unique to him and his body. As a result, Penguin feels like a real celebration of how different bodies love to move in different ways.”
Lighting/AV Designer, Simon Cole works across multiple artforms including large outdoor events, immersive cinema, dance and theatre. Dramaturg Lindsay Rodden wrote Curious Monkey's critically acclaimed HERE. She was selected for the Royal Court and Northern Stage’s NORTH writers’ group and is a former writer-in-residence at Live Theatre in Newcastle. Alongside HERE, her writing credits include The Story Giant (Liverpool Everyman, adapted from the book by Brian Patten), Cartographers (Theatre by the Lake), and The Odyssey (National Theatre).
Penguin opens at Live Theatre, Newcastle from 20-23 September before touring to Omnibus Theatre, London (30 September - 1 October), HOME Manchester (10-12 October), Leeds Playhouse (20-21 October), Playhouse Theatre, Sheffield (9-10 November), and Arts Centre Washington (30 November). With subtitles in both English and Arabic, all tour venues are accessible, and BSL interpretation is available on selected dates.
Photos: Ian Mackintosh
For more information or to book tickets visit www.curiousmonkeytheatre.com/