Refugee Boy @ Queen Elizabeth Hall (Southbank Centre)

We all strive for that place we call home. They say that home is where the heart is. However, what happens when your so called sanctuary becomes a place of political unrest…


In constant fear of their lives, Alem and his family are faced with the life changing prospect of re-locating to the UK. Forced to flee the Eritrean/Ethiopian political conflicts that dictate their landscape, a family is now torn between Ethiopia and the UK, as Alem faces the difficult challenge of carving out a new life for himself, alone, away from his parents.

Lemn Sissay‘s adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah‘s critically acclaimed novel offered an honest and hard hitting portrayal of a 14 year old’s struggle to gain a sense of normality. Thrown into a world of care homes and foster families, Emma Williams‘ urban and chaotic stage design played host to an ensemble of six, as scenes shifted from Alem’s assimilation within a new culture, to harrowing scenes of Alem’s mother and father restlessly attempting to avoid the authorities in Ethiopia. Acted brilliantly by the cast, the characters within the care home were brought to life as Dwayne Scantlebury‘s Mustapha comically preached and delivered many a speech, whilst Dominic Gately‘s unruly Sweeney jovially jumped around; the resident trouble maker ready to strike at any given moment. This created a youthful dynamic between Mustapha, Sweeney and Alem, an endearing element of the piece looking at three characters all searching for stability.

Gail McIntrye‘s production had a real state of urgency about it, as Fisayo Akinade‘s Alem fearfully and reluctantly navigated his way through out the piece; the young protagonist faced with the inevitable prospect of going through the courts in order to seek asylum, whilst living in hopes of being reunited with his family. Now living with the Fitzgeralds, his new foster family, family dynamics were tested as Sarah Vezmar‘s rebellious and defiant Ruth tirelessly fought for the attention of her parents, whilst Dominic Gately and Becky Hindley‘s caring and nurturing Mr and Mrs Fitzgerald served as Alem’s opportunity for a stable future.

Brought together by Lucy Hind‘s energetic and stylistic choreography, Refugee Boy was an educational yet gripping look at the topic of immigration, offering a chance to look beyond the ludicrous newspaper headlines and gain a true insight on the subject. 4/5


Refugee Boy is currently on a UK tour, for more information on upcoming tour dates, click here…

Written by Theatrefullstop