PSYCHEdelight Theatre Makers Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem and Peter Pearson talk about working together on ‘Mohand & Peter’ to play at Southwark Playhouse
Having created a much needed space for the first hand experiences of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers within the UK to be heard, PSYCHEdelight have presented a series of crucial works placing these stories centre stage. Currently presenting Mohand and Peter, drawing on company member Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem’s real life experience of leaving his native Sudan to seek asylum, the devised piece, created by fellow company member Peter Pearson and artistic director Sophie Bertrand Besse blends clowning and visual poetry to explore explore cultural identity and the traumatic effect of long-term exile as well as celebrating refugee home countries. Ahead of the production, showing at the Southwark Playhouse from the 9th March until 9th April, Mohand and Peter tell us more about exploring this pertinent story, what it means to have a platform such as PSYCHEdelight to tell these stories and how the team have approached creating the show.
Hi Peter and Mohand, you’ll be performing in PSYCHEdelight’s latest production Mohand & Peter, which will show at Southwark Playhouse from 9th March until 2nd April. How are you feeling?
Peter: Excited, nervous and happy. It’s a real joy and honour to be performing with Mohand again after basically a 2 year drought. Especially in today’s political climate where the reality of migration, refugees and fleeing from conflict are coming into focus for more people than before.
Mohand: It’s great to be back on stage after the lockdown. I hope people from my country will love the show because I do it for them as well so it’s a bit of pressure for me. I know they miss Sudana lot as well. So yes I feel a bit nervous and very excited at the same time. For the other shows we did, we were a whole group to share our memories, this time it was only me so it was a very big work! It’s not easy to remember everything, I left my country 6 years ago. It’s a long time…
The show takes reference from fellow PSYCHEdelight company member Mohand Hasb Alrosol Abdalrahem’s own life as a Sudanese man who had to flee his country to seek asylum within the UK. How have you found exploring his story further?
Peter: It’s very touching, informative and hilarious. As a group we’ve learned so many small details of Sudan and we can laugh about all our cultural differences and misunderstandings. Mohand even taught me some Arabic. But at the same time it’s been humbling and sobering for our show to be a genuine part of the protest movement in Sudan. I have so much respect for Mohand as a performer and human being. To be on this journey with him is my privilege.
The show takes reference from your own personal experiences of having to flee your country of Sudan to seek asylum within the UK. How have you found exploring this further?
Mohand:I miss my country a lot so it was very nice but also painful to reopen all these memories. My English is not perfect so it was helpful to create silent scenes to express certain things, especially for the scene about the tragedy of #BlueforSudan where people from the protest were killed and thrown in the Nile. I can’t find words for this. Luckily Sophie loves silent scenes and she always helps us create images for the important moments of our lives. In Borderline, we have a very nice image of us on the boat when crossing the sea with a big wave above our heads for example.
There were also some very nice moments in devising Mohand & Peter, like when we recreated the people of my village, I suddenly remembered a lot of details, it felt very real, especially as Sophie asked me to talk quite a lot in Arabic for this one. I felt the energy coming through my veins again!
PSYCHEdelight are renowned for their work by refugee theatre makers. What does it mean to yourself to work with such a crucial platform such as this?
Peter: For me, it has been a truly eye opening and enriching experience both in terms of my craft and view of the world. Working with the diverse energies of non actors makes the work totally unique and to be supporting and championing refugee stories is a real responsibility and education. I’ve learned so much about cultures and people, unity and diversity and of course the hypocrisy and shocking state of our own government in these arenas.
Mohand: It’s a great opportunity to share my story, speak for my people and have my voice heard. I love acting and I can’t wait to be on stage for 4 weeks! And with Peter! He’s such a great actor, we have lots of fun together! I feel at home with PSYCHEdelight, it’s the first community I found after arriving from Calais. Borderline was my first time on stage and the cast became like a family. I know the director Sophie Bertrand Besse very well. I did Borderline and Welcome To The UK with her and also, I lived with her family for three years so I trust her 100 percent and I was sure she and Peter would be the best people to create this show with me. Sophie really listens to me and asks for my feedback on everything, even little details of the set. It’s not her who came up with the script or all the ideas. I really feel this is my show as well, and Peter’s of course! It was a very personal journey to go on to so it was very important for me to be with people I love and trust. Peter is a great actor and a friend, it’s great to work with him, we laugh a lot together. I teach him Arabic a bit, he loves doing silly videos with me in Arabic! One of our videos ended up on the National TV in Sudan! I am very very happy to take Peter and Sophie to Sudan with me. I hope one day I will be able to do it in real life.
The cast consists of yourself and Mohand and has been directed by Artistic Director Sophie Bertrand Besse. How have you worked with the team to realise the show?
Peter: The show is what’s called in the theatre industry as devised. Which means everything has been generated by me and Mohand in the space and shaped by our director Sophie rather than having a writer. For me, it has been from day 1 playing games and exploring ideas from folk tales, our own personal histories, songs, imagination, etc… before landing on the story we found together with Sophie. A lot of the time, I’m leading physical games and warm ups, bringing the energy and of course my massage gun for some much needed relaxation and recovery.
The cast consists of yourself and fellow PSYCHEdelight member Peter Pearson and has been directed by Artistic Director Sophie Bertrand Besse. How have you worked with the team to realise the show?
We created it together. In Welcome To the UK, our previous show, Peter and I had a scene where we were actors looking for a new show that we had decided to call “Mohand & Peter”, so that felt like a promise for a new show! And then all the events happened in Sudan with the protests and the arrest of Omar Al Bashir. It was so stressful and I missed my family so much.Sophie then asked me if I would like to bring Sudan on stage as I wasn’t allowed to go back home. I loved the idea! Not only for me but for my people and for all the other refugees here in the UK who miss their countries. Our homes are beautiful places. It’s our governments that are the problem! I shared a lot of pictures and stories with Peter and Sophie and little by little we built the show. We also had all my friends in Sudan helping us, they recorded all the Local sounds like the sound of a Sudanese bus for example so it is also their show! Peter, Sophie and I all brought different ideas and skills, we love working together and we all love comedy. It’s so important to laugh, life is too hard otherwise. And I love making people laugh, it makes me feel good!
What have you learned/taken away from working on the production?
Peter: Sudanese camels make the strangest sounds, there are some beautiful ancient pyramids in Sudan and both Geordies and Sudanese people use the word ‘Aye!’
Mohand: I am more experienced as an actor now. I learnt a lot of lines in English for this show and it was not easy even if it was me who wrote them! This show is much more pressure for me than Borderline or Welcome To The UK because it’s only Peter and me on stage. Thanks god he’s here!
What can audiences expect from the show?
Peter: Humour, heart, adventure, friendship, silliness, poignancy and some banging Sudanese music!
Mohand: To discover a beautiful country and learn about our history. They will have fun with Peter and me, they will enjoy Sudanese live music after some of our shows and forget about rainy London for a bit! They will learn a bit of Arabic as well of course! It was very difficult for me to learn a whole show in English and Sophie loved the idea of me speaking in Arabic at different moments in the show so the Audience will go on a proper trip to Sudan! It’s only the heat that we will be missing. Sophie said we should rehearse in a sauna! If people are not scared of crocodiles and Sudanese snakes I think they will love the show!
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
Peter: We are all one people on this earth and the truth of who we are is more similar than it is different… But also to have a cracking night out, maybe get a hankering to visit Sudan and learn more about the refugee crisis!
Mohand: That my country is a beautiful place and that my people suffered a lot and that this show is our way to say that we don’t forget them. I am not allowed to go back home so this show is my way to support them and to celebrate my country. We hope for a peaceful and democratic Sudan. Also, I would like the audience to realise that there are many other countries in the same situation than Sudan and many other people like me in the UK who miss their homes so much and worry for their families everyday. And of course I hope they will love Sudan and my people, they will meet all my family in the show!
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Mohand and Peter will show from Wednesday 9th March until Saturday 9th April 2022 at the Southwark Playhouse. To find out more about the production, visit here…