A new theatre and radio play explores the search for identity of a Rwandan refugee who came to the UK as a child. A live filmed performance, and Q&A with the cast, will be made available on Sunday 13th June at 5pm, and tickets can be booked for free at eventbrite.
Written by Jo Ingabire Moys, Laila Sumpton and Maja Milatovic Ovadia with creative consultant Tonderai Munyevu, ‘I am Leah’ is a new theatre performance and radio play about a genocide survivor, embarking on a journey of self-discovery after facing a life changing movement. Leah, the protagonist uncovers painful family secrets as she reconciles multiple identities as a Black, British women in 2021 who has lived through a genocide.
Thanks to the support of Arts Council England and The Tudor Foundation, ‘I am Leah’ will be streamed from the Peopling the Palace Festival at Queen Mary’s University London on Sunday 13th June. The cast includes Taz Munya as Leah, Ery Nzaramba as Maurice, Ayesha Casely-Hayford as Ames and Matthew Romain as Steve with the role of Odette to be announced soon.
The project was inspired by the 100 Stories project which shares the testimonies of survivors of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi using poetry and storytelling. The 100 stories project, led by genocide survior Jo Ingabire Moys, was born out of the need to resource educators with survivor led content with which to teach about the 1994 genocide. The project allowed survivors to own their stories, and be a part of the plan to share them. Instead of focussing on what happened it explores particular moments of emotional change and reflection. “The play is really inspired from this project. The solidarity and humour that came from doing it”, says poet Laila Sumpton.
Jo started interviewing survivors in Rwanda in 2018 with award writer Adam Usden. She was then joined by Laila to do workshops with UK based survivors in 2019, which was also the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, known as Kwibuka 25. Thanks to the support of Counterpoints Arts, 100 Stories undertook a tour with 10 survivors performing their stories at City Hall, The Lord Mayor’s Eid Festival in Trafalgar Square, the Google and YouTube Offices and the V&A Museum. They also created a creative writing resource for Secondary School students to support education exploring human rights and Black History Month.
“The written word lasts forever. So should our stories.” shared Eric Murangwa, director of the Ishami Foundation, on what it meant personally to tell his story. For many of the survivors, it was the first time they had shared their story creatively and written them in English, in what for many of them is their 2nd or 3rd language.
By foregrounding the Rwandan voices involved and making transparent the process of production, “I am Leah’ hopes to give a glimpse into people’s lives, an insight into our common humanity and a new way of approaching and remembering the past. By using art to explore trauma and the effect of history on contemporary British society, the play is able to engage and educate different audiences in light of Black Lives Matter.
The scratch performance of ‘I am Leah’, which will be streamed from the Peopling the Palace Festival on Sunday June 13th, 5pm.
With aims to find a home for the play in time for Black History Month in October this year.
The 100 Stories completed collection will be out in 2022.