Sanctum: A Refugee’s Story – A Play by Without Walls Theatre Company
On Sunday 23rd November, Sheffield celebrated Light Night, an event which marked the turning on of the Christmas lights. The event hosted a large and eclectic program of theatre, music, performance and activities for the large influx of festive punters. Slightly off the main stretch of activity, in an intimate room tucked away on the second floor of a former Woolworths, was ‘Sanctum’ a one man show written and directed by Sam Holland and devised with lead actor and actual former refugee Ardi Mejzini from Kosovo.
The room which used to be an office could fit barely 30 people, as it competed with a set which included a battered, ‘war torn’ wall and a cosy front room setting, both of which would serve as the backdrops for the play. ‘Sanctum’ tells the story of Gjergj, a Kosovan man who recalls the years leading up to the Kosovo War in 1999 where he is separated from his family, forced to leave his homeland and effectively wakes up to find himself in a caravan site in Rotherham. Here he tangles with the idea of his identity against this new, alien place and the residual fear and trauma which causes him to feel unstable. It is only when he meets Anne, a profoundly kind and strong woman that he soon begins to find a sense of comfort and security in his new surroundings.
Through personal anecdotes which are intermittently spliced with sequences of Gjergj chatting and playing with Anne’s daughters, the story very much tried to capture the humanitarian spirit seen around the time of the Kosovo war and the great community effort to accommodate the refugees. While the story is fictional, it draws on the real accounts of those who were around Pristina and Kosovo during the war and those who sought asylum in the UK. Our actor Ardi contributed many stories via his own family, his aunt being one of the many refugees resettled in Rotherham.
The day itself was a resounding success with a great response from audience members. A short Q and A was held after each performance which was met with curiosity about the situation then and now and what’s changed in the UK’s attitude towards refugees and asylum seekers.
Without Walls Theatre Company hope to find more places to perform the play, and will continue to ask questions about the way refugees are treated today in Britain.
For more information about the play or if you’d like to bring it to a particular performance space please contact Sam Holland,