How I Got Talent for Life | A Theater show

4 min read

The first thing Floris van Delft knew when he decided to edit the book “How I Got Talent for Life” for the theater was that he wanted to work with real newcomers. And preferably with as much as possible. “There is power in large numbers.”

The performance is based on the eponymous success novel from 2017 by Iraqi writer Rodaan Al Galidi, about life as a refugee in a Dutch asylum seekers’ center. The novel is not autobiographical, but based on his own experiences: Al Galidi was in an AZC (Refugee camps) himself for nine years, before being granted a residence permit in 2007 thanks to a general pardon.

With his theater company Wat We Doen, Van Delft went looking for status holders who wanted to play the waiting refugees in the asylum seekers’ center. They will be on the floor next to five professional actors and five musicians. Van Delft: “Of course you can make a beautiful theater performance from that book, but the great danger is that you will walk out of the hall afterward and only think,” Oh, those poor people. ” I absolutely wanted to prevent that. ”


Director Floris van Delft
Photo Mohammad Alzoabi

By bringing a group of newcomers on stage, Van Delft hopes that the performance will become less voluntary. According to him, the book, and therefore the performance, is not so much about the refugees, but about the Dutch. “As an audience, we look at how newcomers on stage are confronted with our society. So we actually look at ourselves through their eyes. ” In this way, Van Delft wants to question our society. “How do we deal with all the rules that we have devised in this country? Have we gone too far in our need for control? “

The intention is that fifty status holders play a role per performance: half of them travel through the country, the other half comes from the surroundings of the theater where the performance plays that evening. That is not only a logistical choice, but Van Delft also emphasizes: “I think it is important that the public can actually get to know the newcomers from their own environment afterward in the foyer. That way I hope to bring something sustainable. “


Online call

But how do you find such a large group of status holders? The theater company worked together with NewBees, a national foundation that works to help newcomers with work experience at local organizations and therefore has a large network. Participants were actively recruited from May last year. Around 350 registrations finally came in on an online call.

Subsequently, selection days were organized throughout the country in the autumn of last year: non-binding evenings in which Van Delft, together with dance maker Barbara Meneses Gutierrez (of ICK Amsterdam, one of the co-producers of the show), gave a taste of the working method they used having in mind.


Hoe ik talent voor het leven kreeg Photo Raymond van Olphen


Fifty refugees

What is always fascinating are the other elements in the mix: the music of the Amsterdam Andalusian Orchestra and the presence of fifty people with a refugee background on stage. The idea of ​​asking so many people was a good inspiration from director Floris van Delft. They stand in line in this azc, they walk back and forth in vain, they sing and dance against their better judgment. Their sight gives the problems of Semmier depth. They are the incarnate soul of this representation.


Ultimately, that leads to moments that go straight to your heart. Like when Jelena (beautiful role of Whitney Sawyer) says she hates it here. So even a woman who – presumably – has escaped forced prostitution, staying in the asylum seekers center and dealing with the cold Dutch becomes too much.


And when Adam Kissequel sings a song from his cell in the role of a doomed, rejected refugee. You don’t have to understand the words to hear the pain and sorrow in the sound. And when Semmier talks about the age of people in the asylum seekers center, measured in years that they live there. Someone is celebrating his seventh birthday. His country of origin is now: the AZC.

Moving concluding piece: the fifty who jump into the room and each talk to the audience in their own language. The merciless facts may be known, but you cannot escape the emotional charge of this inspired performance.

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