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‘To be or not to be’ — Zaatari children bring their interpretation of Shakespeare to Amman

By Muath Freij - May 31,2014 - Last updated at May 31,2014

AMMAN –– Rawan Hatem has always dreamt of becoming a famous artist and has been longing to appear on TV.  

When the 12-year-old Syrian refugee was offered a part in a play based on William Shakespeare’s most famous work, she jumped at her first step towards that dream. 

“I always wanted to take part in any artistic event that could make my dream come true,” she told The Jordan Times at Amman’s Roman Theatre before the beginning of her performance. 

Hatem was one of 60 children from the Zaatari Refugee Camp who participated in an interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “King Lear” that was performed in the capital on Friday.

Dubbed “Shakespeare in Zaatari”, the 45-minute performance was organised by the Qatari Red Crescent (QRC) in cooperation with Suriyoon (Syrians), according to a QRC statement.

It was first held in the Zaatari camp, around 90km northeast of Amman, in April, QRC Chief of Mission Atef Dalgamouni said.

Syrian actor and director Nawaar Bulbul, who supervised the whole play, said the performance is a way for Syrian refugees to send a message of peace to the world. 

“The whole world does not pay attention to the hardships Syrian children have been through,” he told The Jordan Times in an interview ahead of the performance.  

Syria’s children, he said, are caught up in the middle of a “filthy game” played by adults. They are forced to suffer the consequences of a war they have nothing to do with.

The Syrian artist claimed that all “the big humanitarian organisations”, that work closely with refugees and children in particular, take advantage of refugees. 

“I found out about this when I held this performance at the camp. These organisations stood against us and made it difficult for us to organise such an event,” Bulbul added.  

“Without the support of the Jordanian government, we would not have had the chance to perform in the camp,” he said.

The Syrian director recounted that it took him three months to train the children.

“All the decorations and garments were used from discarded items at the camp,” he added.  

Bulbul noted that Syrian refugees received the idea of the play with excitement. 

“Countless Syrian children wanted to join the group to perform in Amman,” he added.  

Dalgamouni said this performance is part of the QRC’s activities to provide psychosocial support for Syrians in the Zaatari camp. 

“The children were delighted to visit Amman. When some of them learned that they were going to visit the capital, they were saying: ‘Now, we will visit Jordan’,” he added.

The relief official commended the camp’s management for making it easy for the children to go out and visit the capital.

Around 3,000 people attended the play — including Jordanians, Syrians and tourists — and interacted well with the performance. 

Rima Fleihan, a Syrian activist, said the performance illustrated to the whole world that Syrians are strong enough to go on despite all the pain that they had to go through. 

“Events like this will also keep children attached to their childhood and help them forget the horrible events they witnessed,” she told The Jordan Times.

She noted that when children perform on stage and the audience responds to their performance with applause and encouragement, this restores their self-confidence. 

“This performance is an example of Syrian children’s creativity against all odds,” she added.  

Rabie Imadi, another Syrian who attended the performance, said the play shows how much Syrians have suffered and how much they were oppressed. 

“It also highlights the situation Syrian children are dealing with in the camps,” added Imadi, who was injured in Syria and has been in Jordan for three years.  

Syrian children interviewed by The Jordan Times expressed their joy over taking part in the play. 

Daraa-born Mohammad Ammari, one of the actors, said taking part in the production was an unforgettable experience.

“My family supported me while rehearsing over the past three months and kept encouraging me to focus on learning so that I can perform well,” he added.  

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