Little Amal, the 3.5 metre puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian girl refugee that has become an international symbol of human rights, will visit the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon tomorrow (Wednesday 22 June) as part of World Refugee Week and to celebrate Midsummer.
Those wishing to see Little Amal should gather outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 3.30pm, where the RSC will welcome her to Stratford with a short extract from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since her now celebrated 8,000km journey from the border of Syria and Turkey, Little Amal has come to represent the millions of refugee children, including those who have been separated from their families. Her urgent message to the world is “Don’t forget about us”.
Now, one year on from leaving Syria and 5 weeks after her visit to the city of Lviv in Ukraine, Little Amal will visit Stratford during World Refugee Week as part of a journey that will include 11 other towns and cities across England. Whilst meeting old friends and making new ones, Amal will share her message of resilience and hope with anyone who has been forced to leave their homes.
Erica Whyman, the RSC’s Acting Artistic Director, said: “We are delighted to welcome Little Amal to Stratford-upon-Avon at Midsummer! This is such an important journey in World Refugee Week, and our community, including many displaced families who have recently settled here, will welcome this precious opportunity to Walk with Amal. Shakespeare wrote passionately about the experience of making your home in a new land, and his words will be one of our gifts to Amal.”
Starting in Manchester on 19 June, as part of the city’s now iconic Manchester Day parade, Little Amal’s journey, entitled New Steps, New Friends, includes spending morning at the ancient stones of Stonehenge, walking through the famous docks of Liverpool, exploring the joys that books can bring in Bradford and Leeds, exploring the Old City and Harbour of Bristol, meeting families of many varieties in Birmingham, celebrating with the many festivals of Cheltenham, and dancing in Canterbury and in London. Her journey will end in Folkestone, Kent on 27 June where she arrived in the UK, standing on the shore remembering the life she left behind in Syria and her very first day in her new home.
It takes three puppeteers to operate Little Amal: a stilt walker whose legs become Amal’s and who also animates her face, and two other puppeteers, one operating each of her arms. There is a team of ten puppeteers, some from refugee backgrounds. The puppet is crafted from moulded cane and carbon fibre.
The Walk is produced by David Lan, Tracey Seaward and Stephen Daldry for The Walk Productions in association with the Handspring Puppet Company and led by artistic director Amir Nizar Zuabi, who directed The Comedy of Errors for the RSC in 2012.
Amir Nizar Zuabi, Artistic Director of The Walk, said: “As the invasion of Ukraine began the whole world, governments and citizens, proved that when we’re willing to respond to the urgent needs of refugees we can accomplish astonishing feats of compassion and generosity. New Steps, New Friends, Amal’s Walk through England in June will remind us that, if we choose, we can welcome and care for all refugees, regardless of their skin colour, their religion or their background.”
Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Founded in 1998 and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, Refugee Week is also a growing global movement.