Refugee play wins international award

Award-winning playwright Associate Professor Angie Farrow (photo credit/Anu Sefton)

A play about the global refugee crisis penned by Massey University theatre lecturer and playwright Associate Professor Angie Farrow has won second place in the International New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest.

Her play, The Politician’s Wife, came second equal among almost 250 entries from all over the world. The judges' commented: "This brilliantly written script deals with the refugee crisis from many different angles. We wish you great success with this timely script that deserves to be produced in many different venues!"

In its 15th year, the New York-based New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest was developed to bring works of social significance to the attention of producers and artistic directors.

Dr Farrow is delighted by the international recognition, saying there are few opportunities for playwrights to expose their work, in part due to the “ephemeral” nature of the genre. “Once a play has been produced and performed, you really just have the programmes and the memories.”

Since she wrote the work, she feels the play’s theme resonates with even more poignancy now, with Donald Trump elected US president on the basis of his strong anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim views. These have been echoed in Brexit and in several European election campaigns.

Performed last year in Wellington and Palmerston North – The Politician’s Wife has an Antipodean focus on the refugee crisis. Dr Farrow, who teaches in the School of English and Media Studies at the Manawatū campus, says her work also tells a universal story about how privilege can sometimes make us immune to caring or empathising with the overwhelming suffering of our fellow humans, or can it empower us to respond with compassionnc.

Refugees from Syria who fled to Europe (image/Wikimedia)

Refugee crisis in Berlin an eye-opener

She began writing the play in 2014, following a visit to Berlin on a writer’s residency, at a time when the refugee crisis was reaching new levels as people escaped conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Being there brought her into contact with the unfolding events and with some of the refugees, as well as those who were helping them. She also witnessed the fear and resentment of some in host countries in reaction to a sudden, large influx of desperate people with different religious and cultural backgrounds.

The desire to explore the issue from multiple perspectives inspired her to write the play. However, translating such an emotionally and logistically complex issue into a piece of theatre forced her to think about what it might mean on an individual, as well as political, level.

Shortlisted for the 2016 Adam NZ Play Award, The Politician's Wife is an unapologetic response to the global refugee crisis, which has dominated headlines and divided the world.

The play centres on Kim, a woman of privilege – the eponymous politician’s wife – who becomes caught up in the refugee crisis, which – in the play – is not accorded a specific geographic or ethnic label. Torn between her loyalties to her conservative husband and her desire to help displaced people on an offshore island, Kim finds herself unwittingly at the centre of a national scandal. As the drama unfolds, she must take a stance, and the consequences could throw her life, and the lives of those closest to her, into turmoil.

Dr Farrow is currently working on a trilogy of plays about issues affecting young women, focussing on identity, relationships and social media.

She has had international success with other works, including a short play, The Blue Balloon, which won first prize at Toronto’s Inspirato Festival from 400 international entries in 2013 and Best Wildcard Award at the world’s biggest short play festival in Sydney in 2014.

See full results and details of the New Works of Merit Playwriting contest.

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