JRS Writing and Drama Group prepares for Advent Service performance


JRS Writing and Drama Group prepares for Advent Service performance

JRS activity coordinators share the community group's work in developing creative performance

13 December 2022

JRS Writing and Drama Group prepares for Advent Service performance

For the past few months, Poetry Coordinator, Laila Sumpton and Drama Coordinator, Beth Organ have been facilitating creative workshops for refugee friends at JRS. The JRS Writing and Drama Group’s creative work has been developed into a performance to be taking place at the JRS Advent Service next week. We have asked Laila and Beth to share with us what the group has been working on.


Can you first tell us a bit about this community activity group for refugee friends and your roles in it?

Laila: The JRS Writing and Drama Group brings together friends to explore their creative expression and share stories. It is a wonderfully supportive space, where we all (facilitators included) learn and grow together. In our two-hour sessions there were deep conversations about the asylum-seeking process, discussions about language and performance and lots of laughter.

Beth: I design and deliver the drama workshops here at JRS. The workshops usually consist of games and exercises that encourage our friends to explore storytelling, character and creativity, and have enormous fun doing it! The most effective drama tool I use in our workshops is what we call ‘improvisation’ or ‘improv’, and in the context of our sessions this means working together as a team to build a shared imaginary situation. It also means a chance to have fun and be a bit silly, which is always a massive benefit of working in drama!


How was the creative writing process developed?

Leila: The Friends were supported to develop a character who was waiting in anticipation for something—and in order to find this person they had to understand their personality, present worries and joys. After lots of work filling in the details of their character’s lives, friends were given some different ways to begin and structure their dramatic monologue—when one character tells the audience the inner workings of their mind and the issues they are navigating. 

We performed everything that was written, and the group were really supportive of each other—asking for more details about each other’s characters, giving encouragement and suggestions. It was fantastic to see the characters grow in depth and clarity and I am so excited to see the performance! 


What has the journey from writing to staging the performance been like?

Beth: I’ve been delighted, moved and inspired by the work that has been created in the writing sessions; they’ve really given us a fantastic foundation to build our performance from. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working on bringing these poems into a dramatised situation. Asking ourselves where the characters are, why they are speaking, what do they want to achieve? Then we’ve started to bring them into the space and physically develop the performance of the pieces, collaboratively, inspired in particular by the structures of Greek Theatre and Chorus.


I’m excited by everything we do in the workshops; writing poems, meeting people. I’m looking forward about being in the performance,’ shares a refugee friend participating in the community activity group.


What are your joys running this creative writing and drama group?

Laila: Seeing the collaboration, confidence and solidarity between friends grow and watching their characters come alive! 

Beth: It is always a joy running the JRS drama group. I’m continuously overjoyed to experience the group using their voices and imaginations, unlocking their creativity and self-expression, making art in fearless ways. I love setting up a game or an exercise and watching our group run with it, adding their own personality and flare. Trying drama for the first time can be quite intimidating and feels a little bit exposing, but everyone in our drama group engages with the workshops with bravery and humour. It’s a joy to be a part of!


Can you share with our readers what refugee friends’ performance will look like at the Advent Service?

Beth: This will be a poetry reading unlike any other. We’re combining our friends’ written word with their spoken voice, sung voice, physical movement and rhythm. We asked ourselves: how can we tell these stories together? Everything you will see in the performance has come intuitively from our friends’ written words. It was all there on the page for us to draw from and make three-dimensional. We hope you’ll be moved, inspired and uplifted by the performance.


A refugee friend shares with us what the activity group means to them: ‘I feel more confident. Through the workshops I know there are others in a similar situation as me. We have shared experiences with each other. I feel less depressed than before.’


What are you most excited for the JRS community to see at refugee friends’ Advent Service performance?

Laila: Audiences will have a special window into the worlds of some beautifully crafted characters who are trying to remain hopeful as they wait for change and try their best to make that change happen. 

Beth: I am most excited for the JRS community to see and hear a performance that comes straight from the hearts of our refugee friends. I’ve been so impressed with the amazing characters our friends have created in the drama group this term, whose lives we will see a snapshot of during the performance. Every word spoken was written by our friends, and paints a picture of their characters’ hopes, worries, and ambitions. We are transported from a call to action in a desert to a whispered wish in a park, from a letter landing gently on the doormat to a silent phone that is being begged to ring. For a moment are shown a window into five lives, thanks to the bravery, imagination and creativity of our refugee friends.

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Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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