Monday, 14 April 2014

Oh My Sweet Land - an interview with Corinne Jaber

ROMANCE, war and violence collide in a new play about a woman who travels back to Syria to find a lost love amid war and bloody violence.
Oh My Sweet Land was conceived by half-Syrian actress Corinne Jaber and written by Amir Nizar Suabi after the pair travelled to the war-torn region to visit refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
The finished piece, performed by Corinne at the Young Vic from tonight until May 3, looks at everyday life in Syria and the stories of its two million refugees.
But what makes it different is that throughout the hour-long show, Corinne is cooking.
I stand in the middle of the stage and cook Kibbeh, which is a traditional dish and absolutely delicious,” she says.
I tell the stories that were told to us while I cook. It’s technically demanding as it has to be precise so I have to be exact with what I’m doing and saying but it’s what Syrian women do – they cook, talk, gossip and it keeps their minds off the horrors of what is going on outside.”
These “horrors” of chemical and bomb attacks on millions of the country’s people have been well documented, although Corinne believes we don’t see the full extent of the situation on the news.
It’s worse,” she says. “The camps can’t cope with the numbers of people and they all feel abandoned. It’s a terrible situation.”
Despite this, she says the refugees cling to hope their stories would get out and be told.
When we were travelling in the region we talked to a great many people because we wanted to find out what they had to say – what their hopes, fears, loves and lives were like.
They thanked us for listening to them and they all kept urging us to pass their stories on,” says Corinne.
So this is what I have tried to do.”
Corinne admits there are too many stories to put in the play but she hopes this snapshot of what life is like for Syrians are taken by the audience and talked about afterwards
It’s a serious play, although there is humour in it, but what I don’t want to do is produce something that sensationalises the situation.
We wanted to get away from the atrocities and awfulness of it all as there is enough of that on the news – but I do want people to think. It’s more about how do people live in a situation like that, and that’s why cooking is in the play because that’s what people do. It’s a distraction.
But I want people to carry these stories and pass them on. This is what’s going on in the world right now.”
Oh My Sweet Land is at the Young Vic, The Cut, until 3 May. Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

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