Croak, The King & a Change in the Weather

In 2008, Peter Mortimer lived for two months in the Shatila refugee camp, in outer Beirut. During his time on camp he created a children’s drama group at the Shatila school, and adapted his play Croak The King & a Change in the Weather into a 30-minute theatre piece, incorporating dance, music, and mime. The text of this revised version is published in Playtime.

Despite having only the basic grasp of the language, the children performed the play in English. It was performed twice to camp residents on the writer’s final day – and in September 2009 the same production was brought to the North-East.

More than £22,000 was raised in the region to help bring about this unique international theatre event. Public funding came from North Tyneside Council, (£6,000) Arts Council England North-East, (£4,600); the Co-operative Membership has given £1,900, with £500 from the Arab-British Centre. More than £7,000 was raised in a fund-raising walk, The Shatila Ramble, Newcastle College Fine Art Dept raised £1,500 in a charity auction, and £500 came from a Words & Music night at The Cumberland Arms, Byker, organised by writer Jeff Price.

With the help of Cloud Nine Theatre Company members, Croak, The King & a Change in the Weather was performed eight times in four venues, often to sellout audiences, and there are now plans to build on the success to forge long-term cultural links with Shatila Camp.

Read the Journal‘s account of the story.

Read Peter’s book Camp Shatila: A Writer’s Chronicle for an account of the difficulties presented by the production – and what the children thought about the play!