Tragic heroes: Shakespeare play provides outlet for Syrian children in Zaatari
King Lear is not usually the character who brings smiles and laughter, but for Syrian children in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp, Shakespeare's tragic character may not be so tragic after all.
In one of the camp's huge white tents, over 100 Syrian refugee children rehearse Shakespeare's King Lear almost daily under the direction of Syrian actor-turned-director Nawwar Bulbul, according to Agence France Presse.
Bulbul, who adopted the play so that it is suitable for children and far removed from any comparison to the situation in Syria, wanted to create a space for Syrian children to revive their childhood.
"I seek to revive laughter and joy among children to help them express themselves, [seeking] to reproduce their childhood, which has been destroyed by war," said soap opera star Bulbul.
"I only took the roots of the story -- that there is a dying king who wants to divide his realm among his three daughters. Two of them are liars and the third is honest. I focused on the comparison between lying and telling the truth. I focused on what is interesting for children. All children like acting. A boy likes to play the role of king, prince, knight, while a girl wants to become a princess. When I first came here, children were using the language of war... tanks, bullets and bombs. But that has changed now. To me, this is an achievement," he added.
Bulbul, who left Syria after he became blacklisted for his participation in protests, came to Zaatari to implement this project, but has received little support within the camp confines itself, garnering most of his support for supplies, props, and even the tent from his network of friends outside of the camp.
For the kids, Bulbul's efforts have truly paid off: "This makes me happy. I really want to become an actor when I grow up," said Majd Ammari, who plays Lear in the play.
"The play brought joy to all of us. We needed that," said 13-year-old Bushra Nasr.
"It makes me feel much better. I do not feel lonely any more in this place," said 12-year-old Weam Ammari.
Most of the children who are participating in the play come from the southern town of Daraa and the capital Damascus. All of them are under the age of 15.
The youth are planning to perform the play which has been translated into classical Arabic on March 27 at the camp in conjunction with the "World Theatre Day" holiday, with prominent figures such as U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon, Angelina Jolie and Zinedine Zidane on the list of invitees.
More than half of Zaatari's 100,000 refugee residents are children and more than 500,000 Syrians currently reside in Jordan.