Refugee actors take to the stage to tell their story in Pizza Shop Heroes, a play written by Dawn Harrison with Phosphoros Theatre, writes Holly O’Mahony…

The play follows four former child refugees from Afghanistan, Albania and Eritrea, who (in the narrative) have found themselves working in a pizza shop. Together, they take their audience on a journey from the prisons in Libya and Greece to the UK, where they have conversations with absent mothers and set about raising the next generation of sons.

Phosphoros Theatre is a London-based company that has been making political theatre starring refugee and asylum-seeking actors since 2015. They use the autobiographical experiences of those in the company to shine a light on important untold stories. “Our work is collaborative, stripped back and rooted in a desire to offer alternative perspectives,” they say.

The company’s first production, Dear Home office, began life as weekly drama sessions in the living room of the house in which the refugee minors-turned-actors lived. The play premiered at the Southbank in Refugee Week 2016, before showing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that summer, where it was shortlisted for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award. Phosphoros Theatre’s second show, Dear Home Office: Still Pending, also had a UK-wide tour.

The company describe their third show, Pizza Shop Heroes, as: “a story of male and cultural identity, of migration stories shaped by Europe’s colonial past, of family and fatherhood”. They say: “We make theatre against the odds. The barriers and obstacles we face as a company are many and changing as there are many factors our actors are not in control of, from housing and funding to ongoing asylum claims. All of this is reflected in our shows.”

This week, June 17 – 23, is Refugee Week: the UK’s largest festival celebrating the contribution of refugees to the country and a plea to raise awareness of why people seek asylum. It also marks a chance to see Phosphoros Theatre’s Pizza Shop Heroes, which is showing at the Tramshed this Friday, June 21.

Pizza Shop Heroes is on at the Tramshed, 51-53 Woolwich New Road, London SE18 6ES.
June 21, at 7:30pm.
Admission: £12/£10 concessions/£5 refugees.