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Our Big Land by a Romany Traveller writer comes to the Ovalhouse

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

OUR Big Land, the first play by a Romany Traveller writer to be presented in the UK, visits the Oval House Theatre (February 18 to March 8, 2014) as part of a national tour.

Written by Dan Allum, originally in the Romani language, with Gypsy music and songs, Our Big Land is directed by Amy Hodge and stars Samuel Edward-Cook as Roman.

Oceania, a powerful Romany matriarch, is convinced that Sophie, a Gorgia house dweller, is destined to become the next keeper of the bauro diklo, the sacred storytelling shawl. The bauro diklo is the lifeblood of Romany people, carrying the hard earned lessons of the past and showing The Way into the future.

When Sophie falls in love with Oceania’s handsome but brutal son Roman, Oceania is overjoyed. But a catastrophic event on Sophie and Roman’s wedding day threatens not only to tear apart Oceania’s plan, and family, but the whole future of the Romany people.

Our Big Land is described as a provocatively dark, atmospheric piece of theatre. The style has a poetic beauty mixed with gritty realism, while the songs and movement transport audiences to a world rarely seen on stage before. The themes of family bonds, cultural loyalty and the battle between head and heart resonate throughout.

Dan Allum said: “I set out to write a play about the history of my people but ended up with a work that for me explores the essence of human nature through the veil of cultural loss. Or put another way, it’s about each of us losing touch with our own deep selves as we move toward an increasingly technological/information obsessed age. It’s also very important to me to get the Romany voice out there and I believe this play will help do that.”

The cast also includes Scarlett Brookes (as Sophie) and Robyn Moore (Oceania).

Dan Allum is the Artistic Director of the Romany Theatre Company. He is a Royal Court Theatre commissioned writer who created and was lead writer on the 36 part radio series Atching Tan broadcast on BBC East from 2008 – 10. His spin off Afternoon Play for BBC Radio 4 was shortlisted for both the Richard Imison and Audio Drama Awards. He adapted The Diddakoi for BBC Radio 4Extra, and his new Radio 4 adaptation of the Carmen novel is currently being broadcast.

Allum is currently collaborating with the BBC and Royal Opera House on a possible new stage production, developing a film script on a Creative England programme, and working on a new TV drama series for E4.

Founded in 2002 by Dan Allum, Romany Theatre Company aim to create powerful and inspirational drama for theatre, television or radio. Their work is rooted in the culture and experiences of Romany people and focuses strongly on their struggle for equality and challenges negative opinions of them and the lives they lead.

With a commitment to education as well as drama, the company provides opportunities for Romany people with accredited learning programmes. They have nurtured new Gypsy talent who have gone on to work with organisations including the BBC, Endermol, the Arvon Foundation, the Royal Court, Bristol Old Vic, Soho Theatre and Universal Studios.

They have also worked with international artists from Eastern Europe and Brazil, and run workshop collaborations with companies from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States of America.

Our Big Land is designed by takis, with lighting by Lee Curran, sound and musical arrangement by James Fortune and choreography by Sarah Dowling.

Our Big Land is suitable for ages 10+.

Tickets: £14 (£10 and £8 concessions), previews £7 (February 18 and 19) – available from the box office on 020 7582 7680 or online at www.ovalhouse.com/.

Time: Tuesday to Saturday at 7.45pm.

The tour will also visit New Wolsey (studio), Ipswich (February 13 – 15); Norwich Arts Centre (March 12) and Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton (March 13 and 14).