This piece was submitted by Fran Alexander. She is a long time friend and avid supporter of Rachel Jury, whose show A Thousand Kindnesses sheds light on the lived realities of war and the refugee experience. Fran’s piece is the third in QDF’s series of artist-submitted works detailing experiences creating at the 26th edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival.
A Thousand Kindnesses is a new show by award-winning Scottish theatre practitioner Rachel Jury, based on her conversations with asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow, Scotland, during the past 10 years. Rachel is also my oldest dearest friend.
Rachel was inspired by the work of Viktor Frankl to explore and celebrate the importance of kindness to those experiencing terrible ordeals by embarking on a quest to collect a thousand stories for her to share with the world. The show is also the story of how her Dad was kind but she didn’t want to be like him.
I moved to Montreal in 2013 and so when Rachel told me about her quest, I wanted to support her in her mission, by bringing the show to Canada. The Montreal and Toronto Fringe Festivals have given us that opportunity.
My Fringe Festival experience so far has been extremely positive. Many people at first want to know why someone like me – who is not a theatre professional – is involved, but I see Rachel’s quest as something that everyone can join. We can all consider the importance of being kind to each other and to seek to share our humanity rather than withdraw from each other. Rachel is also hoping to find people here who have stories they would like to share.
“We are a story, our lives are a story. The money, the status, the power – at the end of the day all we really have are our stories, so if somebody shares their story with me, I consider it an enormous gift – a huge act of kindness and generosity from them to me”. – Rachel Jury
Amidst the parties, fun, and craziness of the Fringe, I have found people willing to pause and think about how hard it is to escape conflict and to make a new home in a new country. I have also been touched by the interest in a very simple heartfelt show that goes back to the heart of theatrical performance – the relationship between the performer, the work, and the audience.
The rhetoric we receive from the mainstream media about war, refugees, and asylum seekers tends to overlook the micro-acts of kindness that people offer to each other on a daily basis but mean so much. Newcomers are sadly too often described as people coming to take, rather than people who have so much to offer.
“You get very firsthand that story of that journey from Sudan to Calais, to Dover – it is a horrendous story, heart breaking. If someone – and he’s a young lad – has managed to get through all of that to get here, that’s a gift to our country – fantastic, we’ve got someone with that kind of strength of character, get them into the country, give them all the benefits we can, because he can only bring something of value to us.” – Rachel Jury
We are very grateful to the Montreal Fringe Festival team for their enthusiasm and support and hope that theatregoers of Montreal will join us in promoting the power of kindness!
Pictured above: Rachel Jury. Photo credit: Karen Gordon Photography.