Requiem for Aleppo
  • By Lynn Rusk
  • |
  • 19th Aug 2017
  • |
  • ★★★★★

There are a few moments in your life when it dawns on you that you are experiencing something very unique and special and being an audience member for Requiem for Aleppo was one of those once in a lifetime experiences for me. This was a one off charity event hosted by the Pleasance in the 1,000 seater Edinburgh International Conference Centre. There was a wonderful atmosphere of solidarity between artists and regular punters attending this performance as we were all here to support something bigger than ourselves and bigger than this cultural battlefield that the Edinburgh Festival can sometimes be.

This was one of the most powerful and emotional shows I have ever had the privilege of seeing.

The show is introduced by Anthony Alderson the Director of the Pleasance and David Cazalet the composer of this requiem. Alderson introduces the show by stating that the Edinburgh Festival was born 70 years ago during the post-World War II era and what more appropriate way is there to commemorate this anniversary than raising awareness and showing our support towards the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time on an international platform.

This powerful and moving piece is performed by 12 internationally acclaimed dancers and uses spectacular multimedia, music and spoken testimonies to deliver its message. The music reflects Aleppo’s diversity and includes Arabic, Christian, Berber and Jewish influences. The familiar themes from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem are featured throughout the show including a haunting rendition of Libera Me. The dancers embody the struggle of the refugees through running. Throughout the performance each of the twelve dancers take turns to run on the spot while the others perform movement pieces that illustrate life in Aleppo before and during the war. Some scenes show the suffering the Syrian people have experienced while others reflect on happier times. The performers are dressed in grey and brown tunics reminiscent of a prison camp to illustrate oppression under Assad. They change into more colourful clothing when they are remembering happier times to demonstrate the freedom that they once enjoyed.

On the giant screen behind the performers shocking footage of the destruction to the city of Aleppo is displayed. Voice overs of testimonies from different unnamed individuals are played. One of the voices says ‘To be a refugee is living day by day’. The dancers become wearier as the performance goes on.

This was one of the most powerful and emotional shows I have ever had the privilege of seeing. Some critics may say that this piece only scratches the surface of this catastrophic issue but the emotion and mood in the venue after this performance spoke in volumes on the effect it had on the audience. The proceeds of the piece will go to Syria Relief to invest in education in Syria. 

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The Blurb

A new production bringing together 12 dancers from across the world. The original music is a combination of Requiem Mass lyrics set to choral music, Arabic poetry and the voices of people from Aleppo telling their real-life stories.