DMU grads return to Malta to stage their refugee play


A poignant play which charts a refugee’s journey to Malta is being performed in the southern European island country by two Performing Arts graduates from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).


Kirstie Johnston, 21, who is originally from Luton, and Ross Thomson, 22, from Edinburgh, wrote the play, A Place by the Sea, last September while they were in Malta on an International Performance Project module with DMU.

A year on from when the play first emerged and after a successful run in the UK, including at DMU’s #loveinternational events, Kirstie and Ross have been invited back to Malta to perform the play at the country’s St James Cavalier Centre, a new performance space in the heart of the capital Valletta.


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Ross said: “We can't wait to return A Place by the Sea to where it all started. This will be the first chance we've had to perform it for the people who helped inspire it, which make us a little nervous.

“But we are very excited to be able to meet with them again and learn everything that has been going on since we last saw them.”


They arrived in Malta on Sunday (Sep 17th) and will be there until this Saturday, September 23th. The play itself will be performed by Kirstie and Ross on September 21st and 22nd.

The International Performance Project module gave the students the chance to undertake an artistic residency in Malta and create a 20-minute performance piece based on the trip. Kirstie and Ross, who both now live in Leicester, used the opportunity to carry out a series of interviews with islanders and the story emerged of a Libyan refugee’s journey to Malta.

Kirstie explained: “The refugee’s story was told to us by a church minister, who played a role in helping the refugee when he arrived in Malta. We felt a real urge to meet with people and learn their stories and had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people who run a foodbank and a micro finance unit for the Maltese people and speak to them at their place of work.

“The Maltese people are extremely hospitable so when we explained why we were there, they were more than happy to share a little about themselves, the work they do and what Malta is like as a country.

“Recordings of these interviews appear in the play as short interludes, often accompanied by projected footage of the sea that we recorded last year in Malta. Our work is designed with the intention of remaining very grounded and down to earth.

PLACE BY SEA kirstie

“We always aim to remind people that the story we are sharing isn't purely a work of fiction but drawn from real events. We found that the moments where the recordings are the main focal point really help to highlight what is a very complex ongoing issue.”

The show is a 20-minute physical theatre performance which combines spoken word, collected interviews, projection and sound. Throughout the show the two performers shift roles, going from endangered travellers to foreboding travel agents. 

Since graduating from DMU, the pair has founded performance company Ten 29 Theatre Collective with the aim of creating accessible, relatable and down-to-earth theatre that expresses the opinions of the audience while providing them with a new perspective on the world.

Earlier this year, Ten 29 gave the final performance during DMU’s 24-hour #LoveInternationl vigil 'Be the Change',  an event that resonated with the themes of the performance. They also performed at the Vice-Chancellor Dominic Shellard’s annual football match. 

Ross and Kirstie thanked DMU for providing these fantastic opportunities, adding: “We wouldn't be where we are now if it wasn't for the continued support of the Performing Arts lecturers at DMU who continually provide us with help and expertise. 

“We are also so thankful that we have been able to be involved with DMU Local over the past year through its #loveinternational campaigns. Beyond performing, one of our main areas of focus is on creating workshops to help engage people who may not have a lot to do with theatre, and show them that it is a really powerful tool in helping them voice their opinions and understand the world around them a little more.

“DMU Local has been great in helping us take  workshops to schools in the area and the funding they have provided to send us back to Malta is incredible. DMU Local is such a great initiative and we encourage all at DMU to get involved!” 

The show at the St James Cavalier Centre came about as the pair spent time working there during their trip last year and were introduced to artistic director Toni Sant, through one of their Performing Arts tutors Professor Craig Vear.

The pair is full of praise for DMU’s Performing Arts course, with them saying: “The course is at the forefront of 21st century theatre and has enhanced our practice so much over the past three years.

“The continued support of our lectures has really helped us to develop the theatrical style of Ten 29 and we are so happy to have been a part of DMU.” 

The shows in Malta will be followed by a post-show discussion that will be streamed live on their Facebook page via the website link here.

For more details about the Ten29 Theatre Collective, visit the website here.

Posted on Wednesday 20th September 2017

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