ROH to welcome Little Amal

Published: 15 October 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Amal arriving in Chios, Greece Credit: UNHCR: Sokratis Baltagiannis

The Royal Opera House will welcome Little Amal, the 3.5 metre-tall puppet created by Handspring Puppet Company as part of Good Chance Theatre’s The Walk, to spend the eve of her tenth birthday in the Paul Hamlyn Hall, being sung and danced to sleep by artists from across the capital.

The event, attended by refugee groups from across London, is one of over 100 making up The Walk, a travelling festival produced by Good Chance Theatre, that brings together various artists and groups in defiance of the borders that endanger lives. The cane and carbon-fibre puppet is travelling 8,000 km from the borders of Syria to the UK in search of her mother, representing the urgent needs of young refugees.

From the 22–25 October, Little Amal will make her way across London, visiting The National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Somerset House and the V&A. Beginning at 11.15 pm on Saturday 23 October in the Covent Garden Piazza, Royal Ballet Principal dancers Cesar Corrales and Francesca Hayward, coming straight from the Romeo and Juliet curtain call, will welcome Little Amal into the building. In the Paul Hamlyn Hall, London-based Syrian oud player Rihab Azar will perform reflections on lullabies and tunes she heard as a child growing up in Syria, followed by a short presentation of the Royal Opera House’s staff-made quilt, sewn together by Thurrock textile group Kite Spirit.

Later performances include Valentino Zucchetti’s duet to Rachmaninoff’s "Vocalise, P. 34, No. 14" (Nitin Sawhney Version) danced by Royal Ballet Soloist Joseph Sissens and First Artist of The Royal Ballet Lukas B. Brændsrød alongside two commissioned narratives by Phosphoros Theatre written by Kate Duffy-Syedi, directed by Esther Dix with music by Goitom Fesshaye, performed by Tewodros Aregawe and Syed Haleem Najibi.

Citizens of the World Choir for displaced people and their allies will also make an appearance, joining members of the Royal Opera Chorus to sing a specially commissioned piece by composer Ayanna Witter-Johnson, conducted by Choir co-founder and Musical Director Becky Dell.

The night will end with a short programme of lullabies, sung by April Kojejo-Audiger and Michael Sikich, and a filmed performance of "As We Close Our Sleepy Eyes" from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel sung byDeneholm Primary School, Warren Primary School and Tilbury Pioneer Academy.

David Lan, producer of The Walk, said, "the moment I asked Alex Beard if the Opera House would welcome Little Amal, he began to imagine the event we are extremely happy for her to take part in. Alex has been one of The Walk’s most eloquent London champions. By the time she arrives in Covent Garden, Amal will have visited some of the great theatres of Europe—in Rome, Paris, Brussels and many other cities—but ROH is the first to offer her warmth and shelter along with dance and music at the highest level. On her behalf, thank you Alex and all at the ROH."

The Walk is produced by Stephen Daldry, David Lan, Tracey Seaward and Naomi Webb for Good Chance Theatre, in association with Handspring Puppet Company. The artistic director is Amir Nizar Zuabi.