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A Drama of Unlived Stories: Old Child by GalataPerform

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In this essay, I will focus on Yaşlı Çocuk (Old Child), which was staged first at the International Istanbul Theatre Festival (April 2016) and was presented again during the theatre season of that year. Yaşlı Çocuk (Old Child) is, as Yeşim Özsoy writes, dedicated to all the children all over the world who are exposed to violence, the brutalities of war and injustice, and as well as the children being killed and losing their lives in different regions as a result of different political problems during the years 2015-2016. Özsoy writes and stages the unlived stories of four “old children,” Jamal, Allen (Aylan), Cemile, and Deniz, showing them with their relatives, including Jamal’s wife Victoria, Allen’s unseen father Abdullah, Cemile’s husband Serhat, and Deniz’s mother, Nezahat. In fact, all of these children are dead, but now living in a kind of utopia, created by Yeşim Özsoy. In other words, as the dramaturg of the play, Ferdi Çetin, notes, Özsoy gives them an afterlife with the thought of what might have happened if they had not been killed in political wars or terrorist attacks. That is to say, they all exist only in a play that tries to atone for the unbearable reality of the today’s world by creating its own reality. Based on real stories, Yaşlı Çocuk (Old Child) rewrites a forgotten reality and re-creates a new reality. Employing the transformative power of the theatre, she wants to change the reality on the stage, and by doing so, she may attempt to change the world. Maybe this is why the dramaturg Ferdi Çetin calls the play a “post-realist drama.”

Old Child, written and directed by Yeşim Özsoy, GalataPerform. Left to right: Allen, Jamal, Serhat and Cemile (lying on the bed), Nezahat (sitting on the bed), Victoria, and Deniz. Photo: Gökhan Coşkun

Jamal Salih Eliyan (played by Bertan Dirikolu), thirty years old, grows up in Gazze, in the camp Al-Shati near Şifa Hospital. In a festive day, a bombing attack killed him when he was on a swing in the park. But in the play, we would learn that a Norwegian doctor saved him, and now he is living in London with his wife Victoria (played by Enginay Gültekin) and their two children. Like the others. Jamal is serious and self-absorbed, which is why his wife Victoria calls him an “old child.”

Old Child, by Yesim Ozsoy. Photo: Gökhan Coşkun

Allen (Aylan, played by Erdem Kaynarca) drowned in the Aegean Sea while he and his family were escaping from Syria (a reference to the three-years-old Alan Kurdi, we never forget, who was found lying lifeless on the beach 2 September 2015). But in the play, Allen, now thirty years old, lives in Greece and works as a room clerk in a hotel. His father Abdullah (Metin Belgin), to whom Allen is continuously writing letters, lives in Kobane, Syria. He is never seen in the play but we do hear his voice. Allen hates Turks and the sea.

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