Have you ever been to a detention centre and asked refugees how they feel?

After consulting church groups, lawyers and social groups who visit refugees, Philip Feinstein of Music for Refugees wrote a musical about refugees – he called it Hope behind the Wire. Although he has been a regular visitor to Villawood Detention Centre, this was a huge learning curve for him and the audience.

It was showcased a month ago at the beautiful Wesley Convention Centre in Sydney to about 500 people. There were 65 actors most of whom were amateurs.

In the musical some of the comments made by refugees included . . . .
“Why treat us like this? We are normal and do no harm.”
“The authorities never tell us when someone is being transferred – I never get to say goodbye to a friend.”
“I feel powerless and don’t know what my future holds. I am very stressed.”

The musical included a song where refugees sung their feelings.

Other expressions included . . . .
“I was lucky to meet a people smuggler but never had enough money to bring my family.”
“I cannot show my passport – that was taken by the people smuggler.”
“It is wrong to call us ‘illegals’ or ‘queue jumpers’. And we are not terrorists.”
“My parents abandoned me when I was 7 years old, so I have no-one. I am treated like a criminal.”

With scenes showing people visiting detention centres, the atmosphere depicted much sadness and desperation. Even the visitors showed lots of emotion.

With so little to do while imprisoned, many of the detainees resort to music and poetry. There were musical scenes involving refugees singing and playing music instruments, as well as poetry by a former refugee.

When Philip Feinstein OAM first started visiting Villawood Detention Centre 14 years ago, there were also young children detained. Consequently there was a scene involving young children singing and playing games. “Thank goodness that ended when it did,” exclaimed Feinstein.

Despite Villawood being a place of incarceration, there is often a shining light that comes through. This was demonstrated when the authorities allowed a refugee to marry his fiancé who lived in the suburbs of Sydney.

The musical showed a guard being human by making a positive contribution to the occasion. Being the final scene of the musical, it concluded with the groom sing the hit song “We gotta get out of this place”. The audience joined in the chorus with great enthusiasm.

The entire musical was filmed and can be seen on this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmRXSg5q4W8

“The musical is not portrayed as a story, but is an information tool to let people know how refugees feel being in detention,” said Philip. “It also demonstrates visitors giving lots of hope to refugees.”

Feeling proud at having created this musical, Philip added, “Many people have said that this historical musical account should be made available to the public via refugee and asylum seeker outlets (like STARTTS, ASC, SSI, JRS, etc) plus local councils, schools, churches and the media.”

Because it is an amateur production, Philip hopes that a professional producer will take over ‘Hope behind the Wire’ and turn it into a professional production.

“I will make myself available to help where necessary,” he said, adding, “Furthermore the songs composed specifically for this musical will be free from royalties as I was the writer.”

Philip is inviting AMUST readers to view the entire musical on the link above.
It could be turned into an appropriate story via a musical, a film, a TV series or a play, as there are at least 2/3 potential leading characters,” he concluded.