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For the past six years Treehouse Theatre have been bringing young refugees to the centre stage to share their own stories of horror and joy, laughter and pain, wonder and strength.

“Audiences really get a visceral experience of what these kids have been through… It is quite something to hear a story of a terrorist attack or a bombing performed by the child who was actually in that experience,” said Treehouse Theatre co-founder and psychologist Catherine Maguire-Donvito.

Catherine spoke with City Hub ahead of their latest production, Tree of Life, which will see 20 young people share personal stories.

While many of the stories are of trauma, many are quaint stories about life in another country, or about the funny things they’ve experienced since living in Australia. From an account of a young school boy growing up in Iraq suffering persecution and bullying for being part of a religious minority, to a funny story of the same young boy bothering a shopkeeper for “half an egg”.

“Being able to first of all put a story into words and then the extra layer of acting out those stories helps the young person really understand what’s happened to them and get it into perspective,” added Catherine.

Through performing skits where these young people take on the roles of the adults involved in their personal experiences – from doctors to terrorists – Tree of Life gives agency to members of a chronically disempowered group, and depoliticises the refugee experience, welcoming audiences to embrace these resilient young new Australians. (AM)

Jun 9–10, various show times. The Concourse, 409 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood.
Jun 23–24, various show times. Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 1 Powerhouse Road, Casula.
$20-$30. Tickets & info: treehousetheatre.org.au