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Carolina Ortega - Nomad Interview

Nomad tells the story of Ayşe - an immigrant in Europe - as she attempts to make a new home. Through movement, comedy and tragedy, we explore Ayşe’s experience through the eyes of three characters: Ayşe, the heroine, and the two institutional monsters, Eric (policeman and immigration officer) and the Paper Creature (an absurd embodiment of bureaucracy).

Gözde Atalay brings to the stage her own experience of being an immigrant in Europe as a Turkish-born, Athens-based physical theatre teacher, director and actress. Gözde relates the difficult quest for legal status, through this tender and non-verbal physical theatre performance.

Photo by Petros Kolotourous

Ahead of the run at the Edinburgh Fringe I caught up with director Carolina Ortega to discuss the show.

Where did your directing journey begin and how do you reflect on that journey?
I started in theatre by doing a creative writing course (which was part of my English BA at Birkbeck) and there I realised that theatre was it for me. I continued the creative writing route but focusing on drama, still within the Birkbeck course, but I wanted to know more. I then started assisting directing with Tangram Theatre and simultaneously began to programme at CASA Latin American Theatre festival in London. There my taste for physical theatre became my passion and focus, so I trained in Physical Theatre at City Lit London (under John Mowat). Devising physical theatre then became my medium, but I wanted some more formal directing training, so I took an MA (Text & Performance) at RADA in London, which consolidated my focus more. During this time I had already started directing small shows, as well as working as a dramaturg and assistant director on other shows. I guess you could say I took the long road to directing, but this long road gave me a great depth of knowledge in all areas as well as genres - however by then, I had already developed a huge love for clown and clown theatre and I continued to train in clown with several teachers.

After moving to Berlin I started directing more (I had more time, it was really hard to make life work as an independent artist in London) - both my work and other people’s work and have had work shown in London, Berlin, Edinburgh Fringe, Alytus (Lithuania), Prague, Salderatzen (Germany), Athens, Caracas and Vienna. I decided to formally train as a biographical and documentary theatre director at the University of the Arts in Berlin, because all the work I was creating was already strong in its documentary and biographical aspects. In reflection, I feel like the more I learn, the more I want to learn, and I’m full of curiosity for new ways of making theatre and always amazed by the richness and variety that theatre has to offer. 

How did you get involved in Nomad?
Gözde and I met at a clown training in LISPA (London International School of Performing Arts) over ten years ago and we had instant chemistry. We continued to be in touch and I asked her to join the devising/ performing cast for my show NO WAY OUT. We really love working together and when Gözde asked me if I would direct her biographical show, I was super happy to join her in this adventure. I’m myself a migrant from Venezuela and sharing this experience with Gözde meant we are on the same page about what’s important in this show. 

How important has it been for you to stage such a personal story as you are here with Nomad?
Both important and terrifying. The show has two alternative endings, and it’s up to the audience to decide the fate of this immigrant. We’re both in the space that we share, talking about an experience we both share and putting our fate in the hands of an audience. Every show is different and we’ve already experienced quite extraordinary reactions to it when we performed the first version of the show in a festival in Germany last year. For Gözde, the most important thing in staging this show is about sharing her life experience, and for me, it’s to help her tell this story in the best and most accessible way - but we have both lived through this, and relive it with every show. 

Photo by Petros Kolotourous

How do you approach blending such a touching story with the physical theatre elements?
Both Gözde and I have focused our work on physical storytelling and that means that this is our home. We really wanted to work with very reduced language to reflect the experience of arriving somewhere and not speaking the language and dealing with people and bureaucracy with this limitation. The show has about 10 words which Gözde learns in the local language, so it’s really accessible but also a reflection of the real experience of many immigrants. 

What do you want audiences to take away from seeing Nomad?
A reflection on what it is like to have to move from your home and go somewhere, where you don’t speak the language, know anybody and need to start from zero against all institutional structures, bureaucracy and difficulties. A reflection on how we are all responsible for the fate of how immigrants are treated in our countries and hopefully a lot of laughter.

Nomad is directed by Carolina Ortega and is created and performed by Gözde Atalay. Nomad, Summerhall (Demonstration Room), 15-27 Aug (not 21), 17:30 (60 mins), £13-£15. Tickets are available from

Photo by Petros Kolotourous

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