The giant puppet Amal makes a stop in France before joining Manchester

The giant puppet Amal, Tuesday, October 12 in Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis). JOE ROBERTSON

And suddenly, we saw her and the cries of children erupted: ” She’s there ! “ It was a little after 7 p.m., Tuesday, October 12 in Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis), where a small crowd had gathered at the foot of the town hall. Amal arrived, with her rubber boots, her colorful little skirt, her long black hair and her big eyes. When she saw the crowd, she recoiled, then, feeling that there was no danger, she walked onto the plaza. She is a puppet that could intimidate children, with her 3.50 meters high. But no : ” She’s nice “said a little girl. ” She is pretty “, adds another. It’s true that her eyelashes flutter over her big eyes and her mouth can open to a smile. Still, she looks sad. “Because she is looking for her mother”, explains a young boy to his friends.

Not all the children present know that Amal comes from Syria, where her mother disappeared during a bombing, and that she has been walking since the end of July. Starting from the Turkish-Syrian border, she crossed Turkey, Greece, Italy – where the Pope came to shake her hand – and Switzerland before arriving in France. It was born on the initiative of Good Chance, a British organization created by two men of the theater who worked a lot in the Calais jungle. With Amal, Good Chance wants to draw attention to all the refugee children thrown on the roads of the world. The project, which is called “The Walk”, is produced by Stephen Daldry (the director of Billy Elliot and The Hours), its artistic direction was entrusted to the Israeli-Palestinian author and director Amir Nizar Zuabi, and it was the famous Johannesburg puppet troupe, the Handspring Puppet Company, who imagined Amal.

A bed for the night

At each stage, Amal is welcomed by artists, cultural institutions, schools or associations which organize free events. In Bobigny, Hortense Archambault, the director of the cultural center, asked the Big People, a troupe of puppeteers from Aubervilliers, to imagine something. We have thus seen, in the end of the day, giant creatures with phantasmal animal bodies, blazing with light, surround Amal and invite her to dance, then offer her a bed for the night. From the windows of the towers overlooking the garden in front of the town hall, people were watching. In the crowd, the children were wide-eyed. The more daring would have liked to run towards Amal, the more timid shook their mother’s hand for fear of losing her, like the little girl who had arrived in their town.

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