I Declare at My Own Risk
The play lets us glimpse into the life of a young girl, who, just as her peers, is a fan of pop music, likes to hang out with her friends and dreams about her future. At the same time, she lives in one of the worst neighbourhoods in Bucharest, under conditions which are not fit for studying. She often feels ashamed of her origin.
When her mother gets into jail, it becomes evident for her that if she wants to get out of poverty, she can solely rely on herself – she decided to leave her family and enrolled in the state care system. Although sometimes she doubts that her dreams may come true, finally she gets to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and accepts her Roma origin. She realizes, being Roma is not only a stigma but also something to be proud of. Surely, the struggle does not end here. “Having climbed a mountain, you may rest a bit but after there will be another peak to climb” - believes the artist, author of several own plays, which, as an actress, she performs in Romania and in the United Kingdom as well.
The text of the performance is constantly under development, as it is based on the writer and performer, Alina Serban’s life story, she adds new stories over and over.
"I’m freezing here, but what makes me tremble the most is the thought that someone who knows me might see me doing this, here. I am at the Studențesc Park, behind a luxurious hotel, standing near a pile of garbage. Yucky! Even if I wear gloves, I still feel some kind of juice oozing down my hand when I grab this plastic Fanta bottle.
“Come on, Mom, we have enough for the fire!”
We get home. I am very happy that none of my new school mates had seen me doing that..."
Alina Șerban, in her play I declare at my own risk tells about her own life and about her journey from the Roma settlement in Bucharest to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her circumstances and her environment were far from adequate for her to continue her studies and go to university. In order to pass her high school exams and be able to go to university, she applied in the state care system. Not long after, she also lost his father. Despite many ordeals, she was admitted to several universities, and continuing her studies was a condition to remain in state care system anyway. Eventually, she continued her studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She presented the first version of the performance there.
Romania is the seventh biggest country in Europe with a population of about 20 million person. The past century of the country was highly influenced not only by the two world wars - after which Romania became independent country - but also of the communist regime which has had serious impact on the economic and social situation of the inhabitants. The situation of the Romanian Roma population is highly disadvantageous. Although studies and surveys differ in setting the exact number of Roma in Romania, we can claim that roughly 3 - 10% of the population is of Roma origin. The majority of Roma (64%) live in the countryside. Typical work to do is collecting metals, working at constructions or in agriculture. As opposed to Gypsy people in Western Europe, Eastern European Roma do not lead a nomadic life. However, they do travel if the work requires them to do so, even abroad, especially since the EU accession.
Travelling for work is vital, as according to the UN survey in 2011, 33% of Roma (15-64 years old) are unemployed, a percentage which is 18% amongst non-Roma citizens. Unemployment affects most severely young adults (15-24 years) and women, with 62% of Roma women being unemployed. At the same time, almost half of Roma adults, 42% do such work which does not require any technical qualification and 20% of them do not have any qualification at all.
Roma communities are recognised as an ethnic minority in Romania since 1993.
‘One thing is for sure: she is very conscious of the task of saying a social / political message. She is aware of her privileged position, the interplay of elements and luck, and is able to get her voice to as many people as possible.’Revizoronline
‘She performs so authentically that it’s not always clear if she’s really telling about her own life, not about some kind of fiction. But not.’Vasárnapi Hírek
’Yet the tragic past will become prose through the narrative. She walks in a narrow, designated space, sometimes making contact with the audience, sometimes dislocating them out of the narrative with contemporary findings.’Litera
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1: ©Alina Vincze_Alina Șerban
2: ©Alina Vincze_Alina Șerban
3: ©Alina Vincze_Alina Șerban
4: ©Alina Vincze_Alina Șerban
5: ©Alina Vincze_Alina Șerban