Lemn Sissay (left) and Benjamin Zephaniah have been friends since performing together in the 1980s (Photo: BBC)

Lemn Sissay (left) and Benjamin Zephaniah have been friends since performing together in the 1980s (Photo: BBC)

Benjamin Zephaniah‘s novel Refugee Boy tells the story of a half-Ethiopian, half-Eritrean teenager seeking safety in the UK. It has now been adapted for the stage by fellow poet Lemn Sissay, whose own life has links with that of the boy in the book.

When Benjamin Zephaniah was asked about putting Refugee Boy on the stage by the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, he initially wanted a new local writer to be given the opportunity to write the script.

“I like doing that kind of thing and I liked the idea of someone from here doing it, somebody who’s unknown,” Zephaniah says.

“So they came to me with this bloke Lemn Sissay. I went, ‘Him again?'”

The pair have been friends since appearing together on the performance circuit in the 1980s and are now sitting together, swapping affectionate put-downs and sharing laughs in a quiet corner of the theatre foyer.

“But seriously,” Zephaniah continues. “Lemn called me and he said, ‘This is my story, Benjamin. I’ve got to do this. It’s so close to my experience.'” Read more

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