by Patsy Burn
Master - Sing me something else........
Servant - I don't know any other songs
Master - It doesn't have to be in English!
I've really enjoyed today, going round all the three groups and watching their pieces. But even more impressive is how natural the ability of the group are. When we asked them to create their own forum pieces. Not only did they completely understand the concept but also their performance levels were so high. They threw themselves in with huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm, but also so much thoughtfulness and care about what they were producing. It was clear that the ownership of this part of the work was completely theirs. The students were also very impressed and even commented that they were outperformed by some of the participants. I don't think it's quite as simple as that, I think the act of performing here is a very different social activity. Nonetheless all the students have vouched to work doubles hard to get their pieces ready for another workshop tomorrow.
In the abuse of power group I sat in on their workshop following the performance to see how they would develop the forum-ing I'd seen. They had a small but strong group of 5 women and they explored power relationships through status games and 'master and servant game' where you can ask your servant to do anything you wish and they have to comply - this lead to interesting discussion about ow they felt and linked to some good images about the subject.
I also went to see the family group and looked at how their piece had developed. What was impressive was that they managed to incorporate music and dance into their new forum piece as a few of their members considered themselves dancers and not actors.
Their new forum piece about drug use centred around a young boy who wanted to be creative but because he wasn't encouraged became involved in drug taking and misuse.
As I watched the piece Marius explained that Wonga ( the drug they were referring to in the piece) was the new 'trend' in drug taking, marijuana being a big issue for many years. Wonga is created by breaking down a certain HIV medicine and smoking it. This leads to people robbing HIV sufferers or gaining the tablets through illegal means. In Maghabeni, where we were on Sunday, Marius said someone was suspected of dealing the drugs and the township burnt his house down. This is clearly a huge issue in these local communities.
Lunch was served to us so we could sit and eat with the group. The main topic of conversation was whether they were going to eat the tripe or not? I politely declined having tried it before but insisted everyone else should try it. Only for cultural exchange purposes of course. General consensus - not good.
After lunch we all gathers in the theatre to see the pieces being performed by each group. The abuse of power piece began it, jokered by Katy and showing a man in the village who wants to take a third wife in order to give him a son. There were many protagonists in the piece and so people could play one of many characters. The scene was interesting as it showed a side to the Zulu culture which we hadn't discussed previously and is so different to England. In the forum the women in the audience were particularly interested, this being a more female based issue.
In the sexual politics group they stuck with the theme of men getting tested for HIV and explored a young couples relationship as well as how a man feels when he is confronted with an old friend who has the disease. In forum-ing the piece we saw Millie try to convince the boys friends to go and get tested with him, which as antagonists they wouldn't. However, again the theme that you should look after yourself first and do what you need to make sure you and those you care about are safe.
The lead protagonist in this was a very good actor - really exciting to watch and clearly revelled in the play. We were all a little in awe of him.
In the final piece the group about drug abuse performed and showed the full story, starting with a young boy who wants to learn to play the drums but isn't given any time or attention before turning to drugs. It was really heartwarming to think that the group did recognise the arts as a means of escaping potentially bad situations or a way of changing their own lives. One boy in the forum got on stage to learn to dance with another girl, there by banging his fate.
As always it was too short and we didn't get a chance to get really deeply into the forum work. But now that the students know what to expect hopefully we can portion time out more evenly and get an opportunity to see even more interventions and start more arguments - that's where forum theatre is most successful.
Tonight we're off to a jazz festival organised by Lu and Marius within which we're going to perform one of our forum pieces and our 'choir' songs. This is also a chance to hear students and professors from the jazz department at Durban university which I'm really looking forward to. Afro Jazz is very popular here so I'm hoping to hear lots of that.