Monday, March 26, 2018

Training Weeks

More Than Words - photo by Julia Slominska
The last two weeks have been spent in workshop rooms.  Not developing a new show.  Not engaging a community.  Not even training people for a specific artistic project.  It's just been a wonderful, open opportunity to exchange ways of working and the ideas behind our approach with like-minded people from across Europe.  What a great thing Erasmus + funding is.  How silly we would be to lose it....

Our first week was the Theatre Training for the MORE THAN WORDS project, so the room was filled with Italian clowns, Hungarian dance therapists, Polish performers, architects and photographers, German academics and community workers....  and so on!  The fact that not everybody starts from a performing arts viewpoint is challenging, of course - but also wonderfully liberating, in that theatre practice starts to be seen from different perspectives, including by ourselves as "trainers".  I found myself connecting a lot of the exercises we use for devising plays with ideas about architectural space, social space, and therapeutic needs.  Involving people from other sectors in a workshop helps to pull you out of the "theatre box" - to see theatre as a wider, socially responsible force.

MORE THAN WORDS emphasises non-verbal approaches, because it's to do with working across cultures, often when there is no common language.  Because this week was focussed on training the trainers, there needed to be some conversations and reflections - but the purest moments were the ones that moved away from this into movement, music and imagery.  As the first partner to offer this training, we had the tricky job of defining parameters - but I think that was done clearly enough for the subsequent work to build on what's been achieved so far.

Last week was also about Applied Theatre, with a group of Italian practitioners joining us to learn how theatre techniques can move into social spaces to empower communities.  Because that covers such a multitude of practices, we alternated the week between practical exercises drawn from our own cross-cultural work, and engaging with other artists who approach performance in different ways.  Hannah Conway led a workshop on music for Applied Theatre, and Kelly Hunter took the group through her extraordinary methods that use Shakespeare as a way to develop creativity with autistic children.  Dave Carey of Chickenshed showed the group some examples of how that theatre has made changes in the lives of disabled children, children in the care system, and young people at risk of offending.  It was incredibly affirming of the form and what it can achieve socially...

At the same time - I always worry about making a case for theatre that sounds too instrumental.  It's not because theatre can affect social good that it needs to exist - it's because it IS social good.  Just trying to make sure that remains at the forefront of all these discussions.