Workshop Day 4

VOICE ORCHESTRA AND SOUNDSCAPE

 

After a general warm-up AD continued to build on the voice work that had begun the day before. There were two main tasks. The first was to create a voice orchestra and the second a vocal soundscape. The formation of the orchestra was achieved in stages. The premise was for each individual to create a sound that could be inserted into a common beat. Working was again in a large circle; participants entered the beat one after another, adding a new sound each time. What began as a well-tempered and melodic score, soon developed into an indecipherable din. The interest in the orchestra lies in its ability to shift from the wonder of the virtuoso soloist to the awe of an ensemble playing in unison. The task for the group therefore, was to find the balance between numbers and clarity of sound. This was achieved through a process of adding and removing voices from the group. AD walked around the circle gradually reducing the number of voices to a select few who happened to be singing in similar registers. The effect was mesmerising and carried the group into the next task, the creation of a soundscape.

 

For this activity the group was asked to sit in close proximity on the floor. With their eyes closed, participants were first asked to get a sense of silence and stillness. Once this was achieved AD began to describe the surroundings. The group was now at the heart of a dense jungle. They were told to imagine the shapes and sounds of creatures that dwell in the jungle, and when ready, to vocalise an aspect of this imagined jungle. In contrast to the orchestra experience, the soundscape did not develop in the same way as the orchestra, in that there was no impetus towards a cacophonic crescendo, instead waves of sounds developed, ranging from the subtle and intermittent to the clamorous and sustained, but always with a sense of measure and scale. The achievement was remarkable and once the soundscape had closed, several participants commented on the state of relaxation and an increased awareness to the minutiae of sound during the exercise.

 

FROM WORKSHOP TO CONFERENCE

 

JM spoke to the group about the role they would play in the conference. He began by reiterating the broad conference remit, which was to make the case for cultural relations in conflict and peace building to an audience of decision-makers working in the humanitarian sector. Within that framework, theatre, and specifically the Forum Theatre model would be put forward as one of the specific case studies, partly through JM’s own presentation on his work with the group and also through a demonstration of a Forum play by the Shakthi Group, but partly also through the presence of workshop participants, some of whom would have the opportunity to deliver a short speech at the beginning of conference panels.

 

One of the central ideas at the initial planning stage of Act 2 was to highlight the important role that applied theatre continues to play in post-trauma and conflict community regeneration work. The decision was taken later on to broaden the terms of enquiry from theatre to ‘cultural relations’, thereby enabling the presence of a range of applied artistic and creative practices. The Director of the British Council Switzerland, Caroline Morrissey, was present at the afternoon session and explained the rationale behind the conference; her aim was ‘to show an influential public in Geneva that Culture can be powerful’ and to do something that would give people the opportunity to experience the work first hand.

 

It is against this backdrop that JM put the task of writing short speeches to the workshop participants. The speeches could draw on experiences from the workshop but also from participants’ own work. Each speech would be delivered to the group at the end of the afternoon and eight speakers would be selected for the conference on Saturday.

 

SHAKTHI PERFORMANCE

 

In the evening, the Shakthi group performed the Forum play that they would present at both the Conference and the Grütli Arts Center in Geneva. This was an opportunity for the remainder of the group to experience Forum Theatre in its final form.

 

The play told the story of Kumari, a teenage girl whose single mother feels obliged to go overseas in search of work to support the family. In the absence of her mother, Kumari is entrusted in her grandmother’s care. One evening after school, Kumari decides to pay her friend a visit to study for an upcoming exam. On arrival at her friend’s house, she is greeted by her friend’s drunken uncle who tricks Kumari into believing her friend is upstairs. Once inside, the uncle locks the door behind her and proceeds to rape her.

 

After the rape, Kumari is mocked by local gossips, and when her grandmother finally learns of her plight, she decides to marry Kumari off to an older man and Kumari is forced to abandon her studies. Despite being pregnant (with the uncle’s child), Kumari continues to be treated like a house slave. One evening, while drinking with friends, the husband orders Kumari to make food for his guests. Exhausted from the day’s work, she refuses. The husband beats the pregnant Kumari until she is finally hospitalised. She dies in hospital through lack of care.

 

The play was performed twice, and on the second run, the audience was keen to stop the play (see Fig.18) and change the outcome of Kumari’s fate.

 

As the evening wore on and the interventions increased in number and frequency, it became clear that the focus had moved away from the story in the play towards a celebration of group solidarity. This was the last evening in Ueberstorf for the Act 2 workshop participants and it ended quite movingly on a note of mutual support and respect.

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