Monday morning, nine o’clock in Berlin Mitte. The two theatre coaches Awino Okech and Flavio Sanctum together with the team of peaceXchange are waiting for the participants to arrive. It is the first week of autumn break after all and probably nobody wants to get up that early. Nevertheless little by little the 30 stagestruck participants arrive at the youth centre “PUMPE”, to take part in the week-long theatre workshop. From now on a period of intensive work starts. It is now all about conflicts ad how one can represent and resolve them with the instrumentalities of theatre – in a peaceful and non-violent way. In two groups the participants deal with their conflict situations of everyday life and put these into short plays of about 15 minutes. Awino and Flavio show them the methods they use back home in their respective home countries. Flavio is from Brazil where he is working with the Theatro do Oprimido. His method is the so-called forum theatre, which first shows the audience a scene depicting a conflict situation while afterwards members of the audience can put forward their suggestions to solve the conflict. Those suggestions are then integrated into the play: the audience members improvise their suggestions on stage and try to show what change to the situation their suggestions could bring. It is not an easy task to put on a forum theatre within five days. But everybody is working with ardour, rehearsing a scene about integration problems and group dynamics, but also about the area of conflict between tradition and modernity. The main character is called Heidi, a Bavarian girl whose family moved to Berlin where she is now attending a new school. Her new classmates give her a hard time because of her clothes. She is threatened and asked to do the homework of the whole class. The teacher ignores the conflict situation and Heidi does not know how to behave in order to be accepted by her classmates without being exploited. Although all she wants is to dance to Hip-Hop Music with the other girls and wear cool clothes instead of her old fashioned Dirndl her mother likes so much.
In the group of Awino, who is part of the staff of the Amani People’s Theater in Kenia, the young people have decided to work on different topics. One group stages a scene about a problematic family situation. The father has lost his job while the mother is expecting her third child. It is very difficult for them to make ends meet. Suddenly the rich aunt drops in who does not care about the matters of her family members but leaves them alone with their hardships. From her point of view the state and its welfare system will take care of the family. But is this true?
Another scene is about the way men treat women in our society. A clique of friends gathers in a Shisha-Bar to talk about cars and girls, while only superficialities matter. When one of the boys grabs the breasts of his new girlfriend an argument arouses because not all of the boys agree with the disrespectful way women are treated. The last scene from the participants of Awino’s group depicts the everyday life in a basket factory in Africa, the way the young people imagine it to be. The scared children in this story have to plait baskets for the European market under the strict surveillance of the German company owner, in order to ensure their families a small income. If they will ever return home to their families stays an unanswered question.
Awino’s work is thought-provoking. All the scenes are based in the ideas of the young participants and show situations they either have experienced or read about. By enacting the situation and putting themselves into the position of the underdog or the aggressor, the actors contemplate the conflict but also confront the audience with the situation and invite them to look into the subject as the issue is raised.
For the night of the representation they came up with a special idea. Instead of showing the plays on the theatre stage, they performed at different places to which the audience was led by two “stewardesses”. This is breaking the authority of the stage. Characters and members of the audience move closer together and are affected directly by the scene of conflict.
Both the young participants and the audience of the concluding representation were hopefully able to take some new ideas back to their daily life and routine. Together with the theatre coaches the young people learned how to deal with complicated situations, to name them and to try and resolve them in a non-violent and peaceful way. Through the work with Awino and Flavio, they were also able to get new insights on the life in Brazil and Kenia and got new ideas of the possibilities of theatre as a means for conflict transformation.