The aim of this project was to train Aspects service users in this unique theatre form in order to develop an independent Playback Theatre company.
It was perceived that further opportunities could arise from establishing an Aspects Playback Theatre group through association with the worldwide Playback Theatre network. Playback Theatre South West would actively seek to integrate the Aspects group within the UK Playback Theatre network and remain a point of communication for related events and continuing development and seek opportunities to involve the group in local events.
Playback Theatre South West directors Alison Fairlove and Amanda Brown delivered this project. Amanda and Alison together, have trained and artistically developed two Playback Theatre companies in the last 2 years. They have developed a collaborative approach to training that is effective and efficiently brings a group into a state of readiness to perform Playback Theatre. Together they model the collaborative and improvisatory skills that Playback Theatre uses. They are registered with the Centre for Playback Theatre, maintaining continuing professional development. They retain an open and flexible approach to their training work.
An introductory session was held to establish the service users interest in working this way and potential for success. Initially 10 weekly sessions of 2-3 hours were planned to establish the group and develop the basic skills required, with three follow up sessions to support and mentor the process towards an independently functioning Playback Theatre group. The programme was adapted to 13 sessions, which were held at the Paignton Conservative Club and later at the Palace Theatre. This was to meet the needs of the group in establishing understanding of the form and developing the skills required to do Playback Theatre, and also in response to the changes of personnel and venue.
Mid project report-extracts
The Apsects drama group has benefited from adaptations we’ve made to our teaching. These adaptations have been made after two sessions of getting to know them, the space they work in and the established culture within this group and it’s dynamics.
Key learning aim
To understand that in Playback Theatre we listen to someone’s personal story and then we play that person in the story.
- It is important to give everyone a chance to be listened to with respect
- It is important to acknowledge the feelings expressed
- To listen to each other
- To act in someone else’s personal story in a way that is true to the emotions of the “storyteller”
- To develop emotional expression on faces
- To understand everyone will have a turn to speak
- To have an opportunity to tell one’s story and express one’s feelings
- To remember the feelings of others to playback later
- To prolong attention, focus and avoid distractions
- To work together creatively – responding artistically to each other
Over the length of the project all service users came to understand how the Playback Theatre form works, and to apply this understanding in action. Additional skills and experiences successfully gained were that they
- Interacted with each other as a group
- Built sensitivity to and empathy for each other
- Shared leadership through exploring leading and following
- Experienced group communication
There was a range of skills within the group. Each group member succeeded in different ways. Several members were more easily able, physically and emotionally, to respond and communicate creatively. Some service users needed lots of encouragement to be seen and to get onto the stage – so their success was in gaining the confidence to do so. For others the success was in being active creatively and emotionally. For others the success was in an extended capacity for relationships that included more group members.
This project didn’t establish an independent Playback Theatre group nor did the Aspects group give a performance. These outcomes were ambitious and the changing circumstances in the Robert Owen organisation at that time meant that Aspects were unable to provide a dedicated care worker to support this work becoming independent. To achieve those aims a future project would need
- a longer process than was originally conceived
- a dedicated care worker who was committed to work alongside PTSW
- a dedicated group of service users that want to work towards this goal
The value of this project was in providing a place for service users to explore their lives dramatically. Their listening skills developed enormously in this setting, along with greater empathy for one another. There was so much enthusiasm for communication within the group, everyone had so much to say, which indicates that a culture of respect and trust was created. Everyone had a chance, every week, to talk about their feelings and about their lives, including difficult feelings as well as joyful and happy feelings. They offered each other support and understanding. Then showed a great capacity to respond in a feeling way creatively to each other and with each other. See photos.
It is still possible to fulfil the original aims to develop an independent Playback Theatre group as part of the Aspects ROC Creative programme. This could be a strong platform for integration with local Playback Theatre events and even national and international events. The foundations have been firmly laid and could be built on in a future project.