I made my third visit to Sri Lanka in June and after ariving from Muscat,Oman where I’d spent 15 hours waiting for my flight (not recommended, although Muscat was worth a look). I took a tuk tuk straight to Negombo, a coastal town near the airport and a very convenient place to relax after a long flight. It was also convenient as representatives of the four Playback Theatre groups from Colombo, Hatton, Galle and Jaffna were already meeting at a rural location near Negombo with Cymbeline Buhler for a training programme. I was able to join them for the last three days of their time together.
After a night in a hotel, I moved to stay at a Jesuit Institute in Negombo and travelled out to the farm where the training was taking place every day with Father Benny. This meeting provided an opportunity for a review and for the Sri Lankans to establish their formal network for Playback Theatre in Sri Lanka and to plan a national gathering to take place in Jaffna in January 2013. Playback Theatre is now well-established in Sri Lanka with these four committed groups and the scene is set for more groups to emerge over time as interest expands around the island. It was great to meet other people involved with Playback Theatre in Sri Lanka as my previous contact was only with the Hatton group.
I also offered a Dancing Your Story session to the group which was well-received once we’d got going. There were some initial technical problems with hooking up my CD player to a sound system, basically through a DVD player and television set!
After the three days we said goodbye and I joined the Hatton group for the drive up to Hatton in their newly-acquired van where I was to re-unite with the Mountain Flowers group for a two-day training update. The two days with the Mountain Flower group were brilliant really. I’m really bonded with this group and we are really comfortable together. They have come on so well. On the first day, we made a list of problems to work on and a list of what they enjoyed about Playback. I think that we were able to cover a lot of what they wanted to work on.
The group has always worried about technique but this visit they had a real emotional breakthrough on the power of stories. The first day was about stories of being in control, the second day, one of the participants told how she had to come back to Hatton as her University tutors were on strike, another had witnessed a bus crash just after he got off on the way home the evening before. A stream of stories were provoked on disappointment, hurt, anger and sadness in the group which not only bonded them more deeply, but showed the importance of naturally counter-balancing the positivity of the stories from the day before (a perfect red-thread) and made them stronger for it. They put their energy into serving the story rather than worrying about getting it right. It was very moving to witness the group coming to this insight by themselves! They also took responsibility by being able to quickly identify the problems they wanted to work on – they obviously have been thinking about what they do and I now respond to them rather than having to feel responsible for them – which is the whole point really!
It was then time to leave Hatton after such a short visit and take the van for an eleven-hour drive up to Batticaloa to offer another two-day workshop to a Project there It was then a long train ride back to Negombo for an overnight stay before flying back to London, via Muscat (I’d booked a hotel as it was an overnight break between flights). I got home to Stroud at about midnight on the Sunday and then straight back to work on Monday morning!