Unique taboo-busting drama takes to the streets
Young people are bringing vital information to the streets of their communities through an engaging new drama project.
Premiered at Nepal’s annual Earthquake Safety Day event, the drama features youngsters drawn from communities where the show is being performed.
And as well as acting in the show, they also help decide the storyline of the play.
“This was the first time I’d been in a play like this,” said 13-year-old Babita Shrestha, one of the stars of the show, from Sankhu, the small town near Kathmandu where the Earthquake Safety Day event was being held. “Sometimes I was scared that I would forget my words or that I would try to speak and nothing would come out, but when it came to the actual performance I felt really confident.”
The aim of the drama, called Gauthali (House Martin in Nepali) and supported by the British Red Cross in partnership with the Nepal Red Cross Society, is to share information which can help people in their on-going earthquake recovery efforts.
With a team of young people from the community on board to fill the majority of roles, there is the opportunity to inject storylines the cast feels are important specifically for their community, ensuring every performance will be unique.
To bring people further into the action, the play also features direct discussion and participation with audience members, asking them to give their own thoughts and opinions about the situations they see playing out in front of them.
Scheduled for 24 performances around the Kathmandu Valley, new members will join the cast each time the play moves area bringing with them new ideas to inject into the show.
In Sankhu, within a plot highlighting safe reconstruction practices, hygiene, health and livelihoods, there were also stories about alcohol abuse, domestic violence, female health and the role of women in the community.
“The issues raised are really important for the community; not just the earthquake recovery information, but also the social messages. We made the play fit the issues that we felt were important to our community,” said Babita, who dreams of one day becoming a doctor.
“I feel really proud to be part of this, lots of people came to see us and because we are from the community people know us and will listen to us more.”
According to Babita, the team of young actors have also been sharing information from the play with their friends and family, further increasing the drama’s impact
Kamala Shrestha, a 47-year-old tailor from Sankhu, was one of many fascinated audience members.
“I really liked it, and I was so impressed with the young people’s performance, they only had a few days practice but they were great,” said Kamala. “There was a lot of information in the play and I think this will really help to spread information, I will definitely go and talk to my friends about it. Every village should have a play like this.”
In particular Kamala was struck by the play’s final scene in which a woman collecting water collapses in pain clutching her abdomen.
“Female reproductive health is a real issue in our community and people don’t like to talk about it, they won’t even discuss it with a doctor,” she said. “It was good to raise it in public to help break the taboo.”
Sagun Shrestha, coordinator of the Nepal Red Cross Society Earthquake Response operation in Kathmandu district, where Sankhu is situated, was delighted with how the play had been received.
“We wanted this street drama to involve the local community and highlight and support issues around Red Cross recovery activities, but it’s done more than that,” she said.
“This kind of participatory drama really brings the community itself into the play to address pressing concerns and issues.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing how the show develops as it visits more communities around the valley.”