In the first application round of the Seeds for integration project the high school of Gdynia Bilingual High School No 3 in Poland was granted a small-scale grant. After months of hard work, the project team implemented a very successful one-week long workshop. Do you want to hear more about it? Here you go!

Thanks to OBESSU on 6-11 March 2017 we organised at our school a Forum Theatre workshop run by Jean Pierre Besnard – French film director and theatre pedagogue with over 20 years of experience.

During the workshop we learnt forum methods so that we can use them in our future activities - connected to problems the local community faces- by animating workshops and creating performances. Forum Theatre is different from the traditional theatre – each spectacle is played a few times while audience goes up the stage in order to replace the actors and investigate alternative scenarios.

The product of the week-long workshop was composed of three ‘études’, which were presented to an audience consisting of our high school friends and junior high school students. The students themselves identified and presented certain issues to other students – as such the performances were authentic, attractive and convincing for the public.

We tackled the subject of migration in Europe, using the fictive story of Ivan Iow from Romania. Ivan came to Poland and has found here a part-time job. However, on account of prejudice, he lost his job thereby his livelihood, as well as the room he had rented. In the next scenes we see as he - without success - looks for a new job. Eventually Ivan, helpless, ends up on the street, where the passersby ostentatiously ignore him until one of them arrogantly makes a remark: “you’d better look for a job rather than sit here like that all the time!”.

By giving a human face to the issue of Polish xenophobia, destroying the power of prejudice, injustice and social indifference, we wanted to provoke our spectators to actively intervene – on the stage as well as beyond – and to test along with our public – possible solutions. We showcased that a situation is not unmanageable if the victim senses our support and we together speak up for a right to decent life and equal treatment.

During the performance we juxtaposed Ivan’s story with two other ‘études’ about exclusion, this time in the context of a peer group and family. While putting on stage situations that specifically concern us and our audience (a junior high school student who suffers due to class marginalisation and struggles with bulimia; a teenager homosexual rejected by his father), we enabled our participants to identify themselves with the people who are in these difficult situations. This evoked genuine emotions in all of us, at the same time showing how exclusion works, and how human suffering can have dramatic consequences without help.

In the course of the performance we realised how effective the method of Forum Theatre is, how it evokes objection against oppression and allows analysing its causes and consequences.

The international dimension of the workshop gave a lot to us. We watched video recordings of Forum Theatre etudes from other countries, which allowed us to adopt different and wider perspectives.

An important part of our project is the creation of a webforum, an innovative Forum Theatre online, which will allow a stage dialogue on the internet. For example at the moment we are creating subtitles for an etude from Senegal, where one can see how a family forces the main character to emigrate. The young man opposes but his family, under the influence of fantasies and imaginary stories, sells everything they have so as to pay for the son’s journey to Europe. Our story of Ivan Iov is unfortunately quite probably the possible continuation of the Senegalese scenario. That is why Jean Pierre will show a recording of our spectacle in Tunisia and Senegal, where he will run workshops. In addition we plan a presentation of the recording in a Paris Galilee high school. French students will watch our spectacle, comment and then compare with the solutions proposed by the Polish audience. It is a beginning of an internet community, which publicises injustice and effectively fights with it.

Article written by Jakub Szut, Project leader