“True power lies within finding compassion”
Ruth Cross of Cross Collaborations and the Eroles Project joins us in our return to Budapest to deliver a course in Rainbow of Desire.
It’s 10pm on Wednesday night and I’m in the basement of an old club in the heart of Budapest. It’s covered in a thick layer of dust & colourful graffiti and now used for underground parties and workshops. Thanks to the connections of Andras the workshop coordinator here in Hungary, we’ll be using this space for the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. We’ are moving piles of wood and strange 80’s club furniture, finding lighting, sweeping, mopping… Andras finds some speakers and Ludovico Einaudi‘s soaring melodies giving our mopping a performative rhythm.
I arrived in Budapest yesterday morning, it’s my first time here, and my first time facilitating with Reboot the Roots. Walking round the city at dusk the streets are calm and empty in a way particular to February’s, even in capital cities. The people I’ve met are friendly, couples holding hands and laughing, groups of tourists taking photos of each other in the rain, market stalls vibrant. The architecture is strong, and much more beautiful than I had imagined, the bridges over the river light up the night and give a magical feeling to the divide between Buda and Pest – the two towns that once upon a time joined to make Budapest.
As we work I think of the conversations we’ve been having today about the migrant crisis, oppression, xenophobia, sexual abuse, some of the improvisation themes that I’m told have surfaced in workshops with this group before. I think of the research I have been doing about the lives of women and children refugees as they try to cross borders. I think about the fact that these thing are happening now. I feel the uncomfortableness that thinking about these oppressor/oppressed situations is creating in my body.
I wonder what we will share together in this space during the workshop. What topics will surface as we dive into Boal’s techniques of ‘Rainbow of Desire’, ‘Analytical Mirror’ & ‘Cop in the Head’. I’m aware of the power and depth that these processes hold. I meet an edge within myself of not wanting to experience the pain of other people’s suffering. I breathe and try to stay open to the sensation, not turn away or become numb. This practice of mindfulness sustains my engagement through my waves of nervousness, self doubt, rage.
I reflect that for me true power lies within finding compassion. Feeling the suffering of another (whether the oppressed or oppressor), whilst staying centred, present and grounded in myself. Not reaching in to catch nor running away.
This weekend I hope that we will touch on some real topics of concern for people in the group, and that the techniques we use in the afternoons not only help to reimagine their own situation, but to give people the confidence to take this methodology into the social work they do in Budapest. I hope that trainings like this help changemakers, theatre makers, activists better understand the complexity through which social transformation happens, arming ourselves with the tools and compassion that can forge the radical changes we see are needed in the world. I have come back to working with theatre after many years because I have experienced the potential of methods like Boal’s in creating the right conditions for the dance to begin between transforming oneself and the transformation of society.
Four hours and a considerable amount of dust later, the space is transformed. Still needing a second mop, but pretty much ready for the workshop. As am I.