Tag Archives: Budapest

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A threshold moment.

After a feisty 2 weeks in Budapest last November Reboot the Roots were invited back to explore Augusto Boal’s transformative techniques with The Alternative Workshop Series Budapest. Last week, late February 2016, George Wielgus and myself facilitated the group for 3 days focusing on Rainbow of Desire.

This was the first time I had co-facilitated with Reboot the Roots and even though George and I had had detailed conversations about the form and content, I arrived on the first day nervous and expectant. What I found was a keen, smiling, (and late) group of social workers, teachers, people working with refugees, in human rights NGOs and drama students.

My role was to facilitate the mornings, preparing the group physically, emotionally and mentally for the afternoons and cultivating a culture of care within the space. Not everyone knew each other or the techniques, and I had concerns that newcomers might be overwhelmed. However the group bonded with ease and we reached a better-than-planned threshold moment by day three.

In the mornings we played trust games in pairs and in groups. We tried out how it feels to make physical connections, to touch and be touched, lift and be lifted. We played many power games some I’d devised to work alongside Rainbow of Desire, so I’m looking forward to trying them again when I facilitate with George in May.

In the afternoons George lead us through Rainbow of Desire including Analytical Mirror and Cop in the Head, all forms of Theatre of the Oppressed that focus on oppressions we experience from within. Augusto Boal, developed these technique in response to his time in Europe when he found the oppressions many people faced were internal more than external (different, he writes, to in the South American cultures with which he originally designed Forum Theatre.)

To give a surface overview George would ask a protagonist to perform an unfulfilled desire in front of the group. Then following a specific structure and involving other participants, the situation was explored from many angles. By the end the whole group is acting / (spect)acting resulting often in the protagonist reimagining their situation.

George is great at holding everyone’s attention, keeping sight of the structure while allowing spontaneity space to play. This for me was where the magic began. When the protagonists, antagonists and spectactors were moved to get involved, when without instruction people intuitively knew what to do, how they wanted to move, speak and relate to others in the space. In these moments there was a tangible sense of flow.

Sometimes however I felt the lines were not so clear. For example deciding when to step in and when to step out of commanding the space, balancing the linear versus nonlinear aspect of the technique, knowing where duty of care ends and self responsibility begins, and when the structure of the technique can be adapted and when its order needs to be kept… All this perhaps comes down to being present listening and intuitive. I’ve become interested in tracking what shifts the energy or mood. Noticing what actions and comments instigate change or reveal another layer of understanding and learning how we can use this to change the dynamics of a situation.
The threshold moment came on Sunday as a result of some well structured pedagogy and a fantastically open group. In the morning we went quite deep into personal boundaries by practicing saying no / stop to physical touch before it became too much. In the feedback people expressed appreciation for the clarity this gave them in how they asserted their boundaries in real life settings. People reflected on how hard it was to say stop because they didn’t want to be seen as weak, others were surprised by how much weight and pressure their partner enjoyed. There was a conversation about how the memory of this simple exercise would be helpful in real life in moments of physical, mental or emotional abuse of power. This series of exercises can be very triggering so it was beautiful to see a sense of respect and quiet collective appreciation. This vulnerable and honest state made the perfect foundation for an afternoon of the intense but palpably transformative Cop in the Head technique. What a workshop!!!!

And so to the future… After telling participants about my work with Eroles Project a learning centre in Spain, which this year explores the theme of Borders, many are keen on participating in the programme. What’s more two of the participants happened to work with Utilapu a Hungarian organisation working with refugees and migrants in Budapest and we are now in conversations about forming a partnership.

As I travel back to Madrid exhausted and enlivened, I am in the midst of designing a training using techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed. I’d like to zoom into boundaries and personal experiences of power to explore the universal imbalance of power. I am hoping to offer this to women’s groups and organisations in Madrid working with refugees. My experience in Budapest with Reboot the Roots has given me the confidence to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. There is no reason for my life to be controlled by the Cops in my Head.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow

George, the Creative Director of RtR, was in Budapest for three days delivering an intensive course about Rainbow of Desire …

The Budapest crew!

Expect to cry. I now understand the emotional release of tears during a workshop is a sign that things are going well. It sounds bizarre, borderline perverse, but I now suspect if I ran a course in Rainbow and someone didn’t cry, I must be doing something wrong.

From Friday we used the Analytical Mirror to explore moments of indecision (which job to take, whether to move to another country with a partner), to Saturday when we applied the Rainbow itself to discussing a moment of rejection by a former lover, to Sunday’s exploration of ending a relationship that has become addictive, but toxic, through the Cop In The Head. Each time, despite moments of levity and joy, a palpable atmosphere descended upon the group, one of intense listening and focus as the protagonist battled with concrete versions of their doubts, fears, desires, talking them around into transformation.

My heart was in my throat throughout each presentation, as the responsibility of bringing people into some highly emotive states rested squarely on my shoulders, but I am relieved and joyful to report that, as ever, people emerged from the experience reporting release and relief, and often, a little better understanding of themselves.

Collaborating with Ruth Cross also provided a great foundation to the emotional work involved in the afternoons. Ruth facilitated some incredible sessions involving massage and power, and I look forward to working with her again in Ecodharma in May.

Equally, organiser Andras was amazing, managing with the help of his team to clean out and prepare a semi-derelict cafe space for us to use the basement of- replete with carpet tiles, heaters and lights!

I was thrilled to see so many of the people we worked with in November return, and hope to see them all again very soon to continue our journey. There are plans for subseqent workshops in Budapest, plus I have invited them all to join me in Cluj next month for a week of forum theatre training, and aswell there is Tu Fuokan festival coming up in June. It’s shaping up to be quite a year!

 

“True power lies within finding compassion … “

“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.