Theatre

Behind the Label is giving marginalised people a voice through theatre

The Theatre Versus Oppression project helps people who have experienced homelessness learn to cope through sharing their stories on stage

Behind The Label

Theatre is a powerful medium to boost confidence and self-expression, giving those people marginalised in society a voice.

Last week, we told you how Big Issue vendor Clive had used his newfound love of the stage to sharpen his selling skills and conquer his demons.

This week it will be the turn of Behind the Label – an applied Theatre project in Cardiff run by Theatre Versus Oppression in partnership with The Wallich and Wales Millennium Centre.

Kicking off in 2016, the programme is a training course for people who have experienced addiction, trauma, homelessness or mental health problems.

Participants are offered a new avenue to share their story in their own words while find a new perspective on the social issue behind their situation.

The culmination of the course is a performance, which takes place this Thursday at the Millennium Centre.

“We work on applied theatre so it is not about handing someone a role in the play, it is about encouraging people to find their voice,” said Behind the Label’s Suzanne Phillips. “They find the play within themselves and we find that in the process they can talk about things that have been wearing them down. They may never have spoken about before and may have led to substance abuse and other problems – this can have a big role in working on social isolation. Everyone who gets involved joins a group of people from a similar background and there is no judgement and that allows them to find new ways of coping that they may not have realised.”

Suzanne insists that she has already seen the impact that the programme has had in just two years.

We work on applied theatre so it is not about handing someone a role in the play, it is about encouraging people to find their voice

Participants have the opportunity to stay on and volunteer to help others with the programme while some have even reunited with their families through the project, according to Suzanne.

And the entire programme is designed to tie into Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, giving people the tools to work themselves out of the position they find themselves in and prevent them from falling backwards.

Big Issue founder John Bird revealed that he will be lobbying for the act to be repeated across the UK next year in a lecture last week.

“I think now it is really about a call to action for us. We are seeing more and more that what we do is tying in very closely with Wales’ Future Generations Act,” said Suzanne. “As part of that, I saw a survey that covered adverse childhood experiences showing that they are behind a lot of people finding themselves in these kind of situations and cuts to public services means that people are not getting the help they need.”

Behind the Label’s performance takes place at Wales Millennium Centre on December 13 and 14

Image: Behind The Label

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