Thursday 6 July 2017 at the Alrowwad Centre, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem

by ray goodlass

A good day today, with 12 students. and most of them more or less on time. For the first time I think we could really make a decent piece of theatre, though not on the scale or complexity I dreamt of back home in Australia before I travelled here.

I began with warm up activities, largely for group cohesion and social health and as a forerunner for improvisation rather than actors’ physical and vocal work, though I did include some purely physical stuff.

It was difficult for them at first, as clearly they weren’t at all used to this sort of work, even though one of the Centre’s theatre tutors/directors was present. He served as my interpreter, and I’m grateful for that, because only a few of the twelve had a reasonable grasp of English, some had a smattering, and some none at all.

However, the main issue wasn’t language, but rather the students’ complete unfamiliarity with working this way. Even getting them to take their shoes off was a huge effort, though we got there.

Similarly with the warm up games. Once they had got over their embarrassment and they understood the rules of each game they were fine, in fact they really got into it. So we ended up having a ball. A good lesson well learnt (by me that is – to take it very slowly and understand how difficult it must be for students who are used to rote learning.

The irony is of course that I knew all that (intellectually at least). I’m probably just guily of impatience, of wanting too much too soon,though I don’t think it showed.

Probably for the same reason the notion of them interviewing residents of the camp during their day off yesterday didn’t work at all. I think most of them just felt diffident about the whole process and so rather than push it I decided that we would use their stories and do the interviewing in class, together. I think that will help to bond them as a group, create a sense of cohesion, and a feeling of it being ‘our play’.

We certainly finished on a high.

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