Favela

You may have seen me in the Chronicle last week grinning wildly as I accepted a cheque for five hundred pounds from the Song for Bath. That project was an enormous boost for the city’s budding songsmiths. My project gives encouragement to potential performers, or at least helps to focus the imaginations of hitherto unengaged youth.

I say my project, but the Natural Theatre’s youth wing is run by a highly competent team far more experienced than me in that sort of thing. Having masterminded the funding for, and building of, our new youth theatre studio, to quote Zorro (and the Lone Ranger) ‘My work here is done’.

Our studio is very smart indeed. We once visited a very different youth theatre project in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. It was basically a stuffy concrete shell under a large half-built residential block. There were virtually no facilities. Indeed, because the work done there was regarded as overtly political, the city had cut their funding. This didn’t stop the participating young people being as enthusiastic, if not more so, as our equivalent ones in Bath

I gave a talk about our street theatre adventures around the world. The kids listened with rapt attention. It was odd getting huge laughs after the delay of translation! They laughed even more when some of our actors appeared in their Conehead masks. But then we always knew our work was universal.

Knowing the Brazilian project was a hot bed of protest I tried to make our work sound anarchic and cutting-edge (which it is sometimes) rather than just a laugh (which more often it is). We got a standing ovation, so I presumed we’d struck a chord with the street kids.

Then it was their turn. We settled down to watch what we thought would be some hard-hitting agit-prop drama performed by youths who had been hardened criminals by the age of ten. Instead, they treated us to a beautifully costumed playlet about two ladies who turned up at Ascot races in identical hats! It was absolutely delightful, and a complete surprise.

Then one of the smaller kids went out and stole a bottle of beer which we shared between us.

Altogether, a perfect night at the theatre.

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