MPTC – Healthy Relationships in Wagga Wagga
“So we’ve just heard a story from your teacher about, probably, a pretty hard relationship. What are you thinking about now?”
A girl in the front row, black hoodie, and hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, is the first to speak after a short silence.
“It made me sad,” she says. “I felt bad for her; like, she’s such a nice person.”
Alex, who is conducting the show, holds space for this girl’s response, and then makes a suggestion: “Yeah, it is sad. But that feeling you’re feeling about your teacher’s story: that’s empathy.”
At the beginning of May, the MPTC ensemble headed to Wagga Wagga to perform a series of shows in schools. The performance, Healthy Relationships, is the result of a partnership with the Wagga Wagga Women’s Health Centre (WWHC) and part of a larger project called DV2650 which aims to create spaces for discussion about relationships that can prevent domestic and family violence. This has resulted in our ensemble performing in over seventeen different schools across the Riverina since March of 2022.
Playback Theatre has been an exciting process for getting students discussing healthy relationships. As we continually find out when we ask students “what does a healthy relationship feel like?” they already know the answers: respect, trust, love, feeling nice, equal power, communication, not toxic, not fighting, to name a few of the responses we heard when in Wagga Wagga at the beginning of May. But it is the sharing of stories from students witnessed by their classmates, stories turned immediately into theatre, that we see generating newfound empathy in students for each other and, as in the anecdote above, sometimes their teachers.
The shows are gentle. We discuss all kinds of relationships: romantic, familial, peers, teacher-student, relationships with work mates. And we invite students to share stories of people who at one time or another have turned up and supported them, for stories of bravery they either experienced or witnessed in a relationship, and reflections on times when relationships go wrong.
From Co-Artistic Director – Josiah Lulham.
Healthy Relationships, a performance tour in Wagga Wagga.
From Company member – Paolo Bartolomei