Peacebuilding and the Arts

Playback Theatre: A Creative Resource for Reconciliation

By Jenny Hutt and Bev Hosking

Playback Theatre is a form of non-scripted theatre in which ensembles of actors and musicians, usually non-professionals, create improvised re-enactments of stories told by members of their audiences. Bev Hosking is one of the most experienced practitioners and teachers of this form. Jenny Hutt is an experienced playback theatre practitioner, psychodrama leader, and diversity trainer. In this paper, Jenny and Bev document and analyze Bev's work, focusing on the ways in which playback theatre both enhances capacities required for reconciliation and contributes directly to conciliatory processes. The paper draws on Bev's experiences working with women running a counseling project for children in the aftermath of violence in Fiji; 'dalits' (sometimes referred to as 'untouchable' people) and bonded laborers in India; and people in refugee camps in Angola. This paper illuminates some of the ways in which the qualities of aesthetic engagement can support the work of reconciliation. The paper emphasizes the importance to reconciliation work of creating social dialogue among people who have been alienated from one another, and it illustrates how playback theatre creates social dialogue by encouraging people to tell and listen to each other's stories. Through the structured, playful, non-judgmental space of a playback theatre performance, stories can be heard, held, juxtaposed, and transformed.

Playback Theatre: A Creative Resource for Reconciliation (pdf) (This PDF may be requested by completing the online publication request form.)

About the Fellows

Beverley Hosking and Jenny Hutt explore the use of Playback Theatre ( PBT - a form of improvisational theater performed in 25 countries around the world) "to create the space for deep community dialogue involving the telling and receiving of difficult-to-tell and cannot-be-told stories."

Bev HoskingBev is an international PBT trainer, based in New Zealand, working also with social activists in India and in Fiji and with a group of indigenous and Indian Fijians who are actively working toward reconciliation.

Jenny, who has also performed and conducted in two PBT companies, took the role of documentor in this team. She is a workplace educator, diversity trainer, writer and editor in Australia, where she now lives. Their documentation focused on the Playback Theatre School in New Zealand, where Bev and her Maori counterpart find that "the combination of theatre, the tellingJenny Huttof personal story and the ritual of the PBT form, together with the strength of traditional 'tikanga Maori' can create a powerful framework within which a strong and deep exploration of differences can occur." Their paper includes descriptions of training projects and work in Angola, Fiji, and India.