Behind the Label - Performances
Behind the Label is an Applied Theatre project run by TVO in partnership with The Wallich and Wales Millennium Centre. Started in 2016 it uses drama and performance to give marginalised people a voice, tell their story and offer a new perspective on a social issue and the reasons behind it. Our aim is always to create compelling performances that challenge the audience to look at different perspectives.
We take a trauma informed approach. The participants decide what they want to do and how they want to do it, moving at their own pace. People come because they want to, not because they have to, and slowly friendships are formed and alliances made. Ideas are shaped through games and carefully constructed exercises. Some sessions are heavy, some emotional but all of them are filled with humour and laughter.
This week Liam came in. He’s been living in a tent for 2 years. Everyone worried about him but he said he was safe. After the session last week he said he went into the Council (something he had previously been resisting, reluctant to ask for help and positive he wouldn’t get any) & they offered him a B&B until permanent accommodation could be found. He looked a different person and he shared his happiness with the group who have supported him throughout.
For us (TVO) leading the group this is what the experience of Behind the Label is all about. It is ultimately about a performance but so much of the quality of that performance is based on the relationships and trust built in the room. Participants who have no experience of theatre or drama all share life experiences, homelessness and the issues leading to their current situation. Often they reflect on their lives and why they have never spoken about what’s happened to them before. Some worry that going back to the past & talking about it will get them depressed but soon realise that the sharing and the exercises help them process the past and move forward in the present. Each week they return, and each week they share a little more.
Some have anxiety being in a group and meeting new people. They’ve hidden their feelings, not trusting that anyone would be interested in the real them. Each week they come up with a word for how they’re feeling when we start and when they leave. Often they’ll leave the session feeling ‘lighter’, ‘better’ or ‘inspired’.
This week they all left with a smile and words of support to Liam, one went home to work on the chorus of his rap, another with a promise to research an idea they’d had for the performance. Each week we’re recording something of the project and putting it on the Behind the Label Facebook page so that at any time they can follow they’re own process.
We got a text on Thursday from a past participant. She wanted the group to know that she was returning home to her family. She had finally gained access to her son and she wanted us all to know she felt her confidence to fight for access came from being involved in Behind the Label. She wanted the current group to know ‘I would never been able to do it if I never got the chance to be part of a wonderful organisation x please can you pass this on to everyone that’s mattered me xxx and good luck in your new show x’
Our Project - Confessions & My Story - Dawn Sheldon
Dawn was a TVO regular, fundraising, work-shopping projects and applying her considerable creative talents to our short films and performances.
Dawn was fearless – no memory or experience was too dark or uncomfortable to explore which she did in our CONFESSIONS workshops and performances with shocking and hilarious results.
The idea of CONFESSIONS is to create a monologue based on an event in your own life. Something uncomfortable, dramatic, awkward or difficult or just odd, that perhaps you can’t shake off. It all starts with one sentence.
Over the 3 day workshop we play games, tell stories, create scenes and build a dramatic story of nine minutes on this one sentence. Each monologue is co-created with feedback from the other participants in the workshop, and is by turns a laugh, emotional, annoying, difficult and unexpectedly therapeutic.
The performance is a unique experience. It’s very intimate with a maximum of 3 chairs to each performer. The audience experience up to 9 very personal stories and are left with their own thoughts and feelings about what they’ve just heard. It’s never written down. It’s a created piece learned through repetition.
Initially Dawn was dubious. Her treatment for breast cancer affected her memory and she worried that she would struggle to get through the piece. She loved performing though and was willing to give it a go. On the night she found the techniques worked and her story flowed effortlessly. The experience helped her get her confidence back.
She very kindly adapted one of her performances, which we’re delighted to share with you here. It’s a lovely memory of her.
1961 - 2016
CONFESSIONS is a TVO workshop.
- Ideal for exploring our own stories, the dark and the light.
- Creating monologues for actors
- Self confidence
Our Project - Behind the Label 2016
Behind the Label (BTL) is an Applied Theatre project created in partnership with the Wales Millennium Centre and The Wallich. The ground-breaking project worked with a group of people with two things in common – they had all experienced homelessness and suffered severe loss of self esteem.
Some were battling alcoholism and drug addiction, whilst others had suffered domestic and/or sexual abuse. Others had mental health issues, some had learning difficulties.
All had been 'labelled' in some form or another and felt that nobody saw or cared about who they truly were.
BTL’s goal was to empower them to tell their stories and show the person behind the label.
BTL offered two pathways.
In Pathway 1 participants completed an 18-week internship exploring what goes into the staging and presentation of theatre, from ushering to marketing, light design to set build.
In Pathway 2 participants learned about Applied Theatre and creating, devising and acting.
Both pathways culminated in a full scale production entitled 'Behind the Label', where participants explore their own stories.
"In a performance that is funny, entertaining, and simultaneously heart breaking, what stands out is the courage of all participants to take ownership of their stories and speak out on their terms."
My Story - Benson
In 1995, Benson's village was attacked by rebels who were slaughtering rival tribes and warring with the Congolese army. Separated from his parents and siblings, he risked his life to escape, finally arriving in Kyangwali refugee camp in 1997.
Everything he’d come through led him to aspire to a better future not just for himself but the refugee community around him.
He survived many bouts of malaria and near-starvation, and throughout he studied and achieved qualifications. He firmly believed that education was the route to freedom and a better future.
"It is is a tale of strength and endurance beyond what I believed possible; yet the strength and endurance were never mine. It is a story of faith and trust even when it seems all hope is gone; it is a story of love though it is not a love story."Benson Wereje
Benson talked often of the pain he felt on witnessing such great sadness in his life. He never speaks in a piteous or dramatic way. He has a look that to an outsider may seem blank but when you know him you see it is a look of knowing and understanding of pain beyond words, beyond all comprehension. It knows no words, no comforting expression. It is a sharing of a love that is so profound it brings a sorrowful aching to your heart. He tells me that this is learning to cry with no sound; learning to cry with no tears.’Jennifer Hartley, Director