Up early with the 6am call from the mosque on Wednesday morning. A quick coffee before the minibus bringing the St Mary's students rolled up at the Tfac house at seven.
Claire, who has been helping the students acclimatise ran the first hour. A light start to the day introducing some fun improvisations and some initial observations of how things had been going. We worked in the newly built summer house built from and with local resources and labour at a high point in the grounds of the house. It's a perfect circle performance and workshop space, shaded with a thatched roof, ideal for Tfac's small group interactions.
Two further facilitators Sarah and Evans arrived to introduce us to Tfac's most recent initiative the radio play Tisinthe! - which means lets change in Chichewa. The play has been devised by seven newly qualified teachers and focuses on the story of Mary, a 14 year old schoolgirl, who is sexually abused by her teacher. The BBC came to Lilongwe last Autumn to teach Tfac how to record and produce the work. The story is episodic in structure and has been created in four half hour sections which are being broadcast over a period of weeks by Zodiak Radio, a national broadcaster that's been estimating that nearly 4 million Malawians have tuned in. Radio is still the dominant media in Malawi.
The key element of the work has been it's interactive/ forum nature. Listening clubs have been created in schools and teacher training colleges all over the country and as soon as the episode has been broadcast the airways are handed over to them to propose alternative conversations or courses of action for Mary. In turn they improvise live on air with the actors giving a whole range of alternative ways of dealing with the teacher's inappropriate approaches. Sarah jokers the phone in from the studio. It's an inspiring addition to Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed arsenal.
In the afternoon we headed north to see some of Tfac's trainees facilitate workshops in a primary school. Fifty or so children gathered outside on the dry, mud caked playground and for an hour ran through a series of games, exercises and chants reinforcing their assertive right to say no to sex. The methods are direct and explicit, but within the class was plenty of room for laughter and curiosity. A brief meeting with the schools permenant staff all keen to understand the difference of approach to sex education in the UK before heading back to Lilongwe. A fascinating day. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.