Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival – Interview with Nichola Lado Part I

This post is an interview with Nichola Lado Franco (NL) conducted by Chris Milner (CM) for the South Sudan Theatre Organization.

It is like giving a voice to the voiceless. In South Sudan culture, in traditional life, there are things that you cannot say or question. Like woman beating or (as later in that play) early marriage. This is “the tradition” and “you have to understand”. Any time I want my daughter to get married I just say, come on let’s go.

These are things only other people can discuss, those we call our Uncles (not even our fathers). So when it comes to watching this on the stage it is like … ahhhh (release)… I have wanted to say this out but I didn’t know how to say it. So the audience get a huge release.. ahhh… so this is when the audience can laugh.

The good thing about the method of our Citizen’s Theatre – which is using forum theatre – is that it gives people voice to speak and join the dialogue. When the chance for the audience comes, the first people who were laughing are the first people with their hands up, because they really want to talk: “Yes, this is happening in our community and we need to see these things go out”.

Chris Milner: What happened at the Citizen’s Theatre Festival?
Nichola Llado Franco: Yesterday was the closing day of our Citizen Theatre Inter-School Festival, which I like to call the Carnival. We just had that carnival with music (Silver X, Emmanuel Kembe), dance (Orupaap) and some official speeches as well as the drama (best schools and SSTO).

From 1-3 September we had performances from 10 schools. Each school brought a drama about issues in their community (these included corruption, tribalism, early and forced marriage and alcoholism), and used the forum theatre techniques in which we had trained them to create a dialogue.

On September 4 we held the carnival and judges from the university awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd places for the schools and 7 other prizes for acting and jokers (jokers are those characters who bring the audience into dialogue with the play). The winners were the schools that have a very connected drama, in terms of the story, acting and performance.

CM: So I was there and there were thousands of people laughing their heads off. Sometimes they laughed at horrific scenes like the beating of the poor woman. But at the same time it felt very serious. Was it important or ‘just’ entertainment and why do South Sudanese laugh at misery?

NL: Yes, in some tragic scenes people can laugh. They are laughing because in some communities in South Sudan they believe in, for this example, woman beating.

Poor people all over the world, nobody hears to them. So in that scene, if I remember well, the lady was from a responsible family, but although she was saying she was hungry, she couldn’t find a way to get food. So in the end she tried to grab somebody’s bag. The rich lady just treated her harshly, and then asked some guys to beat her.

The rich lady just didn’t want to listen to her. So you have the poor people and you have the people with everything who just don’t listen. That rich lady did not even take the chance to listen.

It is like giving a voice to the voiceless. In South Sudan culture, in traditional life, there are things that you cannot say or question. Like woman beating or (as later in that play) early marriage. This is “the tradition” and “you have to understand”. Any time I want my daughter to get married I just say, come on let’s go.

These are things only other people can discuss, those we call our Uncles (not even our fathers). So when it comes to watching this on the stage it is like … ahhhh (release)… I have wanted to say this out but I didn’t know how to say it. So the audience get a huge release.. ahhh… so this is when the audience can laugh.

The good thing about the method of our Citizen’s Theatre – which is using forum theatre – is that it gives people voice to speak and join the dialogue. When the chance for the audience comes, the first people who were laughing are the first people with their hands up, because they really want to talk: “Yes, this is happening in our community and we need to see these things go out”.

CM: Yeah, that was amazing. Can you describe what happened when that play ended? When the audience was invited to comment and reenact the play from another perspective?

NL: The guy who ran to the stage didn’t have a question he just had some advice. He said that all the things in the play are really happening to our community but that nobody wants to talk about them. He said “So this is our chance, we as students” – because he was a student I remember now – “have brought this out for you our fathers and mothers to see. We don’t need this thing to happen in the future”. He then acted out empathy to the fallen lady. If I remember well…

CM: What would happen if this had happened in his community or in his own family?

NL: Even he cannot say anything. He cannot voice this out because he may face some problems.

Read part two of the interview above.

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