VALEIRAS AndreaOnly living it we know… We Carried Your Secrets (Theatre of Witness)
by Andrea VALEIRAS for Northern Ireland Foundation
25 October 2010

A war brings many fatal consequences, and despite the political and material damage, the worst part is carried by people. It generates many emotions and so much pain and not everyone is able to express it. This leads them to pent up a lot of repressed feelings, only to cause more and more damage.

In addressing this, The Playhouse in Derry-Londonderry promotes an initiative called Theatre of Witness, aimed at the expression of all these locked-up emotions.

Theatre of Witness provides a space for those who have suffered or otherwise affected by the conflict in Northern Ireland to tell their personal stories — some for the very first time — to be heard, and to get rid of their fears and traumas gradually.

These sessions are conducted primarily in a group setting, as it is beneficial not only to tell their own stories, but to hear those of others, to understand that no one is alone. The hope is to reach an understanding, to accept the different versions of experiences, for all of them are people who have suffered in their own skins the horrors that broke families, friends and beliefs.

The conflict brought not only physical devastation of the land, but also broke hearts.

These meetings also serve another purpose — to promote the expression of performance

Through performance, the participants can experiment with the reconstruction of events, with those who have experienced the pain and destruction directly.

In this way, theatre becomes a form of expression that leads to greater involvement.

Also, these unexpected actors have to play out their roles to the outside world, in a way that opens channels understanding and empathy. By living through it on the stage, others get a real appreciation of what they felt in their own situations.

Only in this way can we realise a true respect towards a common future of hope.

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