Rose Thorn’s article was written as an essay for the Playback Theatre Leadership course held in Brazil in 2017. Illustrated by participants’ drawings and comments, the article describes in depth how this group of women and men with learning disabilities became involved in a long-term Playback Theatre project that eventually included performing. Rose is a dramatherapist and a Playback Theatre performer, conductor, and teacher in Wales.
“I played the jelly fish” – Reflections on Playback Theatre as a Method for Enhancing Group Cohesion with Adults with Learning Disabilities
by Rose Thorn
EWAN: I played the jelly fish.
For eighteen months I have been teaching Playback Theatre (PT) to a group of eleven adults with learning disabilities who all attend the Hijinx West Academy We meet on Friday mornings in a small town in south-west Wales. I have been passionate about raising the profile of PT here in Wales with my own company, The Golden Thread which I co-founded in 2012 with five other arts therapists. As a dramatherapist I am aware of the social and emotional benefits of using drama and theatre with people with learning disabilities, including the potential for developing and enhancing:
- Communication skills: actively listening to others, self-expression
- Body awareness: proprioception, body language
- Self-awareness: emotional intelligence, spontaneity and role development
- Social skills: group trust, relationships, acknowledging difference (Chesner: 1995 & Crimmens: 2006)
In this reflection I will focus specifically on how this group of adults with learning disabilities have engaged with Playback Theatre. PT is a form of improvised theatre where a member of the audience shares their personal story; a short ‘here and now’ moment or a longer story. The conductor acts as a conduit between the audience and the performers and when the teller shares, the conductor says ‘Let’s watch!’ Then the performers and musician use physical and vocal expressiveness to spontaneously capture the essence of the story. After the enactment the performers acknowledge the teller with a look, symbolically returning the story to the teller. The conductor invites the teller to respond by sharing a personal reflection (sometimes a correction) of the enactment before they return to their chair. Continue reading ““I played the jelly fish” – Reflections on Playback Theatre as a Method for Enhancing Group Cohesion with Adults with Learning Disabilities by Rose Thorn”