Whilst we sit here in Brum trying to predict the vagaries of the British summer, some of our colleagues are half-way around the world in Belem, Brazil, for IDEA 2010: the International Drama/Theatre and Education Association World Congress.
The IDEA Congress takes place every three years, and The Play House has been represented at all of them in recent years. Last time in Hong Kong we were successful in an Arts Council bid to mount a tour there and send the whole team out for the Congress itself.
This time representatives from 3 applied theatre companies – Deborah Hull, our Artistic & Educational Director, and Artistic Directors Andy Watson from Geese and Johnny O’Hanlon from HamFisted! – came together to participate.
Contact with the team has been a bit sporadic, but Johnny sent his impressions of Belem itself
What can be said of Belem – aside from the heat ‘cos it’s hot, damn hot…
Belem- once a rich city based on gold and rubber, but now a city of contrasts – beautiful buildings butt up against rotting cement shells of buildings – richer middle class shopping malls the like of which you get the world over next to run down markets -and all the while the amazon river flows its way to the sea…
The smells of the city are pungent and human – and indeed the local population are helpful and friendly – though the crime rate is extremely high – pickpockets and muggings at gunpoint have been reported by people attending this conference…
The team don’t seem to be particularly impressed with the organisation of the conference though, with Deborah reporting it was
poorly organised and [there was] a distinct lack of rigour to much of the conference content
…a view echoed by Johnny. So a bit of a mixed bag, a real shame given that Hong Kong proved a fantastic experience for the company. Then we reported…
IDEA provided a fantastic opportunity for the whole company to take the time to both share and celebrate the considerable achievements of the company as well as to be inspired to continue to develop our collective practice into several new and exciting areas.
Part of the benefit of this type of event is meeting new people, engaging with different companies, and becoming more aware of international developments. And as well as attending Deborah has also presented a paper
… things [have] been pretty full on during the conference… managed to have several interesting conversations/contacts and the paper went really well.
The contradictory nature of the event is summed up well by Andy…
Ilana, a Brazilian theatre practitioner currently working in London and working as an interpreter at the IDEA Conference, succinctly summed my experience of the 10 day congress – “Brazil is a country of massive contradictions.” This goes some way to explaining my astonishment at the final, closing celebratory dinner, in which the Bahia Military Police performed the most audacious and spectacular drumming and dance performance I have ever witnessed. Serving police officers singing and dancing a range of classic Portugese songs, African drumming, Afro Brazilian caporera demonstrations, and finally encouraging the whole audience to join them in an extended and energetic Carimbo dance. If this had been presented by professional theatre and dance practitioners it would have been spectacular. The fact that it was presented by serving police officers, and according to Ilana, officers serving in a police force which is notoriously corrupt and alledgedly brutal made the whole experience that much stranger.
It served as a good conclusion to a congress that has been incredibly contradictory: in equal parts frustrating and rewarding; confusing and inspiring.
A bit closer to home they’ll be legacy too, as The Play House, Geese and HamFisted! will continue to meet, forming a mini Applied Theatre network. Longer term we hope this will grow and extend networking opportunities provided by the mini-network to include other applied theatre companies based in the West Midlands.