Search for Meaning and the endeavour to create issue based theatre

The occasion

The Bournemouth and Poole Holocaust a Memorial Day Committee hosted it’s annual Commemoration at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday 31 January. The committee gave me an opportunity to stage a short devised performance piece through drama workshops with students from St.Peter’s School. Given the context of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, we were determined to put together something that would linger in the minds of the audience. We wanted to create a piece that would be a gentle reminder about what humanity should mean so we can learn the lessons of the murky past but look forward to a brighter future.

The inspiration

My chief inspiration for the performance was a 1972 lecture by Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl had given about man’s search for meaning. His speech has been a source of inspiration for me. I was keen to share Mr Frankl’s thoughts in his own words to bring alive its relevance to a modern context. The end result that you see is experiment with form and content of a traditional act of drama.

The experimentation

The stage set up can be seen as convergence of two different generations, two different periods, one taking inspiration from the other, and through movement both bringing alive the meaning of life.

Creating issue-based theatre with young people is a very rewarding process. The performance is a result of three, two hour rehearsals that took place throughout January. Working collaboratively with the group allowed the young people to be in control of the product they created. Supported by myself as facilitator with a holistic approach to the work we were making, offering not just drama skills, but linking this training to personal development, and group work. There is a strong sense of empowerment. The message that Viktor has for discovering the meaning of life is brought to life without use of any props, set or costume.

More than one visual narrative is at play, so a challenge to comprehend, but the richness in storytelling and the harmony in contrast that’s played out is very engaging. Having Viktor Frankl deliver his “Meaning of life” lecture from 40 years ago opens the door for several intriguing possibilities of time travel – a cohesive journey that tells a story of its own merit. The performance was met by receptive and supporting audience of 700 people.