Narrating Faith, Love, Hope: Playback Performance

Through playback theatre, students can feel a connection between themselves as performers and the members of the audience.

Organised with the help of Dr Esther CHOW, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, “Narrating Faith, Love, Hope: Playback Performance Part II” proved a big hit when presented on 25 August 2016.

The programme brought together more than 30 community collaborators and 150 chronic illness survivors and their caretakers to enact eight of their stories on stage.

Guidance was provided by Ms Mercy LIU, an experienced playback theatre trainer and performer. She has been invited to train 13 students in the Bachelor of Social Sciences in Social Work (BSSSW) programme as a way of serving the community through this event.

Narrative playback theatre encourages members of the audience to tell their stories, with the performers then improvising a retelling on the stage.

“She really acted like me!” one audience member exclaimed in excitement on seeing “herself” portrayed in the play. Another spoke about spraining his ankle on a hiking trip and the support his friends had given. He was similarly delighted to see the whole story acted out on stage.

By allowing individuals to open up and share their emotions, this kind of theatre can facilitate communication and help to build acceptance and mutual respect among participants. During their training sessions, BSSSW students had the opportunity to learn theatrical techniques and improvise performances without a script. Four of them were selected to perform on stage with the professional actors.

“Playback theatre allows me to understand more about myself and others,” one of our BSSSW students, LAU Hoi-man, said. Others agreed that they had discovered different aspects of their personalities, while also sharpening their listening skills through the training. The general view was that they could feel a real connection between themselves as performers and the audience as storytellers. This emotional resonance also helped them appreciate the hardships some people deal with every day and to celebrate what life offers.

“We hope that when chronic illness survivors share their stories of hardship, our students’ improvisation serves as a gift to pay respect to their preferred identities that were embedded.” said Dr Chow.

The hope is that playback theatre also enabled members of the audience to affirm their values and beliefs, encouraging them to pass on their wisdom to others.