Reporter 397, 17 February 1997

Theatre gives villagers a new voice

During Africa's longest war this century, when Eritrea was effectively cut off from the outside world for 30 years, theatre was seen as a propaganda tool of the elite. A University drama expert has secured a further £10,000 to help change this belief.

Following independence from oppressive Ethiopian colonisation in 1991 the Eritrean Head of Arts was intent on re-establishing a national culture. Through a chance meeting with a mutual Ethiopian friend, Dr Jane Plastow, of Workshop Studies, was invited to help to develop indigenous theatre.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the British Academy, the University of Leeds and the British Council, a group of British theatre workers, led by Dr Plastow, flew out in the summer of 1995 to run a three-month intensive theatre training programme with 57 Eritrean trainees.

Together, the group devised issue-based theatre - covering AIDS, education and land redistribution - which could speak to all Eritreans, particularly the rural communities. The work will now be further developed through the new grant awarded to Dr Plastow. WWW

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