News Archive

Stories of Light and Shadow – A Report on the 6th UK Playback Theatre Gathering by Duncan Marwick.

A band of many of separate strings come together in the Fens (in the land of Oliver Cromwell). As we work through the first day’s activities I am feeling my way tentatively towards a tuning of a collective instrument. Some of us know the gig here but others, like I do not. Working together with games allows us to begin to let our guard down but we are not all here.

Sharing our ancestors in our first evening ritual with the full group, though epic in length, lets us start the process of opening up in a supportive atmosphere. For us to explore Playback together we need to nurture this and the receiving of stories, memories and pasts; seeing where we will all link is a beautiful way to access this. There were many links, similarities, feelings, experiences… and burgeoning togetherness? To bed tired but curious about what tomorrow will bring. Who are these people? What will each of us offer the weekend? Where will we take those offers? In the morning, refreshed and rested (I nearly slept through breakfast) there is a greater sense of togetherness. Whether this is due to the ceremony or not is unclear, but for me it has helped. I feel more connected. The playing of games is now easier and less strained. A morning of workshops will help tease this out.

So many workshops shared and a real sense that we wanted more, but that must be for the next Gathering. All these concepts and ideas that were presented for us to experience allowed us to collaborate and create a space to play. Dispelling myths about the role of the musician in Playback, exploring how we all listen in many ways, varied ways of playing, basic skills, conducting, artistic expression and more performative explorations in mime show how fluid Playback can be.

In our company (Threadbear) we work to the mantra of supporting each other and play. So it is with the Gathering here. Sometimes there are leaders and sometimes followers, with these roles shifting frequently. Just as we collaborated in these sessions; sharing exercises and

ideas so everyone in Playback collaborates to create an overall performance. Without each element leading and following there would be no performance, or sharing. And that is what we did: perform, share, support and play.

Just in our small Gathering it is clear the world of Playback is wide and varied. Different opinions and viewpoints; we all bring our own personal experiences to the table and to meet and share with so many Playbackers is an enriching experience. There is a real sense of wanting to take Playback in the UK forward and making lasting connections around the country and beyond. This art form should be more noticed and widespread. Our collective task for now must be to spread the word and the beauty to others.


European Playback Festival 2012 – Elemental Journeys  – 30 August-2 September 2012.

The European Playback Theatre Festival organised by Mirror Mirror Playback Theatre and Playback Community Theatre South West, was held on the beautiful and historic Dartington Hall Estate, South Devon. The festival brought together people interested in Playback Theatre from across Europe and beyond. We celebrated and explored how the simple act of coming together, sharing and re-enacting stories through the ritual of Playback Theatre can inspire change, build community and promote social justice. The conference theme of Elemental Journeys helped us to remember that we are, every one of us, a force of nature. Our stories, shared, helped to create the landscape for the wild and unknown within the ritual of the Playback Theatre performances to emerge.


The Freedom Bus In Palestine.

A recent Leadership in PT graduate, Ben Rivers, has been working in occupied Palestine with the Freedom Theatre. During the past year and most recently with international visitors in September, performances of Playback Theatre has been offered to the many villages and towns there, many times outdoors under the trees where the villagers would gather. Here is a report from him about the experience of someone who told his story in one of these performances….

“Over the last week I’ve been interviewing people who shared their stories during the September Freedom Bus Ride. Below are some excerpts from an interview with Sa’ed Abu-Hijleh from Nablus. His reflections are important for us to hear. He talks about violence and oppression; the healing potential of Playback Theatre, and about it’s role in the struggle for justice.

Let me start with a section of the Freedom Bus blog that recounts his story:

A man called Sa’ed came forward and told a story about one of the most memorable days of his life. It was 27 April 1982, and four Palestinians had recently been killed. Sa’ed was a fifteen-year-old student at the time, and he joined the street protests […] At the protest Sa’ed was shot at close range by an Israeli soldier. He was shot three times: one bullet in his left leg, one in his abdomen, and one in his left shoulder, just a few centimeters above the heart.

The pain made him feel as though his stomach was falling out. He ran until he found a car to take him to hospital. In the car he was sure that he was going to die and he said the traditional words of the dying: “There is no God but God, and his prophet is Mohammed.” But he did not want to die, because he wanted revenge. His revenge, he said, was the fact that he was alive, and able to share his story today.

[…] It is important that people share their stories and people share their wounds. Because when somebody is wounded, and when somebody is hurt, and somebody is oppressed, it’s very, very important that their pain is recognized and that it’s recognized in a healthy way. Not recognized in an official way, but in a human way. When people listen to you and recognize your pain – this helps mitigate the pain and also contributes to the healing process.

[…] Others need to know the truth […] You’re telling a wider audience that unjust situations do not happen to nameless people. They actually happen to human beings with names and lives and emotions and people with flesh and blood. They’re not just a number, or a story in a newscast or on a website […] So I think Playback Theatre is a very, very […] interesting medium to project past events onto an audience that has not lived these events, but in a very – I don’t want to say artistic, because you know it is artistic, it is art but it’s art that is close to the heart […] It’s more direct you know.

[…] The audience that comes […] can see the reality of the situation before, and of course, this will contribute towards understanding the injustice […] and this is also contributing to lifting the injustice. How can you end injustice if you don’t understand what injustice does? Or how can you end injustice if you don’t feel what injustice does?

[…] It’s a very, very intense, horrific thing that happened to me. I was shot when I was fifteen. I almost died […] I suffered for years after of nightmares – of flashbacks of that incident. But it took me years to learn to deal with – first with the physical wounds, because it took me months to heal – then the psychological wounds and scars.

[…] The actors did an unbelievable job. If you had actors who did not capture the essence of that wound, it would have been an insult […] If the wound is not recognized, it’s as if they are wounding you again. So it’s like it becomes a chronic wound. And if its not recognized it can turn into what I call maybe “spiritual gangrene”. You know, because what happens then – you start hating your wound.

[…] They… I tell you what … salute! I salute them! I salute them! They put their hearts, their minds, their being into it. I tell you, these people are good … They have good hearts. They’re … I don’t want to say professional, but they are … Look, you cannot be a good actor if you are not a good human being. These people are good human beings and that’s why they were able to feel, to touch the … you know, they were able to capture … and then they were able to transmit. They put their hearts into it. And they were very physical, they put in effort. And I, I respect them for not degrading or minimizing my experience. So that’s why I was moved. That’s a big part. And of course then you have the other people listening […] It’s intense … Its really intense.

[…] This was the first time in my life I saw somebody trying to re-act my story. It really touched me, it touched me – I almost cried. I mean my eyes started watering. I thought “Wow!”. To not only listen to the person, but to try to re-act, or act in a very dramatic way what happened to the person, is something immense I think […] So they re-acted this scene in a very intense way, and then […] gave it a more universal meaning. Not only an individual meaning, because wounds – they are individual, but they also reflect on humanity you know. Because when somebody gets oppressed it tells about all of us. Who we are, and what we should be, and how we should deal with each other.”

For more information please visit the Freedom Bus Website.


News of Playback Theatre in Japan – Playback AZ.

Kayo Munakato of Playback AZ asked for financial support from playbackers attending the International Conference in Frankfurt in November 2011 to enable more playback theatre work to be made available for the survivors of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami. Here is a youtube link to part of a performance conducted by Jonathan Fox and performed by Playback AZ which tells the Fukushima story from one survivor.

Click Here to Watch

Words from Kayo after the Frankfurt conference: “It was very touching many of you showed your warm feeling to us. The total amount of your donation was more than €1700. In 2012 we will be busy offering playback theatre in Fukushima . We wish you all a happy new year with your family, friends and all you love.

With deep appreciation, Kayo Munakata, Playback AZ”

For more information please visit the AZ Playback Website.

You can also send them an email at Anyone wishing to make additional donations to them please email Kayo directly. It would be greatly appreciated and well used.


Jonathan Fox on a playback Story after Katrina in New Orleans.

Recorded at a Press Conference at the Haus am Dom, Frankfurt on 11.11.11 – Click Here to Listen

“In New Orleans, after that terrible hurricane Katrina, we went there to do performances because actually after a natural disaster people need food, they need medical attention, but almost equally they need a chance to tell what happened to them. And this teller said she was a policewoman and during the worst days of the hurricane she was ordered by her Chief to refuse help to anyone who came to the police station. And a woman came with a baby and said, “We have no place to sleep”. And the policewoman was forced to send her away. And in her story, in her playback story, she said the next day she quit the police. And that was the story.”


2011 International PT – Hosted in Frankfurt – Nov 23-27.

There were representatives of the Playback world from over 30 countries with 23 languages between us. The conference organisers were exemplary in how they managed to create such a fruitful experience for 400+ people and still engender a good sense of intimacy and community amongst us all.

Here is a message from the Organisers to everyone and here are comments on the guest book.

And a note from the organisers of the Festival of PT in Assisi, Italy which took place in the week following the International PT Conference in Frankfurt…


At such a time as this in our world today, we believe in Playback Theatre as a significant tool for addressing concerns as crucial as the destiny of humanity and our planet.

Assisi – a medieval city & centre of Italian art, and also birthplace of St. Francis, the bearer of values such as humility, brotherhood and poverty – has been the ideal stage in which an audience has met to share on the theme of the Common Good in a cosmopolitan spirit through the simple, sober & sincere style that distinguishes Playback Theatre.

A community of 120 people came together for four intense and inspiring days. We had conductors and participants from 20 different countries. Concepts like otherness, creativity and globality stimulated our process in workshops & our reflections on humanity’s future. We explored applications of playback theatre in this critical work of generating energy, commitment and new vision in caretaking our planet; and we had the opportunity to share experiences, thoughts and emotions in a climax of acceptance and trust.

Each morning’s plenary included an experience of sociodrama with Gaia and Mars in an encounter. The masculine energy at war and the holding, receptive feminine were two of many archetypes that we could have chosen. But these we chose as prevailing attitudes of behaviour towards our earth’s natural resources. Perhaps resonance of this work came through the red thread of stories during our final evening’s performance. There were conversations through the stories shared about the Father: the absent ageing father, the nurturing father, and the good father/teacher. In as much as the angry feminine Kali archetype can be experienced through earthquakes & volcanic eruptions, it seems there is a call for the responsible, caretaking masculine energy within us all to redress our relationship with our planet Earth.

We speak to each other so deeply through our stories. Lets keep learning how to listen and create opportunities for our collective wisdom to emerge into the world for our common good.


Report on the UK Playback Theatre Gathering 2010.

Download Here.


Playback Theatre in Kabul.

Click this link for information on a piece of theatre currently touring New York City, which has been developed from Playback Theatre work in Afghanistan in the field of transitional justice.


Sign Language & Playback Theatre in Taiwan. 

These are video clips of Taipei’s Kao Yu-Chen’s Playback group ‘KNOWING THEATRE’ which was taken by their public news media.

1 Sept 2010 Click Here.

15 Sept 2011 Click Here.


Playback in Sri Lanka.

Brian Tasker has been visiting Sri Lanka to work with a group of young people who live on tea plantations and offer some Playback Training, the photo is from his last visit in September 2011.


You can read about the work in Sri Lanka on Brian’s website here.


PlaybackTheatre in Response to the Typhoon & Flood Disaster in Taiwan.

Dear Mesdames and Sirs,

Following the 2009 joint performances of the global playback events, the Playback Theatre community in Taiwan has completed the joint performances this year for helpers servicing in the disaster areas of the 88 floods. We also held two empowerment workshops for the local community in the disaster areas which was in Pingtung for women volunteers in community and in Taitung for youths and children in the permanent houses for the survivors.

Trying to use Playback Theatre as a methodology for spiritual recovery and serving helpers after the disaster, we invited Pamela Freeman to Taiwan to share her experience working on trauma and local organization. Afterward, there were 15 performances for the helpers serving in the disaster areas acting by 7 playback groups and 2 united teams. The performances included a special performance for those who serving Playback in the disaster areas. The first phase of this project was supported by the Renewal Foundation in Taiwan. By finishing the first phase of the project, we will soon share the experience and learning from the work of the past year to the international Playback Theatre community.

Sincerely yours, Yu-Chen Kao Jester Lee Jerry Chen


An Honorary Doctorate for Jonathan Fox at Kassel University, Germany April 30 2008.

A Message from the Centre for Playback Theatre faculty, Board of Directors, and staff Dear Colleagues, Jonathan Fox, the founder of the Centre for Playback Theatre and the founder of Playback Theatre itself, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Kassel, Germany. The doctorate recognizes Jonathan for “artistic and scholarly achievement in theatre.”

The Education and Humanities faculty, representing education, philosophy, theology, psychoanalytic psychology, and music, were unanimous in this decision. The University of Kassel has awarded only four honorary doctorates in its history: this is the first to an American, and the first that honors a recipient for both scholarly and artistic achievement. At the end of April there will be an award ceremony and a one-day academic conference at the University.

It is a wonderful and well-merited recognition, not just of Jonathan and his more than thirty years of extraordinary work, but also of Playback Theatre itself. We can be proud of him and of ourselves too.


Playback Theatre NYC in London.

Four members of Playback Theatre NYC came to London in April to participate in the International WorldWork Conference hosted here.


Baba, Dawn, Paul & Yako were joined by Karin Gisler of Zurich PT, Rose Thorn & Valerie Mower from Bristol’s Breathing Fire PT, to perform on the Saturday night – 26/04/08.

Earlier that week PT NYC ran a workshop for young people in RBK&C, at the Lancaster Youth Centre, Natasha Frost from Bristol PT, Veronica Needa, Eddie Yu and Elizabeth Wicklen from True Heart Theatre joined this high energy event.


In honour of Francis Batten.

Some words in honour of Francis Batten, Playback elder and master teacher, who died on January 17th, 2006, in Auckland, New Zealand……

The Playback community here in the UK will sorely miss the warm powerful presence of Francis Batten in our midst. We were so lucky to have him here in the northern hemisphere over the last decade – impacting on so many of us as inspired teacher, and wise gentle man above all else. All of us who knew him in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, north and south – we all have so many stories to tell of how he lit our lives with playfulness, and possibility. In North America too, he left deep imprints at the School of Playback Theatre and also with many playback companies who invited him across the Atlantic to work with them directly. He worked his magic with many playback folk in Europe too.

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