Theatre against Domestic Violence

Grantee: League of Polish Women in Moldova

Project: To develop Playback Theatre as an instrument for the rehabilitation of victims of violence

Playback Theatre uses drama performances based on the experiences of audience members to help victims understand their circumstances and recover from their trauma. The aim of the project was to train a group of actors in the techniques and use them to reach out to victims of domestic violence especially in rural Moldova. Four performances in different locations were planned.

The actors had their training in Kyiv in December 2019. It was conducted by Elena Kalashnikova, who is a certified coach at the Playback Theatre in Ukraine. She had practical experience in implementing a similar project in 2018. The group learned new theatrical forms  specific to stories of trauma and had a lecture on special features of working in social groups and preparing thematic performances.

Saying goodbye to Ukrainian colleagues after a two-day emotional marathon of information, psychology, body movement, speech – a whole new type of theatre. Photo by Tamara Ababii.

Three performances were staged on the topic of preventing domestic violence, with some 70 people involved. The audience/story-tellers told of difficult and painful situations in their relationships and family life, and the actors gave back those emotions from different viewpoints. The empathy of the entire audience helped people deal with some flashbacks that bothered and disturbed them. Many in the audience cried because similar things were happening in their lives. After sharing this experience, we realised that we are all one. We created a space of intolerance to violence in the family and other relationships. Every member of the audience took away some of this power and the assurance that we can help and support each other. 

The project was not without problems, the main one being the unwillingness of our society to talk about domestic violence. Unfortunately, these traditions are still very strong in Moldava. So people were wary of our project. 

Moreover, Playback Theatre is a completely new type of performative art in Moldova. We had to persuade and convince people, telling them about the experience of other countries such as Ukraine.

We were afraid that audiences from rural areas of Moldova would not accept our performances, especially as we performed in Russian, and would be sceptical and passive. However, they enthusiastically told their own stories and followed the dramas with interest. Most of them wanted to put on similar performances in their own localities. And many would like to organise training for actors to create their own local Playback Theatres.

We also found that people were sometimes shy to tell stories about themselves and spoke only about “a friend”. Although one of the principles of Playback performances is listening only to personal stories, we ignored this rule because it was important for people to review their situation, although it was difficult for them to talk about their personal pain.

One great and unexpected result was the participation of the International Ukrainian Women’s Foundation in our project. They provided funding for psychological supervision of our group during performances.

Finale of New Year performance “2020 – Reloading”. Photo: Nicolai Orlov

We are proud that we were able to shift the audience’s viewpoint on domestic violence and its victims, especially among representatives of rural areas. Many said they would now intervene in cases of violence. They used to think it was a family matter. Before our performance, many people thought that family violence meant only beatings or injuries. In the preamble to our performances, we talked about the main types of domestic violence – financial, psychological, sexual, and physical. We also distributed printed materials published by organisations working to combat domestic violence. We hope that we will be able to continue working in this direction in rural areas of Moldova.

The grant funding was very important for the development of our theatre and our organisation and enabled us to feel our potential.

After three performances, COVID-19 intervened, rehearsals had to be suspended and the fourth performance looked impossible. The BEARR Trust sympathised and was very appreciative of what had already been achieved.


Tamara Ababii


League of Polish Women in Moldova

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