Swedish youth theatre brings artistic tour de force to DFL festival stage

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Power, resistance and societal norms will be among the themes explored when Swedish national theatre Unga Klara takes to the stage at the 11th Drama for Life International Conference and Festival, kicking off in Johannesburg from 8th to 17th August.

My true selves. Photographer: Milja Rossi
My true selves. Photographer: Milja Rossi

In an artistic coup for Drama for Life’s full-time professional theatre company, the acclaimed Stockholm-based theatre is bringing four edgy plays for children and teenagers to this year’s festival, themed Transforming Arts | Transforming Lives: Creating a child-centred society.

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Founded in 1975, Unga Klara was appointed as Sweden’s national theatre for children and young people in January 2018. Unga Klara’s partnership with Drama for Life forms part of its first major national and world tour.

Unga Klara is known for its cutting-edge theatre work, tackling complex issues through an artistic process that involves constant dialogue with society and is firmly focused on children and their future.

Drama for Life is an academic department for applied arts, arts therapies and arts research based at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Arts. Its projects – of which the professional Drama for Life Theatre Company is one – use the arts to bring about social change and healing, and to transform lives for the better.

Girls will make you blush. Photographer: Märta Thisner
Girls will make you blush. Photographer: Märta Thisner

A fundamental pillar of Unga Klara’s work is its belief that children and young people have the right to theatre of the highest artistic quality, which is why the company approaches its work from a child’s perspective, not shying away from difficult or “uncomfortable” topics.

Because I Say So (primarily for three- to six-year-olds) is a 30-minute piece focusing on children being the group in society with the least amount of influence over their own lives, and questioning how this could change. Another work that can be seen at the DFL festival, My True Selves (primarily for children aged eight to 12), is an hour-long interactive classroom play around identity, interrogating the idea that people do not have only one core identity, but many. This is a collaboration between Unga Klara and the Drama for Life Theatre Company that will result in, no less than 7 versions of My True Selves performing at Wits Theatre, the Embassy of Sweden and schools in Gauteng. Girls Will Make You Blush (for 13-year-olds and older teens) is an energetic, fast-paced and funny combination of dance and theatre about menstruation, puberty and becoming a woman.

The longest production of the four is X, for teenagers aged 15 and up, which was produced in collaboration with the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. The two-hour documentary and fictional play explores how present-day Sweden is tied up with, and conditioned by, a colonial and racist history.

The productions were translated into English and isiZulu from Swedish with the theatre’s international tour audience in mind.

Unga Klara artistic leaders Gustav Deinoff and Farnaz Arbabi have expressed their delight as being able to take the company on a global tour to meet many of the children and young people who form part of its larger audience. “No theatre exists without its audience”, says Arbabi

DFL Conference - Creating A Child-Centred SocietyTaking place at the Wits Theatre complex from 8 to 17 August 2019, Transforming Arts | Transforming Lives: Creating a child-centred society aims to respond to the vulnerability of South African children, who often face high levels of violence, disease, malnutrition and lack of access to quality arts development programmes or education.

The event will reflect on how innovations in the performing and applied arts, arts therapies and education, as well as “performance as research”, can address these challenges. The Drama for Life Theatre Company will also stage a number of productions, aimed primarily at young people aged four to 16.

Registration is open for the programme, which comprises performances, installations, dialogues, training, workshops, and more. Participants will include artists, arts healers, therapists and educators, cultural leaders and managers, academics, researchers, activists and anyone else with a keen interest in the arts.

The conference and festival programme is made possible by a range of partners and funders: the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project; the Embassy if Sweden; the Swedish Arts Council; the Centre of Excellence in Human Development at the Wits School of Public Health; Business and Arts South Africa; Unga Klara; Aster; the Arts & Culture Trust; Arts Research Africa at Wits School of Arts, Bus Publicity and Flow Communications.

Tickets
Webtickets: R60 / R30 for students and pensioners
Wits Theatre Box Office: R50 / R35 for students and pensioners.

To register for the Drama for Life conference and festival, visit https://www.dramaforlife.co.za/conferenceregistrationform.

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