In Defence of Play
As I prepare for my long awaited games and exercises with the children of this community, I have had to look back at my own childhood and my own history of playing. I realise now that my childhood and playful days prepared me for the more demanding tasks of life. The late applied drama guru and proponent of Theatre of the Oppressed Augusto Boal said of theatre that; ‘The Theatre itself is not revolutionary, instead a rehearsal of a revolution.’
I realise that if my life had been devoid of play, I would have been like an actor who goes on stage to perform without going through a rehearsal. This is a clear case of preparing to fail. I played as a child and learnt to imitate even my parents when we played ‘mothers and fathers.’ It was exciting.
We also played with clay, using it to make virtually anything. We made animals we saw around us. We made human beings and named them and in the process created stories with clear plots around these objects we created. We learnt to be busy creating at a tender age and when we got to life and its demands, we used what we had gained from these games. We did not disappoint when life demanded that we be creative. When life demanded that we be democratic and give others a chance, we remembered unconsciously that we had learnt to give others a chance when we played. We sometimes formed circles and took turns to play.
Believe it or not this was just as important as the Math we later learnt at school when our unscripted learning was interrupted by formal learning. Somehow life happened and things got busy that I forgot to play until I got involved in an ‘object theatre’ exercise where a lot of objects we put on the floor and we were asked to pick anything that appealed to us. I picked a tennis ball because I used to play a lot with it as a child. The facilitator made us give our objects names and to create dialogue with them. I name my tennis ball, Spox. I spoke to Spox and asked him why he had disappeared and why he never played with me anymore. He accused me of getting too busy and ignoring him. It was an emotional reunion with my long lost crony. Poor Spox. This reminded me to play and it started a playing revolution in my adult life.
Children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds where chores take the place of play entirely are ill prepared and lacking in the aesthetic value of life and the pertinent sentimental value of life and work. Dramatic Need provides that intervention to enable the busy child to play and to create and draw objects and they do so in democratic and group spaces.
By Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu(Regional Operations Manager)