Theater troupe helps street children heal from abuse: Cambodia

Tom Boland (
Thu, 26 Nov 1998 16:55:27 -0400
FWD  Reuters News Wire - Nov. 22, 1998

British theatre group helps abused Cambodian kids

PHNOM PENH, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Deprived Cambodian children  were in
the spotlight on the weekend, under the direction of a  British
theatre group helping kids overcome trauma through art.

The David Glass Ensemble worked with 21 children aged between nine
and 17 and after just five days of rehersals, got them to perform in
a lively adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, about two
abandoned children lost in a forest.

``We've come here to work with local children, particularly
traumatised children, giving them the tools of theatre, dance and
music in order that they can release some of the feelings and
problems that are inside them,'' artistic director David Glass told

His young Cambodian performers included street children, former street
children now in care and some child prostitutes rescued from

Glass and his company, 10 of them in all, have had similar theatre
workshops with deprived children in other parts of the world,
including China, the Philippines and Vietnam. In March they will
travel to Bosnia.

``It's proven to be very cathartic, using theatre, music and dance as
a tool for participation, using drama to create confidence,'' said
Glass, a leading exponent of physical theatre which combines, mime,
dance and music.

``The imagination is a tool for healing. The children are  able to
explore material which they can't do directly,'' he  said.

The young Cambodian performers, shy and withdrawn just days  earlier,
appeared to revel in the glare of the spotlights at Phnom Penh's main

Helped by performers from the David Glass Ensemble and actors from
Cambodia's National Theatre, the children put on a  spirited,
Cambodian adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale.

``It was great. I was very happy acting on the stage,'' said  one of
the beaming youngsters after the show, 17-year old Yin Valis.

The David Glass Ensemble performed their own work while in Cambodia,
putting on two performances of The Hansel and Gretel  Machine, a dark,
haunting work about rejection and survival,  loosely based on the
Grimm's fairytale.

The work is the first part of the ensemble's Lost Child Trilogy, a
three-year project aimed at drawing attention to the  plight of
children around the world ``lost'' to society as a  result of war,
poverty and abuse.

Thousands of children in Cambodia have been abandoned or orphaned
after more than twenty years of civil war and social revolution. In
Phnom Penh alone, a third of the 12,000 prostitutes were children,
half of them infected with the HIV virus, a senior U.N. official said.

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