Burning Bush, a Drug Addiction Recovery Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
|Downtown Kuala Lumpur|
|Train Station at the neighborhood|
Burning Bush turns to Christian faith and the bible as guidance through the trying times of sobering up. At the same time, they do not impose it on anyone and refuse funding from religious organizations. Augustine, the man with a huge heart who runs Burning Bush says: “Such help always comes with strings attached and we need to be independent”.
|Burning Bush and I|
I work with Burning Bush men on creating a piece of theatre that would help them reflect on their lives and that would tell their story to others. They are particularly interested in sharing with individuals and families who might be fighting with addiction and who do not know that there are is help. Each week, I focus half of the session on collaborative exercises and games. The men do everything together here. For most of them , it is as much a source of comfort and security as it is a source of frustration about their life here. The second half of each session, we create images and examine the themes that emerged from a thematic investigation - family, prayer, good life.
|Image titled "Good Life"|
|image titled "I was young"|
|Getting a ride back to Dato Harun KTM station|
Creating a Story - Creating a Dialogue at Burning Bush, a Drug Addiction Recovery Centre in Kuala Lumpur
For several sessions now, the Burning Bush group and I have been devising a story. Below I share a few moments and observations from the creative story-telling process:
|Getting ready for a "John's Big Decision" scene|
We developed several characters by using a fun drawing exercise. Through further playing and exploring, we came to realize that we really care for two of them. Thus, the two characters (James and John) became an inspiration for our story:
James, an older man who runs a trucking business, was a drug addict in his youth, lost his wife, and had to take care of his two young sons. Now, in old age, he is sick and worried who to pass on his business as both of his sons are gone and do not want to take the responsibility and hard work of running his business.
John, a young man who also runs a business, is a drug dealer. He is a boss and has a network of dealers. He is not addicted to drugs. He is responsible and gives a lot of money back to charity.
After another session, which we spent interviewing the characters and observing them in various important moments of their lives, we decided to combine their stories and make John James's son. That way, we created one story on which we can concentrate.
|Discussing the " Father-Son Meeting" scene|
|Father James and son John meet|
When the two men were improvizing the scene, it was a fine piece of theatre - strong, emotional, focused, and to the point. The rest of the group was watching very attentively; one could drop a pin in the hall.
|Listening and watching carefully the scene|
- Father-son relationship
- Good Life? (Here, the question mark is an important shift from the previously identified theme of a "good life", which the group insisted meant the same for each individual member of the group)
- Drugs and their social impact
We now have a few more sessions before we will present the story to our audience. The group is now working with Augustine to decide who will be our audience. I see on the energy level of those discussion how hugely important it is for them.
This presentation at the end of my project with Burning Bush will be a humble, but crucial beginning of a creative process that will have an impact in the lives of this group as a whole and the lives of its individual members. I see the power of applied theatre represented in front of me every session - the group is their own audience and thus they witness the attention and dedication of the group in certain important moments when something happens during a scene or an image that touches their hearts or makes them see / hear something in a new way. We notice together the questions that the work generates and organically engage in dialogue answering, discussing, and generating new questions.
|In characters of drug dealing gang - getting ready for the scene|
I am still here in Kuala Lumpur, but see the end of the project coming and I already miss the men. I'm thinking about my exit strategy and have been working on passing on some of the principles of the pedagogy I use to Augustine. He will continue working with his group as he is encouraged by witnessing my work. Also, Soon, who introduced me to Augustine and Burning Bush, and who has been doing Forum Theatre for some time, will be of a resource and a coach. I am happy knowing that the men will continue to process their difficult life situations and dynamics with creative lens and experiential nature of theatre.