Behind the door: Community voices through theatre
by Thaileak Nak, Linking & Learning, Project Officer, Live and Learn Cambodia
The community voices through forum theatre “Behind the Door” organised by Lakhon Komnit (Thinking Theatre) Organization (LKO) on 25th August 2023 at Battambang province was a great success. Thanks to the outstanding performance of the community and the enthusiastic participation during the public sharing of meaningful perspectives in the discussions. The audiences come from a wide range of institutions and many other key stakeholders including government officials, local authorities, development partners, donors, students, teachers, representatives of people with disabilities, people from the LGBTIQ+ community and women facing violence.
“Lakhon Komnit Organization started working under the fund support of Voice since 2019 with the purpose of amplifying the voices of right-holders and preserving the popularity of forum theatre. Community theatre has begun to lose its appeal in society as a result of technological advancement. That is why we created ‘breaking the barrier’ project to not only preserve this forum theatre, but also amplify the voices of rightsholder groups. LKO has worked with three groups – women facing violence, people with disabilities and people who identify as LGBTIQ+. Today, we gather everyone together here from various institution to listen and hear the voices of community, discuss and interact with one another regarding the subject we’re bringing up to the discussion, and then offer back ideas and perspectives. LKO would also like to show appreciation to the local authorities for their support us so far in connecting and directing us to those in need so that no one is left behind. Therefore, we hope the performance today on Behind the Door will help us to reflect altogether.”
– Mr. Chhit Chanphireak, Director of Lakhon Komnit Organization
The story “Behind the Door” is based on the real life story and experience of women facing violence, people with disabilities and people who identify as LGBTQ+ in Battambang. Community members developed this performance through months of workshops and trainings with LKO.
The performance and story lines were divided into three different parts:
Women facing violence – Chakriya knows that the neighbors are aware of what goes in her house. Each time the shouting starts. She wonders if anyone will come to rescue her and her daughter before the punches begin. But they never do, and Chakriya has no idea how to get out.
People with disabilities – Since giving up on school several years ago, Vicheka has hidden away at home. Her aging mother is anxious about her, and Vicheka longs to stop avoiding people and the world. But will all those memories that have haunted her in school – the bullying, the discrimination and those impossible steps everywhere – still be waiting for her the moment she ventures outside?
People who identify as LGBTIQ+ – Solida is a lesbian and her mother doesn’t know – or maybe she is starting to suspect something… When she returns home unexpectedly one day and burst in on Solida having fun with her friends, the truth hit her. Now, Solida faces a choice whether to follow her mother’s wishes by having heterosexual marriage and producing several grandchildren as soon as possible or get out of the house.
The performance was impressively touching that the audiences were moved to tears as it depicted the reality of society and the real-life challenges experienced by people with disabilities, women facing abuse and violence, and people who identify as LGBTIQ+ behind the door are are not being talked about enough. Following the performance, audiences were invited to consider what action we all could take to end violence and discrimination in our families, institutions and communities. The audiences from all angles of the room were actively participating to share their perspectives on the decisions made by the actors in the story in order to change the plot and turn the situation better.
“I really enjoyed the performance. They are perfect actors in spite of the fact that they are not professional performers. Because when we perform what is in reality, it comes naturally. Forum theatre is a very effective platform in capturing the reality and presenting to outsiders to reflect what has been hidden behind the door. Voice Oxfam is so proud to have collaborated with and supported LKO since 2019 in order to amplify the voices of rightsholders. I also hope that, following this Behind the Door performance, the authorities here will continue to support the rightsholders in need and address these issues for the community.”
– Mrs. Sok Chanchhorvy, Oxfam in Cambodia