THEATRE for Development (TFD) is a participatory theatre practice which allows communities to perform in a drama using their own aesthetics and cultural register. In this way theatre is domesticated to specific needs, taken over and shaped by a community people. Theatre for development is also referred to as interactive theatre. It uses improvisation and is performed within the context of community development and in respect of topical issues in the society.
Echoes of Silence is an advocacy play on the continued herdsmen attack on certain parts of Anambra State. The play laments the community’s loss in terms of human lives, farm land and calm in the community. The play began with a music procession which led the community to a their hall where the issue at stake will be discussed. After the introduction of the play, the performance began properly. The elders decried the constant challenge of insecurity that had plagued the community. One particular elder was deeply saddened that even when dialogue is sought with the herders, they refused and threatened death to anyone who suggests such an idea. Another elder whose words were spiced with a sweet porridge of Proverbs complained that he escaped death by the whiskers when on a certain day, he encountered the herdsmen on his farm. Yet another elder saw the invasion of the herdsmen as a form of sabotage by disgruntled elements in the community. He was promptly attacked by another elder to have insinuated such a claim. The brief altercation was calmed down as another elder intervened.
The spect-actors rose to the core demanding that the herders should be chased out of their community. Through collective action, they promised to work together to end the invasion of the Fulani herders. They emphasized that they do not want the herders in their midst any longer. They appealed to the government to come to their urgent rescue to avert future blood letting.
The community leaders spoke in response that they want their voices heard and their plight attended to by the government. At the end of their meeting, the villagers danced and made merry hoping that the government’s intervention will ameliorate their situation. The play was performed in Umu Oba Anam in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State. What was fascinating was the unprecedented audience response and participation in the play.
The play was written and directed by Anthony Nnalue as part of his doctoral research. He is a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Although he funded the entire project alone, it has become necessary for governments, well meaning individuals and non-governmental organizations to fund and support projects such as this to enhance community dialogue and foster development in respective communities.