Applied Theatre Drama Workshops in the Special Prison Hospital in Belgrade

This is a story of theatre of play and freedom in a place in which there is neither play nor freedom. Of theatre that has nothing that a theatre usually has: a playwright, text, director, actors, costumes… – and it has only what can be most rarely found in it: a life.  Of theatre whose only ramp is the one that must be never crossed – a prison wall, and the only art is the art of survival. A story of young people on the other side of the law and life. Of theatre in which we play with our own lives trying to outshine and change the hardest audience in the world – ourselves.

The project was launched in 2006 in the Special Prison Hospital in Belgrade and it has been still going on. As the part of the process two plays were made. The first one is the performance „The Wizards from O.Z.“ in 2007 and the second one is a forum theatre play „Whose Side Are You On, Peter?“ in 2008. Both plays were the part of the BITEF Polyphony – BITEF supplementary programme.

Around 150 young men and women have attended the workshop so far who were court ordered to undergo treatment of addictive disease within their sentence. What the drama workshop means for them can be partially evidenced from the statements they gave for the purpose of some evaluations:

…..I managed to overcome some blockades of mine, I establish rapport with other people more easily now. I have certain confidence in those people and at the same time in myself.

…I feel happy, thrilled because I am aware that I can hold on and succeed!

…It helps me endure everyday life.

…I like this entire team work, dedication and socialization.

…I learned to control myself to a certain measure instead of reacting instantly, and this will certainly do me good.

…I am inclined to think that the workshop boosts my self-confidence!

…as the most significant moment in the workshop I regard our mutual trust.

…I feel relaxed, useful, satisfied, attached to others, and I have a sense of belonging to someone..

…I think I managed to overcome certain obstacles I thought I did not have at all…

By allowing drama workshop the Special Prison Hospital shatters the prejudices about prison institutions and makes a gigantic and a pioneer step towards quality approach to work with the inmates thus getting closer to a multi-decade positive experience of similar institutions in Europe and America.