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"Sophisticated, mature and poignant" ukrainian village youth theatre.

My first time visiting Ukraine was in 2008. I came to visit a good Ukrainian friend I had met in Canada and I thought it was time I visited on her home turf in Nyzhne Selysche, a beautiful town set deep in the Carpathian mountains.

Because of renovations going on at my friend’s house, I stayed several nights with her good friends, Nataliya and Tanya. On my first day staying with them, they took me along to the community centre, where they ran theatre and drama workshops for local young people. I decided to get stuck in right away and because of my own theatre background, I was given the opportunity to run a drama game with the young people, whilst Tanya and Nataliya translated. The kids were full of energy and very keen to take part in a translated drama game! It was great fun and I remember that experience fondly.

Fast forward nearly 8 years down the line… and I was back at that same community centre with a lovely group from Experience Ukraine. It was May, so the weather was better and the centre seemed to be a hive of activity. As part of our trip, Tanya had organised a short performance by the young people who had been taking part in drama workshop for years. These were the same kids I had helped out with, except they were no longer kids – they were now fiery teenagers!

I watched with awe as a dozen young women performed a piece of forum theatre with such sophistication and maturity I had only seen in London’s theatres. The content was poignant and felt very real in these uncertain times, linking the civil war in Ukraine with general unrest around Europe. I was very moved by their performance. It made me realise how hard Tanya had worked with them and how dedicated she was to improving the lives of local young people. Tanya would work tirelessly to bring a wealth of knowledge of skills, which she had learned all around Ukraine and in Europe to these kids in rural Transcarpathia. Circus skills, forum theatre, improvisation skills, movement workshops, voice tutorials – she brought all of this and more to these young people.

Having done theatre as a child and teenager back in Canada, it made me so happy to see these young people receive such a high level of theatre education in such a small area. I only wish there were more people as dedicated to rural young people’s development and education as Tanya is!

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