When Toto and his friends premiered his new play at Romania’s biggest annual theatre festival, people stood up in the auditorium and applaud. Some were wiping tears from their eyes.
Toto started doing drama with other youngsters at the Alternative Education Club in Ferentari. With the help of Ionut, a professional actor, they started writing their own plays inspired by their lives in Ferentari. Last year they formed the theatre group Playhood.
“The new play is called Home,” says Toto. It’s about four teenagers at a juvenile detention centre.
In a series of brief scenes, the play tells us how the boys ended up in prison. It’s about poverty, parents unable to take care of them, lack of education and, of course, silly mistakes and making the wrong choices.
“It’s also about dreams,” says Toto. “About the fact that everyone has dreams that they’re trying to achieve.” The leader Iounut nods and says that the play shows how important it is to accept and trust one another. That lots of people have to work together to achieve their goals, even if the odds are against them.
Ionut doesn’t come from Ferentari himself. He often encounters prejudice about the area and the young people living there.
“Some people ask me: ‘How can you work with those people?’ But most are positive, although they are surprised when they see teenagers acting out scenes about drugs, teenage pregnancies, racism and discrimination. Sometimes they ask whether the young people can really understand such things.
We know they do.”
Importance of humour
“We tackle lots of difficult things, but we always use humour too,” says Toto.
“We’re teenagers after all, so it shouldn’t be too serious. I think people learn a lot from watching our plays. I can also see that they’re happy for our sake, and their happiness and compassion makes me happy too.”