“The community theatre of …”

Jo Dorras and Peter Walker. Photo: File| Dan McGarry

Jo Dorras and Peter Walker

Drama activists

England/Vanuatu | Born 1955 and 1959

Once there was an English playwright named Jo and a theatre director named Peter who dreamed of travelling the world changing lives through drama. In 1989, they were sent to work in a young country called Vanuatu.

The young couple were fascinated by Vanuatu’s rich oral traditions. They wrote a play dramatising custom stories and set up Vanuatu’s first professional acting troupe. This was named Wan Smolbag because everything they needed was in one small bag. The troupe travelled around Vanuatu performing to enraptured audiences. Communities asked them, “Can you perform more plays about modern life?”

so began the troupe’s ‘drama activism’, spreading important messages through community theatre. No issue was too tough for the theatre, whether it was about nutrition, adolescent health, gender equality, land rights, corruption or the environment.

Wan Smolbag has grown to include health clinics, a youth centre, nutrition centre, sports facilities, environmental programmes and much more. It has produced movies and the famous Love Patrol television series about love, life, gender empowerment and community in Vanuatu.

The acting troupe remains an essential part of Wan Smolbag. Together, the members develop ideas for dramas to share with community audiences. Jo and Peter say, “None of us can do what we do best without the other. It’s about all the people you work with, not just one of us. We are one big family”.

By 2020, Wan Smolbag programmes had reached more than 30,000 youth in Vanuatu and become famous around the Pacific – all because of Jo and Peter following their dream and doing what they love.

Quote

“Do what you love!”

Dorras and Peter Walker

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