In a small town square in the Kathmandu Valley, a powerful theatre performance is spreading life-saving information – with the help of a little star power.
The play is called Let’s Live Ourselves and uses drama and comedy to pass on simple messages about preparing for earthquakes. It’s funded by the Nepal Red Cross and features Surbir Pandit, one of Nepal’s top television actors.
Street theatre is a great of way of getting vital information to people who might otherwise miss out on it. And it can have a huge emotional impact – the play brings tears from one audience member.
An eye-catching performance
Half an hour before the performance begins, music blasts out of speakers ringing a 10m by 10m ‘stage’ marked out in chalk – attracting a crowd of well over one hundred people.
The play is introduced by Surbir, known in Nepal for his part in long-running comedy series Meri Bassai. It is set in the aftermath of an earthquake, and begins with Surbir and three other actors jostling through the crowd shouting and screaming.
The energetic opening has the crowd transfixed, and almost everyone keeps watching for the length of the play.
As well as the crowd standing four deep around the edge of the square, the audience also includes people peering from windows overlooking the square.
While there are plenty of jokes and lots of laughter, the play’s serious messages are never far away.
One character’s wife died because the electricity in their house was left on after the earthquake struck – he wishes he could go back and fix his mistake.
Another says she could have saved her baby if she’d followed the simple drop, cover and hold routine. A third character is sorry he didn’t listen to his brother, who advised the man to follow building regulations when he built his house.
The audience also learn how to prepare a go bag, full of essential items such as water and a torch, that can be grabbed if an earthquake happens
In a country where many people can’t read or don’t share the same first language, street theatre is a powerful way of passing on life-saving information. As the characters show the pain and destruction a disaster can cause, a woman in the crowd begins to cry.
The play’s audience includes 52-year-old Champa Mahandra, who recognises Surbir from his roles on television. Before the performance she knew a little about how to prepare for earthquakes, but still learned important lessons – such as why she should take heavy objects off walls and the top of cupboards.
She says: “Most older people, housewives and children don’t have access to outside information – so this is very effective.”
- Read more about preparing for earthquakes in Kathmandu