The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) have been preparing for the World Cup from the moment Sepp Blatter pulled South Africa’s name out of a white envelope a few years ago. Can you imagine? As those lips hissed “Souss Africa,” everyone at ACSA must have been wondering how we would cope with planeloads of manic Mexicans and savage Serbs, with barmy Brits and fanatical Frenchmen?
Well, after building the new terminal in Cape Town, they naturally contacted TakeAway Theatre… “We need to motivate our people for the World Cup!” came the call… We learnt that lots of people would be working lots of overtime in the month of futbol madness, for not many more extra shekels, in often trying circumstances. With big language barriers. Which is all fantastic material for a show. But…
Industrial Theatre does not really motivate people. Or if it does, it does so fairly subtly. It’s not a propaganda song-and-dance – although this is exactly what some poeple want. Some clients, for example, want industrial theatre to ‘get everyone to go for HIV testing.’ In this example, the nature of the testing services offered is usually the determining factor. Telling people, rather than asking what is in their best interest, often causes dissent and a fair amount of disillusionment – people will feel manipulated, and of little value. Which makes a challenging situation even worse!
So what can Industrial Theatre offer in this situation? Well, it can be used to communicate certain things, in a very arresting, unique and memorable way. BUT (that’s a big but) the vital buy-in of the audience is only going to happen with plenty of honesty and telling it like it is (see below.) And once the audience feel respected, heard, and that they’re human, important, and valuable, then the show can do plenty.
Industrial Theatre can also act as a dynamic focal point for key issues that can be debriefed or discussed afterwards. It can speak the unspoken, it gets issues out into the open, without prejudice. (However, beware glib endings and neatly stitched conclusions… It’s a tricky beast to do well and get right.)
Humour is another must-have ingredient. Not just the odd pun, or retreaded physical joke, but real humour. Below the belt stuff. Laughing at the sacred cows of the workplace is a great way to empower people to calibrate their own perspective on things, instead of being told what to do…
The staff at Cape Town International got a great taste of what to expect during the World Cup, and we believe we played a strong role in supporting them to get ready for the event. Thanks to Gareth and Dierdre at ACSA for the opportunity and for their support, and Mark Elderkin, Keeno-Lee hector, Phumza Tshem and Brent Palmer (director) for a fantastic and very funny show – which just may have motivated a few people!