Review of Day Training, Saturday January 21st, 2017

DEEP PLAY AND DEEP DRAMA, with Dr Sue Jennings

Twenty eight of us gathered in North Baddesley village hall for a day with Sue Jennings on play and drama therapy. For the day we were invited to be “homo ludens” and “homo dramatico” rather than “homo linguistica!”

One of the most interesting activities in the morning for me was in a group of six.  We used sand and toys to create a “world” together and as this world developed, a story began to evolve. In our story, there was a kind of city and from this city two citizens travelled separately to create two new cities, one which came to be populated by the blue penguins and the other by black penguins!  One city was by the shore of a sea: the Water penguins, and the other was dominated by a dragon: the Fire penguins. In time there was some communication between these two new cities and eventually a mingling of the two populations.

We were then asked to enact this story in some way so three of us became the fire people doing a fire dance and the other three became the water people doing a water dance.  Then one of the fire people detached and went to meet one of the water people and slowly this couple developed a new dance; half water and half fire.  In time the two groups mingled completely and all the individuals learnt something of the other culture. In the end, all six of us joined each other in a dance.

After the workshop, I wrote a poem about the story that we created and enacted to make sense of it for myself.  Here it is:


 One city worshipped water and the other worshipped fire.

Both were sure they were right, that their religion was higher.

 But a few began to wonder, “Is our religion complete?

Might we learn from the others? Perhaps we should go and meet.”

 Some travelled to the other city, a long journey that took many days,

And studied the other religion and learnt about its strange ways.

 The Water people studied Fire and learnt about warmth and heat.

They even did a fire walk with hot coals under their feet.

 The Fire people studied Water and learnt about ebb and flow.

They gazed at the ocean and watched the tide come and go.

 They travelled back to their cities filled with wonder and awe.

Their vision was now much wider. They understood so much more.

 They began to teach their people that both Water and Fire have a role,

That the elements must be in balance if our lives are to become whole.

 One day they may travel further and learn about Earth and Air,

Climbing to the peak of a mountain and feeling the wind in their hair.

 All the elements can be in harmony rather than strife,

Bringing grace and flow and power to the amazing dance of life.

What I liked about the process that Sue facilitated was that it involved play, story and drama, and then, in my case, some poetry-writing too. It is interesting to explore or develop a story or an issue in various creative ways, allowing messages to arise from the unconscious, perhaps the group unconscious in the case when a group creates the story.  In fact, the theme of unity in diversity seemed to be “in the room” on the day, perhaps reflecting people’s concerns about Brexit and President Donald Trump.

The main activity that we did in the afternoon was  to respond to a story that Sue told us about a girl who was invisible, who became more and more visible as she was loved and supported by a family that she came across.  In groups we then cut out pictures from magazines and pasted images on to a large sheet of paper to create a collage of images.  For me this was an interesting and enjoyable activity but less powerful than the morning activity because it was more controlled by the facilitator and did not encourage so much imagination.

I found working creatively in a group interesting and enjoyable, though of course play-therapy and drama-therapy are used with individual clients too, especially with children.  Sue has had a lot of success with these therapies, especially with children, and told us about her work in Romania and Malaysia for example.

One of Sue’s axioms is that “developmentally we need to allow some mess and chaos in order to discover order,” and to finish the day we were each given a can of foam to muck about with. It ended up over people’s clothes, on their hair and on the floor.  For many of us that was quite a shock although everybody joined in.   Perhaps Sue was making some kind of point: introducing some chaos and mess into our lives opens up possibilities for change.

This review has been rather partial and personal but I hope it has given a flavour of the day.  You may look at her website for more information.

Thank you Sue for an interesting, skilfully-facilitated, and messy day!

David Brown