And the community is so close
  Trundling along dusty roads late at night in a local tractor, the sound of singing carries across the newly ploughed fields. It is very late, but the actors do not care: they have just performed for a fascinated crowd who had never seen theatre in their lives before.
Now that they have some experience behind them in making theatre, the team are getting more confident every time they play. They are especially happy if the audience participates fully in the discussion after the performance, as this means that they have enjoyed and understood the play.
Their story tells of a young man who starts taking amphetamines “just for fun” and who ends up addicted and crazy, and of how his family tries to help him. The play encourages people not to take “Yabaa”, by showing that “starting is easy, but stopping is not”. The drug dealer is shown as an opportunist, making money at the expense of other peoples happiness. It suggests that the community should give drug addicts and their families help within the village, and make it difficult for dealers to operate there.
The play always makes most of the audience laugh, and usually makes some people cry. The discussion afterwards makes them think – not just about the drugs problem but also of ways of solving it in their own community.
The theatre team stops at the next village, which does not have any electricity, so they set up the lights with the aid of candles and get the small generator running. Already some villagers have gathered round to get a better look at the newcomers. Surprise and delight comes to the kids’ faces as the theatre players address them in their own language. The word spreads like wildfire: the play will be in Hmong. Soon the village square is full of spectators.
The rustling of bells, in the village hall behind us, local women and men are getting dressed up in traditional finery by candlelight, ready to perform a welcome dance. The dancers come together every night to practise, explains the mayor, and they are happy to have the opportunity to perform for visitors. Quick and modern are the steps, a mixture of traditional Hmong and new Lao style. Then the villagers and the visiting theatre team dance and sing together.
It is late. The theatre lights are taken down, there is not a star in the sky and it is pitch black as the team packs the tractor. Some villagers are still with us and they talk about their interest in training their own theatre team – come back next year, they say; maybe we’ll even have a play ready to show you by then. The mayor shakes us warmly by the hand, as the tractor pulls away. Some villagers follow for a short way, smiling, the kids laughing and whispering all the way until we reach the boundary of the village and trundle off into the night. Out on the bumpy, dusty road, the actors are soon singing again.