Two Boards and a Passion

It is this natural flair for drama, performed as directly and viscerally as any Hollywood star could ever hope to do, that sparked Smolbag’s incredible growth. For two decades now, they’ve taken on contentious and difficult topics, many of them directly confronting uncomfortable tabus. Without fail, they’ve managed to engage with people, to educate them and inspire them to action.

In light of the often intransigent, conservative nature of Vanuatu culture and society, I find their consistent success at once mystifying and inspiring.

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

Before William Shakespeare penned his first words, Spanish culture was ignited by a soldier, adventurer and scholar named Lope de Vega. Considered one of the great playwrights of all time, he transformed Spanish culture by creating simple character-driven plays, written for the first time in colloquial Spanish.

One of his most enduring pronouncements was that theatre consisted of nothing more than two boards and a passion. All that is required, he said, is a platform to stand on, and a script that evokes passion – in the character and in the minds of the audience.

Vanuatu’s own Wan Smolbag theatre shows us just how true this is.

In the late eighties, a young British couple arrived in Vanuatu. With nothing more than a bag of costumes and a few passionate companions, they created a revolution. What started as a dynamic troupe of players is now a national – and regional – institution, one of Vanuatu’s cultural crown jewels.

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