Staging a resistance to the act of torture

Survivors of torture carry wounds which only targeted, specialised rehabilitation can heal. Often torture destroys not only the life of the victim but their life at home, their relationships with their family and friends, and their place in their community.

Therapy, medical care and a whole range of physical and psychological support projects help survivors of torture overcome their past. But one of the most important changes to a torture survivor, both on their way to and through rehabilitation, is the building of confidence and self-esteem to tackle their past and face the future.

Through the Accoglenza e Cura Vittime di Tortura (Vi.To.) project, funded via the European Union’s EIDHR (European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, IRCT member the Consiglio Italiano per I Rifugiati (CIR) (Italian Council for Refugees) is using theatre to help refugees and torture survivors overcome their experiences, build their self-esteem and teach them valuable new skills.

We take a look at one of their most recent shows.

All of the Vi.To. performances feature refugees and torture survivors who have received, or are receiving, treatment from the CIR centre. Many of them have no previous acting experience but the professional team of make up artists and coaches ease them into their roles.


At one of their most recent performances, held to mark the International Day in Support of Torture Victims on 26 June, huge set pieces were required for the show, taking a lot of preparation and time. But it is something the staff and performers are used to – the project has been running since 2011 and there was expert guidance from Nube Sandoval and Bernado Rey.


The latest performance, a play inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s short story ‘The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World’, features 15 refugees who participated in psycho-social rehabilitation theatre workshop as part of CIR’s Vi.To. project. The play focuses on the reactions of villagers in a seaside town who encounter an unknown dead man washed up on their beach.


The story is one of hope, acceptance and commemoration. It shows how the dead stranger is pulled from the sea and welcomed into the identity of the village as if he were one of their own and the realisation of change the villagers would have to make to adapt to accepting the handsome drowned man, a white man in an otherwise African community.


Over 400 people attended the performance, all giving positive and encouraging feedback about the performance of the cast, the direction and the messages which were prominent throughout the play. Approximately 1,300 refugees have been involved and rehabilitated since the project began.


The finishing dane

The finishing dance

After the performance – which is as nerve-racking as it is exciting – the cast and staff from CIR unite for an evening of dancing, showing their solidarity and support for victims of torture across the globe.


If you would like to find out more about CIR in Italy, click this link.

The Vi.To. performance will be featured in the upcoming 26 June Global Report, but if you would like to read more about the project then click this link.



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