EU project UPSHIFT finances theatrical performances against violence in Kharkiv

An improvisational theatre against various forms of violence, including physical, psychological, sexual or financial, has been operating in Kharkiv since 2018. During the performances, actors stage real-life stories of viewers who are ready to share their experiences. There is a psychologist at the performances, who provides advice to those who need it.

Education, not an entertainment


Three performances and an information campaign are the nearest plans of the playback theatre “Vakhtery”. These are not creative performances, but educational once since their goal is to change the attitude to violence being the topic swept under the carpet.

We need to talk about it without fear, first of all, in order to stop bullying. But as long as society does not know how to adequately perceive the story of violence, it is even inclined to blame the victim, as if she/he herself/himself has provoked the aggressor. It should not be like that,” – says Elena Kalashnykova, “Vakhtery” playback theatre trainer.

Gvalt is a social project presented by the playback-theatre “Vakhtery”, and is implemented with the support of Upshift Ukraine.

What is going on in the playback-theatre?


The performance presenter asks people in the auditorium about their mood and feelings. Those who want can share, and in a second they will see actors playing their emotions on stage. Further, the presenter will invite to  share a life story. Guests are not obliged to do so, but they can tell a story if they want – and they’ll immediately see it on stage.

Playback-performance as a safe space


The playback theatre is a social improvisation theatre, where actors play stories of the theatre-goers. “Vakhtery” exists as a team for over two years. All theatre actors, although not having a specialized education, attended violence-related trainings and workshops.

We find it important to create a space where you can calmly and frankly talk about the tragic experience. The playback-theatre methods allow not to harrow the victim’s feelings, but to give him/her the opportunity of seeing the story from the side, living it through, and to perhaps finding a way out. A psychologist will also attend each performance, and you can immediately address her. She will also monitor what is going on in order to prevent excessive traumatisation of people attending”, explains Elena Kalashnykova.

Facilitators consider the Gvalt project to be the first step towards creating a secure communication space for victims of violence.


By Anna Starkova