THEATRE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
What we do:
A typical session begins with exercises and games aimed at activating and connecting the five senses and engendering an atmosphere of fun and creativity. The objective of the session is to evolve a piece, or several pieces of theatre derived from the experiences of the participants of which an oppression or a problem is the focus. The structure of the piece must involve a Protagonist-the oppressed person who is defeated or frustrated by the Antagonist or oppressor, who may be a multiple entity. The session is conducted by a facilitator (Dafydd Williams) who becomes the 'Joker' for the Forum, the enabler or mediator for the group.
A Forum performance involves the replacement of the Protagonist by those watching, who are not spectators but SPECT-ACTORS, in common with the performers of the piece. The piece, which can be of any length, is played once through and then repeated from the beginning. SPECT-ACTORS who believe that they can offer alternatives to the actions of the Protagonist are encouraged to shout "STOP", halt the action, and take over the role and try out another solution. Anyone who wants to can have a go. The Protagonist is usually the only role replaced, but there are a few rules governing whether and when other characters can be substituted.
TOGETHER THEY REHEARSE CHANGE
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Please read on for further information regarding Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed.
Forum Theatre was developed in Latin America as a means of working popularly in theatre to tackle the overriding problems of the lives of ordinary people. Working with groups of workers and peasants in literacy campaigns initially, and then more widely, Boal applied the theories of Paolo freire to create a form in which 'the oppressed becomes the artists'.
If you tell me I will listen
If you show me I will see
If you let me experience
I will learn
Lao Tzu (Chinese Philosopher 17th Century) W
Theatre of the Oppressed
is the Brazilian dramatist who,during over forty years of work in different parts of the world, has developed the techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed.
Boal begins with the principle that theatre, like language, can be appropriate to anybody so long as the methods are passed on to them. It is this teaching role that Theatre of the Oppressed sets out to achieve. Through a series of exercises, games, techniques and drama forms (of which Forum Theatre is the most commonly used), the aim is to understand social reality, to then be able to change it. As in the Education of the Oppressed of Paulo Freire, in Theatre of the Oppressed there is no room for the passive spectator.
There is a time to observe and another to act.
In 1971, for political reasons, Boal was forced to leave Brazil and went to live in other countries in Latin America, from which he was also exiled due to the political regimes of these countries. He then went to Portugal and later France, where he lived for more than ten years and established the Centre of the Theatre of the Oppressed in Paris. At the beginning of the eighties, the political situation became more liberal and Boal returned several times, until he finally decided to settle back in his homeland. He worked on different projects until he established the Centre of Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro, with five other people. At the beginning of the nineties, Boal realised it was necessary to progress his work, to create new forms of expression of Theatre of the Oppressed and to guarantee its existence in Brazil. He began to develop the Legislative Theatre project, a drama form which would go beyond rehearsing the future, and which could be used as a basis for altering social reality.
In 1992, Boal decided to stand as parliamentary candidate for the municipal government of Rio, with the proposal of democratising politics through theatre, in other words to carry out Legislative Theatre. During the electoral campaign, Boal demonstrated his ideas through various pieces of Forum Theatre, performed by different groups and presented in different parts of the city. Many people voted Boal's project and he became a senator of the city of Rio de Janeiro. He was then able to invite a group of assistants to work with him, to carry out the political project for which he had been elected. Today, Boal works with a group of fifteen people, some of whom are legislative advisers and cultural development workers. Legislative theatre involves teaching the drama techniques to community groups, trade unions and other associations. The groups then put together model plays about the different problems or issues, and through analysing different interventions to the play, plan concrete action, which can bring about real change regarding that particular issue. Initially contact with different organisations is made through the jokers, who look for new contacts and respond to requests. Their initial work is to go to the interested group and begin theatre workshops. The people interested decide what they want to communicate to other people, and what issue they want to dramatise.
And so they put together a Forum Theatre piece about the issue.
Then the groups present their shows in different places - public squares, parks, political demonstrations, trade union meetings, etc, and in Community Festivals which are organised by Boal's team, so that the groups can communicate with people through theatre and entertainment.
Each time the group puts on the show, reports are made about the different interventions from spect-actors that have taken place. Usually the reports are analysed by the groups and by Boal's legislative advisors, to work through the suggestions which came from the different forums, and to see which may be viable, and can be acted upon to become reality. The suggestions made can mean different action: the preparation of a new law; change to an existing law; the need to carry out research into the laws on a particular issue, so that those interested become more informed; the organisation of legal action; or the planning of concrete political action.
Empowerment to the People.
Red Button are committed to working with community groups .
Dafydd has undertaken training with the Birmingham Institute of Psychodrama and Geese Theatre.
Former Head of Drama at Malory School, Lewisham.