Provoking Audiences

As a sucker for storytelling, I used the time after graduating to explore a medium new to me: I attended a Forum Theatre workshop offered by London theatre charity Cardboard Citizens. Here is what I learned. 

Forum Theatre is an engaging form of theatre, which invites its audience to come and play along. Besides it being a real good laugh, it has further therapeutic elements and provokes its audience to act. Sometimes just for a minute on stage. Sometimes for longer. Back in real life. Making a difference.

Forum Theatre can be used in different contexts. Cardboard Citizen’s plays mostly deal with homelessness. These plays are made for audiences with experiences of homelessness – often they are showed in hostels. The play runs twice back to back, with the difference, that during the second run people from the audience can come on stage and intervene.

These interventions mostly follow one protagonist in the play and happen usually during scenes, which are crucial to the personal outcome of the protagonist. Crossroads, in which different behaviour or language might have changed a lot for the protagonist – and often for the intervener from the audience.

A beautifully empowering medium to engage people in dialogue and let them learn from each other. The method can be applied to a variety of social issues and can act as a catalyst for change. Forum Theatre resides under the ‘umbrella’ of the Theatre of the Oppressed. A form of theatre invented by the late Brazilian theatre director, politician and writer Augosto Boal which aims to confront the powers of oppression.

For me, someone who regularly communicates in anonymous, online spaces at the mercy of filter bubbles and echo-chambers, Forum Theatre was powerfully raw. It wasn’t about evoking consensus or providing instructions. On the contrary, it tries to provoke disagreement, break apart social conventions and allows room for disobedience.

There is no negative or unwanted intervention. Interventions are not mocked or judged or subject to a hierarchy. For the audience and those who come and intervene, this creates the sense of the right to speak freely and to be part of something.

And while Forum has therapeutic elements, it is not therapy. It is theatre, that allows to open and address issues. It can affect us. And surprise us. But we don’t necessarily have to deal with it. And that is okay. Even in our solution-driven society. Even in times where we talk about everything and can access a whole world wide web for every truth there is.

Today, this is my truth.


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