We often talk about forum theatre and its benefits but have realised that others may not have our knowledge of this theatre strategy, so here is a short explanation of what forum theatre is. Forum theatre was created by the innovative and influential practitioner Augusto Boal as part of his “Theatre of the Oppressed.” Originally the technique was developed by Boal as a tool for political change but since then it has been widely adapted and used in educational contexts.
A scene is shown, usually containing some kind of oppression, for example Act On Info would show a scene during an anti-bullying drama or smoking prevention workshop showing someone being bullied or pressured by their peers. We would show this scene twice. During the replay, with younger pupils, we ask them to put up their hands when they see behaviour that they do not like, or if they see something they would not like to happen to them and the facilitator would shout stop. With older pupils they can shout stop themselves. The actors freeze at this point, we describe it like pressing pause on a DVD. We use these freezes to take a deeper look at what is going on in the scene, the facial expressions, body language and emotions of the characters in the scene.
The facilitator would then ask for suggestions as to how the pupils would change the characters behaviour, and invite the pupils to take the role of the characters to see how effective their suggestions are. Different suggestions can be tried out by different pupils showing how they could change the situation to create a different outcome. This way of working breaks down barriers between the pupils and the situation – it puts them in the action. It is a great tool to enable pupils to try out different courses of actions in a safe environment that they can then apply to their own lives.