Forum theatre – also known as Boal’s Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, or Theatre for Development – uses theatre to achieve social aims, and is often undertaken by socially excluded or disempowered groups. It is an interactive form of theatre that engages the audience in exploring different options for dealing with a problem or issue.
Augusto Boal developed forum theatre in the 1970s with the aim of helping audience members identify their “internal oppressions” in order to begin to overcome them. Forum theatre can be used with any type of audience, but is particularly used by or with groups experiencing exclusion. It can also be useful as a training or educational tool helping young people to embody change in a safe space.
We work with a group of students in a situation of oppression they might have lived and we develop scene where a central character encounters a form of oppression or an obstacle. This scene is worked in a private setting and shown to an audience.
Audience members can stop the scene, either spontaneously or at pre-determined points. Audience members then suggest alternative options or actions by replacing the protagonist in an attempt to change the outcome.
Forum theatre can be used to prepare for a specific occasion, or examine alternatives in a past, present or future situation. The actors explore the results of these choices with the audience, creating a kind of theatrical debate, in which experiences and ideas are rehearsed and shared, generating both solidarity and a sense of empowerment.