Forum Theatre

“Forum Theatre! Wow! It was like, flippen amazing to be able to decide, as a group, what the issue really was, and then play around with some solutions, and put them into practice. And to know that everyone was involved, and we’re being heard…  Ooh hemel! Net fantasties!”

Rhonda Eksteen – dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, gossip and slanderer

Forum Theatre is a true banquet of problem-finding and problem-solving, a theatre technology where the audience decides what the show is about and how it might end.

Extremely powerful as a learning tool where participants must demonstrate learning and apply skills in the here-and-now, Forum Theatre is a like an enhanced kind of democratic role-play, facilitated by a master chef, and best served after a starter of games and improvisation. This is meaty and nourishing – home-grown and harvested, slow-cooked and relished by all.

Making a picture of the problem... Members of the Special Investigation Unit warming up to participate in a forum theatre session

Forum theatre is not a ‘song-and-a-dance’ type of intervention where an audience can be passive, and their resistance is not respected or exploited for gereater understanding. Rather, forum theatre provides a unique and powerful tool for working communities to locate and examine obstacles to change and learn ways to alter them, and then put them into practice in true-to-life situations.

Actors may or may not be involved. If present, they will typically, with the assistance of a conductor or facilitator, improvise an issue – retrenchments, for example, or barriers to HIV testing  – showing the problem until it is accurate, with the audience’s input and consent. The conductor might ask, early on in the process, “what’s missing?” Once this picture is complete the next part of the process commences – getting suggestions from the audience on how to resolve the problem.

The conductor will freeze the action to solicit suggestions or concerns from the audience, with the actors resuming the action with new information, altering their performance accordingly. Audience members tend to lose their inhibitions once they get used to the idea, and start modelling solutions and behaviours, often taking the place of the actors onstage.

A forum theatre intervention is part of a process, and over time may not need the presence of skilled actors, as improvisation, listening and critical thinking are at the heart of the intervention – which anyone can do. Besides the undoubted efficacy of this technique, and its ability to penetrate the layers beneath an issue or challenge, forum theatre is fantastically inclusive, non-hierarchical and dynamic.

TakeAWAY Theatre
TakeAway Theatre and Training est 2001