Theatre of the Oppressed
The theatre of the Oppressed is the remarkable invention, he would call it a discovery, of Augusto Boal, the Brazilian theatre-maker, theorist and activist who has been our guide and inspiration since we started.
It is a school of theatre-making, a methodology underpinned by an ethos, which offers theatre as a tool for liberation and empowerment to people in all stations of life in all parts of the world – a means of using theatre as a way of better understanding ourselves and how we fit into the worlds around us – and, most importantly, how we might consequently change those worlds. It is a concrete embodiment of the arts as a real instrument for social and political change.
As quoted on the back of one of Boal’s seminal books – Richard Schechner the American theatre activist writes:You have created a theatre Brecht merely dreamt of.
Cardboard Citizens enjoyed a close relationship with Augusto Boal during his lifetime, in that Adrian Jackson, founder-director of Cardboard Citizens, translated five of Boal’s books into English and collaborated with him on a number of occasions, in the UK and abroad.
We were lucky enough to host annual visits from Boal through the late 1990s up till 2008, when he taught his work, especially Rainbow of Desires to groups hosted by Cardboard Citizens; in the latter years, Adrian taught alongside him, as well as Julian Boal who became his frequent travelling companion. Sadly Augusto’s planned visit to us in 2009 had to be cancelled due to his ill health, and he died cruelly soon after that on May 2 that year.
But his work lives on, and grows and multiplies, through the teaching and development. Variations and offshoots abound – everything from Playback Theatre to Theatre for Living can be traced more or less directly back to Boal. Cardboard Citizens is proud to be part of that tradition of multiplication and to be connected to the rich international resource which the Theatre of the Oppressed.
Above the doorway to our HQ in Whitechapel in London stands the challenging imprecation Augusto used as his election slogan in 1994 – Have the Courage to be Happy. And we try to live up to that, and to use theatre to help others to do so too.
Here is a list of some of the other places and companies around the world where you can find out more about the Theatre of the Oppressed (we hope to grow our online resources over time):
- Theatre of the Oppressed on Wikipedia
- International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation
- Formaat Theatre, Netherlands
- Theatre of the Oppressed, NYC
- Jana Sanskriti, India
- Mind the Gap, UK
- Combatants for Peace, Israel & Palestine
Watch a few of our videos on various applications of Forum Theatre and the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology and check out our What's On page for upcoming training and performances.