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Applied Theatre

Bewilderment and Beyond


James Thompson

Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond explores the practice of theatre in communities and social institutions with marginalised groups. It shifts between contexts and countries to examine different ways that theatre has been applied to a wide range of social issues. Theatre projects in Brazil, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom are analysed to argue for a complex and questioning view of the practice. Initiatives in prisons, developing countries, war situations and participatory research projects become the sites to interrogate the claims that applied theatre can be a theatre for social change.
Many practitioners and researchers have witnessed powerful applied theatre projects but nonetheless struggled to articulate the reasons for the projects’ success. This book uses the questions inspired by that perplexity to create a case for applied theatre as a major area of contemporary theatre practice.


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Chapter 5 - Becoming Ethical 147


Chapter Five Becoming Ethical Suddenly and without prior indication, they are in the middle of an ethical minefield. — Cohen and Manion, 1994, p. 348 Becoming ethical is not merely a rational endeavour – it involves imagi- native shifting of positions to extend experience to include multiple and often conf licting views of events. — Edmiston, 2000, p. 64 This final chapter seeks to question some of the ethical issues involved in a series of applied-theatre training projects that were run in Sri Lanka during 2000. This book has sought to demonstrate the complexity of the use of theatre as part of development, prison education and participatory com- munity projects. It has also questioned the relationship between principles of practice and the specifics of application. It has taken the concept of bewilderment to indicate the shift between a necessary clarity and a crea- tive confusion, as well as the problems of a value-based practice constantly tested by the f lexibility demanded by context. These issues become the central concern of this final chapter, bringing the dazzle of bewilderment into the minefield of ethics. The practice of applied theatre in places of armed conf lict raises acute questions of ethics and responsibility. The minefield from Cohen and Manion’s opening quotation is, in Sri Lanka, literal and metaphorical. In a situation where the whole notion of what it means to be a citizen is highly and violently contested, dialogue-based participatory theatre work treads a dif ficult and sometimes dangerous path. The ability to research, 148...

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