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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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Acknowledgements xi


Acknowledgements The research for this book was completed while on a Leverhulme Special Research Fellowship. I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for this opportunity and for the dedicated research time that it gave me. Without the support of the Trust, this book would not have been completed. This book is a product of many discussions, meetings and projects. Many dif ferent people have inspired it in dif ferent ways. The first thanks should go to Paul Heritage, who provided invaluable comments on an early draft and of fered honest and vital criticism. My debt to Paul lies also in the fact that many of the projects that appear in these pages were done with him or directed by him. We both know that we could not have visited Burkina alone. Additional thanks are due to all the people who work with Paul at People’s Palace Projects and the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary, University of London – Catrin John, Caoimhe McAvinchey, Lois Weaver, Ali Campbell, Rose Sharp and Sarah Hussain. Manchester University Drama Department colleagues deserve special thanks for the tolerance they have shown to my frequent absences from the country. Major thanks especially to Viv Gardner, who has been massively supportive and encouraged all aspects of applied theatre work in the depart- ment. All the colleagues in the Centre for Applied Theatre Research have helped to develop the ideas behind this book: particular thanks to Jenny Hughes who read early drafts and kept me on...

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