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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 2 - Theatre in Bewilderment 53


Chapter Two Theatre in Bewilderment This chapter takes up some of the theoretical issues raised in chapter one to explore the history of employment-training programmes for prisoners and three particular examples of theatre-based practice in this field. It is the first of four chapters in the book that aim to apply some of the schema already outlined to specific examples of applied-theatre work. In discussing projects and issues through this framework it is hoped that the potential of this way of approaching applied theatre will be further illustrated. Each chapter does not strictly explore one aspect of the theory, however. It priori- tises an area of practice, using aspects or developing parts of the approach to discover more about that work. At times, the chapters will introduce further theoretical terms that aid the examination of the particular example that they seek to debate. These will, I hope, augment the outline in chapter one, making the theoretical premise develop as the book unfolds. This chapter concentrates on examples of prison employment-training programmes, and in particular prison theatre projects that have employ- ment-related themes. As I stated in the introduction, prison is where my applied-theatre work was first developed, and it seems appropriate, there- fore, that it is from here that the analysis in this book starts. I have also discussed how applied theatre cannot be relegated only to an analysis of the moments of the theatre workshop or performance. The meetings, advocacy, and the research into the context must also be...

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