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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 3 - Atelier Théâtre Burkinabé: Applied Theatre and the Bourgeois Gentilhomme 85


Chapter Three Atelier Théâtre Burkinabé: Applied Theatre and the Bourgeois Gentilhomme This chapter moves away from practice in the UK to explore a radically dif ferent environment in which theatre has been applied. The work I out- line in this chapter would more traditionally be referred to as ‘theatre for development’, and it is this terminology that is used by the company who will be the focus for the argument here. I include its practice as one that can also be called ‘applied theatre’ for several reasons. First, labelling a practice with one name does not seek to dismiss the relevance or appropri- ateness of the other. For example, at the International Drama Education Conference in Bergen in July 2001 Albert Wandago, a Kenyan delegate, noted that he now preferred the term ‘applied theatre’ for a practice that was previously categorised as ‘theatre for development’. It was to him a more open and less prescriptive term. The phrase ‘applied theatre’ is thus gaining currency and is being used interchangeably in a range of settings. Second, as noted in the preface ‘community-based theatre’ practices in places such as the UK have for too long been split from the practice of ‘theatre for development’ in ‘third world’ settings as though these distinct sites had created two dif ferent forms of theatre practice that had very little in common. Somehow the ‘civilised’ West/North avoids or denies the need for development. ‘Applied theatre’ is thus used as an inclusive term that aims to...

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