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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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Conclusion: Theatre Garlands 173


Conclusion: Theatre Garlands A shadow world of petrified garlands — Gunesekera, 1994, p. 29 Garlands are beautiful objects. They are heavy to hold and cold to wear. They thank, welcome, bid farewell, and honour. They speak of power, family, and community. They show submission and adulation. They are an occasion, a celebration, and a remembrance. However, they die, fade, and discolour quickly. They hang brightly for a moment, but beyond the ceremony, they are discarded. Simultan eously they are a wreath and a necklace. A f lash of colour that announces, pronounces, and declares. They open and close. They are given from one to another. They are made, bought, sold, hung and thrown. They are extravagant, yet beautifully functional. Garlanding – seeing them safely of f or wrapping them safely in? For a Theatre of Relief …? Bland farces […] provided some relief from the horrors of the time. — Harding, 1998, p. 12) Do we want a theatre of relief, healing, reconciliation or liberation? Does applied theatre seek to wrap them in or see them safely of f ? Applied theatre can be understood as a theatre practice with an explicit intent. It acts deliberately within institutions, with certain communities 174 Conclusion: Theatre Garlands and on particular issues. It translates, adapts and transforms theatre proc- esses so they work with, upon, between and against. The application has been characterised as a betwixt moment where neither the theatre nor the social environment or community group is stable. It is an unfinished act that generates its power...

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