Applied Theatre Toolkit
Applied theatre refers to the adaptation of theatre techniques and forms into a discursive space, whether for educational, cultural celebration, social engagement, political mobilisation, or critical reflection purposes. It is based on the idea that through play, we can imagine different realities and open ourselves up to new ideas. Applied theatre is driven by process and complimented by the production of art.
The artist becomes facilitator in the applied theatre workshop. There is a tendency to focus on the workshop process, the exercise, the technique, but equally important is the craft of facilitation. The applied theatre facilitator is really a type of improvised performer, engaging in play, stimulating ideas, reducing inhibitions, encouraging sincere interaction, encouraging the sharing of lived experience and knowledge, taking one out of the safe space into instinctive spaces, disrupting the power dynamics and codes of spoken language, enabling microcosms of model societies. And having fun.
There would be scores of forms of mapping as a workshop technique. Free Theatre applies a technique that involves the symbolic representation of place, journey, story, and theme in space using found and collected materials. We work with two process - (i) Place Mapping, and (ii) Personal Mapping.
Place Mapping is a collective process, representing place of identity. Typically this involves homeland maps of country or nation, but it has been used for regions, villages, refugee camps, and even for communities destroyed by the Asian tsunami. The maps are large enough to walk through, to be able to step into the space. The symbolic importance of walking on the map was evident when Sinhalese participants asked permission to walk into Tamil Eelam space on a Sri Lanka map during a cease fire in the civil war many years ago. The map offers the birds-eye view, the collective interpretation of place, and the opportunity to understand one another's connection to place and stories of migration. It develops trust and friendship in groups and provides a platform for exploring common themes and issues of concern.
Personal Mapping is a process of self-reflection, that can be both challenging and liberating. Again using collected and found materials, the personal map tells of a life journey, starting with a site that holds meaning, feeding into an installation that symbolises personal histories, which as people, places, memories, influences, mindsets, trends, and transformative moments. The sharing of the map through performance and the synthesising of maps into a group map offers a process of stepping out of the individual into the collective. The performance is both celebration and release, providing closure to the personal process.
Image Theatre represents one of the fundamental theatre devising and workshop techniques. In its simplest form, it involves the use of tableaux, or frozen images, to represent an idea. We apply Image Theatre in 3 modes – Let The Body Talk, Storyboarding, and Conflict Transformation.
Let The Body Talk is a movement-based improvisation process, with tableaux stimulating themes and text. It can be used as a physical theatre devising process or simply an Image Theatre warmup.
Storyboarding is a simple collective theatre devising tool building story and narrative through a chronological process of image-based scenes. This approach is particularly useful in communities and groups of non-actors as a participatory devising tool and for actors use as a process for exploring, analysing and brainstorming actions on the rehearsal or performance stage.
Image Theatre for Conflict Transformation involves a problem-posing, dialogue, and transformation-based process, either as a workshop process or also being incorporated into interactive performance. In essence, this Image Theatre process applies the principles of Dialogue Theatre within a workshop process, by identifying the 'problem', and addressing it through posing 'transformations' to test with observers. This process has been applied in addressing issues from neighbourhood disputes to policies around sexual violence in refugee camps.