Re-reading my original chapter twenty years on, I was surprised by how relevant it remains. On the surface it may appear only to record a specific artistic journey undertaken at a particular time, offering along the way an historical account of how one company integrated Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) methodology into its practice, and how, subsequently, it entered the British TIE mainstream. However the chapter actually does more than this and I have chosen to leave it more or less intact, opting to draw out and re-emphasize some of what I consider to be its more universal, and certainly still current, themes. Of course many things have changed in the intervening years since the

chapter was first written. During this period Boal – sadly no longer with us1 – worked tirelessly, travelling the world to spread and develop his practice while also adding to his body of written work. (See Boal 1995, 1998, 2006.) He implemented projects, led workshops and presented at conferences. Indeed, in the US, The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO) was established2 specifically to propagate his work and its Freirean connections. As a result of these efforts his influence spread exponentially with an ever-increasing number of individual theatre artists and companies adopting and adapting his techniques (if not always his theory and activist intentions); entire movements and centres, such as that founded by Janasanskriti in India, sprung up, embracing his theory and practice; many publications appeared popularizing or interrogating his methods; and increasingly his work showed up as a staple ingredient of theatre courses in colleges world-wide. This proliferation of TO activity coincided with the emergence, in

the late 1990s, of the term ‘applied theatre’, that was increasingly used

to describe a wide range of participatory, socially engaged, often politically inspired, non-traditional theatre practices. (See Introduction, p. 10.) This coincidence was so marked and the association between TO and applied theatre so strong, that in some quarters the terms have become almost synonymous: certainly, many so-called applied theatre practices seem to rely almost entirely on games, techniques and strategies drawn from the TO ‘arsenal’. This same period saw a sharp decline in TIE (and DIE) practices, as

exemplified by the demise of a number of the original, influential companies and the closure of educational drama courses in the UK, mainly as a result of changes in the patterns of funding to both the arts and education, and the erosion at the public policy level of those values that had first encouraged and then sustained them. This decline, as other contributors point out, was not confined to the UK. Global monetarist policies and cost-driven, outcomes-led, utilitarian approaches to education rapidly marginalized student-centred, labourintensive practices that were not readily susceptible to testing and finite measurement. Increasingly, it appeared that TIE had had its day and, as a genre, was rapidly becoming a theatre history footnote. Fortunately, appearances can be deceptive. New terminology and definitions sometimes conspire to obscure the

substance and continued resilience of older theories and practices whose efficacy is not diminished by changing trends or the emergence of more fashionable concepts. Indeed, these trends support the rationale for reproducing much of the original chapter, with the explicit purpose of highlighting some of its original themes from a new perspective in our changed reality. These themes include the demands the different forms place upon

the actor-teacher, as interactive actor or facilitator (the Joker in Boal’s terminology); the challenges of working as an educator from within the art form of theatre; the challenges of Freirean pedagogy and the concomitant dangers of abandoning his dialectical method in favour of a theatre of ‘alternatives’ (Boal 1992: 247); and the value of integrating TO practices with the older, eclectic and arguably more flexible participatory methodology developed by the early TIE companies and DIE practitioners such as Heathcote, Bolton and, later, O’Neill (see also Chris Cooper’s discussion in chapter 2). Today these themes are no less pertinent. Many accomplished

practitioners have developed potent variations of Boal’s original processes, arguing that they are staying true to the original spirit and intentions of his work when tasked to defend themselves in the face of purist objections to their perceived methodological and ideological

political heresies.3 Others, perhaps less sure of their ground, have frequently suffered frustration, as they struggle to adapt the dichotomized forms of TO – that pit the oppressed against the oppressor – to address more diffuse needs that require more complex and nuanced interactions than traditional TO forms can support.4 Many of these practitioners, working under the umbrella of applied theatre, are unaware of the available wealth of conventions, developed by the DIE/ TIE pioneers, that could free them from the frequently restrictive shackles of the TO forms and obviate the need to reinvent the wheel – all without any loss of pedagogical efficacy or political integrity! I hope this revised chapter will foreground these themes and practical

concerns, introducing newcomers to the rich history of the intermingled genres – TIE and TO – while encouraging novices and veterans alike to reassess and explore the considerable range of conventions and strategies available to them. I hope it will encourage practitioners to consider most carefully the relationship between their intentions and chosen methods. (‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ is so named for very specific reasons. Can we, should we, reduce it to a collection of techniques? Does it, de facto, become something else if we cease to use it to address oppression? Does it matter?) Finally, I hope the thoughts herein might help to halt the tendency of applied theatre to drift towards ‘an exclusionary discourse’ (Ackroyd 2007) that divorces it from the complex network of its diverse roots, most specifically the nourishment to be acquired from the still-fertile ground of TIE and DIE.

In 1982 the Greenwich Young People’s Theatre (GYPT) began integrating the methodology of the Brazilian director Augusto Boal into its existing TIE practice. It was the first British TIE company to do so, and those early tentative steps marked the beginning of an experiment which was not only to enrich its own work for the next decade but to spread the influence of Boal throughout the TIE movement and to presage the introduction of the Theatre of the Oppressed to a wider constituency of practitioners and teachers in many reaches of the British theatre world. This chapter will examine the reasons for Boal’s work proving so peculiarly appropriate for translation to a TIE context and providing such an enduring source of inspiration; it will also highlight the significant changes and developments made by the GYPT company in the process of adapting his methodology to its own usage. In order to appreciate the potential relevance of Boal’s work within

a British TIE context, it is important to remind ourselves of some key

features of TIE itself: that its prime motivation lies in its explicit educational purpose and that its distinctive formal feature is its use of active audience participation. Central to the work, in all its variety of theatre forms and educational strategies, are the twin convictions that human behaviour and institutions are formed through social activity and can therefore be changed, and that audiences, as potential agents for change, should be active participants in their own learning. It was within this TIE mainstream that GYPT was working when it

first encountered the ideas of Augusto Boal: their relevance to its own practice was immediately apparent. The GYPT Company had a long tradition of innovatory participation work: from the early 1970s it had given particular prominence to the development of complex forms involving the audience working alongside the actors in a theatrical context, often framed within elaborate theatrical environments. This practice was part of a conscious attempt to enhance the cognitive and affective experience of the audience by combining the power of the theatrical experience with techniques developed in DIE. GYPT, like many companies, was subject to a wide variety of influences; inspiration was to be found in diverse quarters including the theatre of Brecht, the DIE work of Gavin Bolton and Dorothy Heathcote and the pedagogy of Paulo Freire. But this eclecticism was tempered by a determination to build a progressive practice within a coherent theoretical framework. At this time GYPT was working to develop a dialectical and materialist practice through which its audiences could be actively engaged as the subjects in the learning process but simultaneously be challenged to take a critically objective view of their experience, recognizing themselves as part of the same social reality from which the contents of the TIE programmes were drawn. The central educational concern of the Company was to find ways

of reuniting feelings, thoughts and actions in its audiences, and thus create a praxis in direct opposition to those practices in both theatre and education that tend to keep them separated. The company’s first encounter with Boal’s ideas was through his

book Theatre of the Oppressed. The connections to its current concerns were immediately apparent: