ABSTRACT

This chapter is about devising and constructing theatre projects as forms of pedagogic and counter-cultural action. Though sometimes bleak in perspective, the chapter is driven by the need to develop creative ‘resources of hope’. I should make it clear from the outset that I am concerned with devising theatre in education (TIE) as an art form that examines, questions and represents the realities of our current human condition and makes new meanings in pursuit of progressive change and positive human development. I am not concerned with the use of theatre in education to support the current dominant cultural, educational and political orthodoxies, or as a ‘bandage’ to cover cultural wounds without diagnosing their causes and trying to heal them. There is no single way to devise participatory theatre. New creations will take many forms and draw upon many methods and processes. Different cultural contexts will require different kinds of interaction and innovation. However, making meaningful theatre should always be a contextually specific, audience-centred, dialectical process that strives to deepen our understanding of the world and ourselves so that we can change those things that diminish our humanity. As part of my argument, I will explore some of the common ground

between TIE and Theatre for Development (TfD). This will inevitably be connected to my own journey, but its intention is not personal. It is to assist us in the creation of the new work that meets the needs, wants

and aspirations of the young people and adults we serve: it will involve some border crossings. At its most profound, the work of TIE, Drama in Education (DIE)

and TfD addresses questions of identity and action, so perhaps we should begin with reflections on who, what and where we – our audiences and ourselves – are. What is our individual and collective sense of our own being and becoming? Are we the subjects of our own world or the objects in somebody else’s? These are fundamental questions about how we see and understand each other and the world we inhabit. I believe our human concerns should dictate that as artists – devisors, writers, directors, actors or facilitators – we engage our audiences in the pursuit of freedom. Our theatre practices, whatever we call them, should promote an exploration of the true meaning of our experiences as social beings. We either contribute to the struggle for human rights, including the rights of the child, or we become the cultural tools of the prevailing political and economic forces that demand subservience to the profit motive above all human needs. In order to devise a socially relevant theatre of action, we need to

consider some key questions. What is theatre? Who is it for and what does it say? How does it work, and in whose interests? Theatre, at its best, is a collective action and an exploration of human experience; it is a forum for examining our values: social, political, moral and ethical. It is concerned with the interaction of these values at the emotional and intellectual levels. It is a medium for collective and individual reflection. I say ‘at its best’ because much of what passes for theatre these days has little to do with any of the above. TIE, defined both as an artistic medium for the communication and

questioning of human experience, and as an educational force in the service of individual and social change is, and always has been, primarily concerned with the development of our human values. It can help us probe our ‘being’ and prefigure our ‘becoming’. Our TIE praxis2 should ‘disturb’ our audiences. It should help them make and remake meaning from out of that disturbance. It should help them reassess the way they perceive the world and their roles within it. If we truly believe in the humanising power of theatre, then as theatre artists we must, by extension, be concerned with concrete issues of justice, rights and responsibilities. This holds true whether we are creating the theatre, presenting it, observing it or participating in it. Our theatre must be about the amplification of voices and the revelation of experiences that cause us to question our perceptions, assumptions, beliefs and actions. Thus, the devising process itself is a form of cultural action.