Forum Theatre for the Masses?

Forum theatre grips ‘spectactors’ by the emotional wrist and engages them directly and profoundly. But can it really contribute to wider social and political change that is the aim of cumulative conflict transformation efforts? Or is forum theatre fatally limited by its reach, perhaps involving just 200 or 300 people at a time?

Inspired by work such as the Reflecting on Peace Practice project and policy papers like Oxfam’s ‘Magic is in the Mix‘ as well as building on own lessons, we always try our best to integrate mass media into our forum theatre activities. The idea is to help bridge the theoretical ‘hope lines’ that exist between ‘individual change’ and ‘socio-political change’ and between ‘short term attitudinal change’ and longer term ‘pathways of change’.

There are loads of factors involved. But one small way in which we are trying to bring the benefits of forum theatre to wider audiences is with radio. For example, have a listen to this ‘Citizen’s Forum’ – a community forum theatre day organised as part of the Citizen’s Theatre program – from Aweil in Northern Bahr al Ghazal state in South Sudan.

The recording of community performances and discussion has been played on local radio in local languages. Listeners were able to witness the issues played out, hear the discussion and call in to contribute their own ideas.

It’s not rocket science and it won’t create the same direct engagement as physical forum theatre among participants and audience alike. But as an easy and low cost method of leveraging forum theatre to wider audiences, it feels worth the extra little effort

Citizen’s Theatre Inter-School Festival: Interview with Nichola Lado Part III

NL: Everyone can just say anything because it is not serious, because there is no agenda, because you do not invite them to come from their political party or because they are an elder from this or that group. They come as an audience, as a citizen of South Sudan.

CM: It seemed to me that the plays were more interested in inequality than ethnicity, is that just because I saw those particular plays or is the problem of ethnicity about resources more than about identity? Anything else about the themes that came up?

NL: Yes, this is because you didn’t see all the ten plays. The ten performances brought out most of the problems we face. This relates to identity, that is who we are. In the plays you can see some South Sudanese costumes – like the lowa – which is worn by every community in different ways but is known to come from the Chollo. So this kind of identity is confused, how do South Sudanese look? When I go outside (the country) for example, how do people know I am south Sudanese? This is a big issue. And the students discussed these things through the festival – really they discussed it.

The issue of corruption came up from two schools. This is one of the bigger things in South Sudan. And tribalism came from three teams.

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