The Great Austerity Debate

Forum Theatre Project 2016-2018

Pilot Tour: October 2016

National Tour: October-November 2018

Director: Patrick Morris

Partners: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Academic Collaborators: Dr Mia Gray and Professor Susan Smith.

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The Great Austerity Debate is an interactive forum theatre play, following the story of Megan K. as she juggles low-paid work, ever-deeper debt, two kids and a fancy new red handbag.

After watching the play, audiences are invited to imagine different outcomes for the characters, and see their ideas played out by the actors.  Every audience brings new responses, new interventions and new endings, making each performance unique.

Entertaining, inspiring and always surprising, The Great Austerity Debate brings burning real-life questions to the stage and audiences get to bring the answers.

2018 Tour Dates and Venues:

9 October – Old Fire Station, Oxford

10 October  – Octagon Unitarian Chapel, Norwich

11 October – East Norfolk Sixth Form College, Great Yarmouth

12 October – Bethesda Methodist Church, Cheltenham

16 October – Chesterfield Library Theatre

17 October – Holy Trinity Church, Shirebrook

18 October – Village Hall, Youlgreave

19 October – Peel Centre, Dronfield

23 October – Christchurch, Great Yarmouth

24 October – The Undercroft, Peterborough

25 October – The Undercroft, Peterborough

27 October – Turner Hall, Newmarket

30 October – The Curve, Slough

2 November – Storey’s Field Centre, Cambridge

3 November – Kettering Arts Centre at St Andrew’s Church

7 November – Warndon Community Hub, Worcester

8 November – Whitworth Library, Rochdale

9 November – Halton Mill, Lancashire

10 November – The Bureau, Blackburn

The Great Austerity Debate started as a collaboration with Mia Gray and Susan Smith, who are currently engaged in research around the uneven application and effects of austerity.

As in all forum theatre pieces, audiences are involved as “spect-actors” or creative participants, helping to solve problems to the play’s thorny questions.

Mia Gray and Susan Smith, our two collaborators, toured with the pilot project in 2016.  Their areas of research and their questions inspired the content and narrative of the piece and the performances themselves have influenced their ongoing work.  Read a response here to our performance at Unite the Union in London.  And click here for a glance at some tour stats.  From our successful pilot of the project and Arts Council funding, our current 2018 tour has been made possible.  We are working in partnership with a number of organisations, including: Junction Arts in Chesterfield, Spot-On Touring in the North-West and partners in our own region.  Further support for the tour has come from local authorities and venues themselves, many of which are volunteer-led organisations who operate creatively at the local level.


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Great Austerity Debate - Web3Forum Theatre was invented and developed by Brazilian theatre director, writer and activist Augusto Boal (1931-2009), most famously articulated in his book, Theatre of the Oppressed.  The event is hosted by the ‘Joker’, whose job it is to encourage ‘spect-actor’ participation without suggesting a specific course of action.  The Joker prods, provokes, questions and challenges people to try out specific suggestions.   In this way, a group of people can ‘rehearse’ different futures and explore which choices might be the best in a given situation.  Forum Theatre aims to empower people to be imaginative, courageous and articulate in their attempts to solve particular social, political or cultural problems.  There are many exponents of Theatre of the Oppressed around the world – we have used Boal’s model as a robust and provocative tool to empower lay audiences to engage deeply with complex academic questions which have clear social and economic connections.

2016 Pilot Project Credits:

Writer, Director & Joker: Patrick Morris

Composer and Production Manager: Ashley Day

Filmmakers: Ryd Cook and Carl Peck

All stills photography by Andrew Wilkinson