Forum Theatre Project 2016-2018
Director: Patrick Morris
Partners: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Collaborators: Dr Mia Gray and Professor Susan Smith.
The Great Austerity Debate is a collaboration with Mia Gray and Susan Smith, who are currently engaged in research around the uneven application and effects of austerity. Patrick Morris wrote and directed a forum theatre piece, A Life in the Week of Megan K., which undertook a pilot tour to diverse venues around the country. Each venue chose to host a performance for very specific reasons and it is through their interest and goodwill that the events took place. We toured to the following venues:
- Cambridge Festival of Ideas – St Paul’s Church
- Great Yarmouth Community Trust – Priory Centre
- Ireshopeburn Literary Institute
- University of Wolverhampton
- University of East Anglia
- Unite the Union, London and Eastern Regional Office.
As in all forum theatre pieces, we involved the audience as “spect-actors” or creative participants, helping to solve problems to the play’s thorny questions. The performances were largely free and the project was documented on film which you can see below.
Mia Gray and Susan Smith, our two collaborators, toured with the project. Their areas of research and their questions inspired the content and narrative of the piece and the performances themselves have influenced their ongoing work. The project will tour again in early 2018.
Forum 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.
Performers: Caroline Rippin, John Shield, Bianca Stephens
Composer and Production Manager: Ashley Day
Assistant Stage Manager: Maya Ellis
Filmmakers: Ryd Cook and Carl Peck
Writer, Director & Facilitator: Patrick Morris
All stills photography by Andrew Wilkinson www.andrewwilkinsonphotography.com
Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights!
Forum Theatre Project
Director: Patrick Morris
Partners: School of Law, Queen Mary University of London and Amnesty International.
Collaborator: Alan Dignam, Professor of Corporate Law, QMUL
Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! was our first Ideas Stage project to use forum theatre. In this project, it was to explore complex and pressing questions around corporate human rights law. In workshops jokered (facilitated) by Patrick Morris, we invited audiences to engage directly with the questions thrown up by Alan Dignam’s research which he had distilled into 3 short, provocative plays. Through performance, vigorous debate, rehearsal of new ideas, and challenges to the characters on stage, the audiences (or ‘spect-actors’) then devised new legislation which formed part of the project’s ultimate documentation. This allowed the ‘spect-actors’, many of whom had no background in either law or academia, to fully debate and engage with the issues.
Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! toured the workshop to the following locations:
- Queens University, Belfast
- University College, Dublin
- Amnesty International, London
- QMUL, London
- Festival of Ideas, Cambridge
This project remains live and we are currently developing plans for international workshops in 2017. Watch this space and please contact Patrick Morris with any questions.
For more information on the project, visit the project website here.
Photos of HRBHR! are credited to Andrew Wilkinson www.andrewwilkinsonphotography.com
Pictures of You - ‘What’s Up Doc? Commission
Director: Paul Bourne
Dramaturg: Patrick Morris
Partner: MRC-Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge
Collaborators: Professor Emily Holmes and Dr Martina di Simplicio
Pictures of You was Menagerie’s main ‘What’s Up Doc?’ commission at the 2015 Hotbed Festival. Collaborators Emily Holmes and Martina di Simplicio are researchers into intrusive mental imagery in bipolar disorder and have published widely on the subject. The text was written by Craig Baxter, a long-time Menagerie associate.
Inspired by their work, Pictures of You explores the differences between verbal and visual thinking, the close relationship between mental imagery and emotion, the effect of intrusive mental images (of both the past and the future) on those who experience them and ways mental imagery can be used in therapy to help them.
Craig Baxter was also fascinated by the links between the imaginative world of theatre and the latest ideas from the neuroscience and psychology of human thought and emotion. Does a play’s script consist of a sequence of words that the characters say? Or are the words mere captions for a series of dynamic images? What is more important for producing emotional engagement with an audience: the words the actors say or the images they create?
Pictures of You is now being developed for an interactive event at the MRC-CBU during the Cambridge Science Festival in March 2016. We are working with Dr di Simplicio to explore the potential of clinical settings for future performances.
Original play by Craig Baxter about evolutionary biologists George Price, John Maynard Smith and Bill Hamilton. Currently in development for full production in 2014, premiering at Hotbed, followed by performances in the USA.
At the Cambridge Science Festival 2013, we presented Acts of Kindness in partnership with Darwin Correspondence Project. This was a day-long event which alternated readings from the play with academic presentations from scholars whose work intersects with the themes of the play. Acts of Kindness will serve as a model for the public engagement side of the project, as it moves towards production.