17.11.15 Applied Performance Session 8

In this session, we worked on Theatre for Development with Sheila Preston.


Stuck in the Mud

The facilitator, Sheila Preston, began this session by playing a game called Stuck in the Mud as a warm up exercise. This game requires participants to chase and tag each other. When tagged, the participant is stuck, and can only be released when another participant crawls under their legs.


As well as being a good warm up exercise to lift the energy, Preston also used it to experiment with facilitation and making activities more suitable for different participants. As the game was exceptionally energetic and required a lot of energy crawling under participants’ legs to release them, Preston posed other ways we could play the game. A suggestion a participant made was that when you’re tagged, you create a still image and to be freed, somebody else has to mirror the still image for three seconds. We decided to use this modification.


Though this change helped alter the game and added a performative element into it, the game could still be modified further. Instead of running, we tried hopping and finally we decided on running in slow motion. This allows the class to consider and work with modifying activities to better facilitate for different participants and audiences.


Theatre for Development

Theatre for Development (TFD) works in an environment that needs improvement. As explained by Tim Prentki in Applied Theatre: Development (2015, in Atwal, 2016) applied theatre, as a general form of theatre, works in contexts where the work and context of work has a “specific resonance with its participants and its audience” (p. 5). This also, to certain percentages, involves them in the work. This includes various subject areas of work, including community theatre, theatre for social change, popular theatre, interventionist theatre, drama in education, prison theatre, theatre in health/education, and so on.

As quoted by Preston, “bringing about social change in order to improve living standards of the people.” (Mda, 1992, p39). It is usually used in countries that are “undeveloped”, working around creating awareness or solving social or political issues. This creates a focus around transformation, with participation from the communities that it affects. This theatre type has a key influence on applied performance. It has key elements of participation, transformation and representation.


However, development is not always positive, it can create negative consequences, and is multi-layered. President Truman created the terms undeveloped and third world in 1949. This type of development focuses on a modernised and Western approach of civilisation and change. It becomes a process of the West bringing their version of development to the “underdeveloped” countries, which is not necessarily a positive act. It states that you need to be developed and modernised according to Western values, bringing forward a sense of Western imperialism and entitlement. A question raised by this is, why does the West feel it has a duty to intervene? This carries elements of colonisation.

Another question raised is, who decides what is civilised and what is uncivilised? Furthermore, this conveys the belief that development is bringing the modern, Western way of living over tradition. This holds Eurocentric undertones. This is known as “top-down” development. Other, smaller, examples of top-down development are campaigns like Say No to Drugs. These campaigns sometimes ignore the circumstances and conditions, which can affect drug users, leading to other problematic consequences, like the “war on drugs”.


In this way, TFD used to work by transmitting information from centralised industries or organisations, like the government directly to the intended recipients. As stated by Tim Prentki in Save the Children: Change the World (Researching Drama Education, 2003), it works similarly to “propaganda techniques of the workers theatre movements in Europe and North America in the 1920s and 30s.” This work was passive for audiences. It strongly carried the “colonial assumption that ‘we know what’s best for you’.”

This top-down approach TFD, as Preston states using Prentki’s ideas…

  • Carries modernisation principles over traditional
  • Has a strong connotation of “we know what is best for you”
  • Have themes like nutrition, education, health, agriculture (Mda, 1992, p11)
  • Banking education style techniques – it is passive and feeds without co-operation and co-involvement.


In the 1990s, TFD moved focus from modernisation to participation, the opposite of banking education style techniques. Participation from communities became a key element of TFD during this time. This allowed active learning and development. As specified by Prentki, people learn better by doing.


Nevertheless, this did not create major change to the top-down approach. It was simply a new tactic. Participation was followed by set terms and guidelines.

The different bottom-up approach in TFD, as indicated by Preston in the TFD Session 8 hand out:

  • Has an alternative development approach
  • Influenced by Paulo Friere (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970) and focuses on transformation through:
    1. Listening
    2. Dialogue, empowerment and self-reliance
  • People actively work around the development issues
  1. Utilises participation.
  • This TFD focuses on highlighting problems and not presenting solutions.


Theory of Action

As quoted from Rahman in Participatory Development: Towards Liberation and Co-optation (Craig and Mayo, p24), TFD now focuses on allowing communication to self-reflect, and not be educated and taught in the banking style of education. The community themselves are an active part of the work, and they transform their own reality. TFD becomes a tool for transformation. It allows ordinary people to experiment with theatre, and it gives them a voice to reflect on social and political issues.


Case Studies

As a group, Preston led two case studies. I’ll be concentrating on TFD in Malawi, which focused on the Malaria Prevention project with UNICEF called Bed Net Campaign. This project raised awareness of the dangers of malaria in communities across Malawi; it presented the awareness of mosquito nets. The project used well known performers from that region and was funded by UNICEF. It fused education with entertainment carving the term edutertainment. The project was used in ten villages across five different districts. The performance used a lot of visual depictions and physicality, which allows audiences to remember more consciously, but there was a lack of strong participation from the village communities themselves. This was counteracted through the use of celebrated figures from Malawi. This stops the agenda or project being imposed onto the communities.


The performance is humorous and reflective with information provided within the performance. For example, one performer comes out of character to speak directly to the audience about the dangers of Malaria directly.

However, the performance still raised questions within the group about if it was still using centralised tactics:

  • Were the communities being preached at about something they already know about?
  • Will constant education on the issue help?
  • Could they not give away free or reduced priced mosquito nets themselves?
  • Does development create dependency, if it always giving or helping?


Five Key Development Phases of Theatre for Development:

  • Phase 1: It establishes key conditions, like participation, communication, and awareness of the issue to analyse and reflect.
  • Phase 2: Teaching the group to research the community, devising that reflects on issues, focusing on posing problems and not solutions, and develop facilitation skills.
  • Phase 3: Evaluation and planning.

Allows the group to reflect on the process and evaluate work.

Enable group to adopt skills and continue the work to support.

Create skills like teamwork, team-building, recognising strengths and weaknesses.




Atwal, P. (2016) ‘Applied Theatre: Development by Tim Prentki – Chapter 1: History and Origins for Theatre for Development’. PA5404: Applied Performance. Unpublished essay/assignment.

17.11.15 Applied Performance Session 8

Applied Theatre: Development by Tim Prentki – Chapter 1: History and Origins of Theatre for Development (2015)

Prentki, T. (2015 draft in print) ‘History and Origins of Theatre for Development’. In Applied Theatre: Development. London Bloomsbury Methuen.



Tim Prentki describes Theatre for Development (TfD) as applying theatre to encourage development of different kinds in communities. TfD branches out of two major sources, writes Prentki. These are the colonial tradition of theatre as propaganda, and the other is the radical tradition of community theatre.

Applied theatre, as a general form of theatre, works in contexts where the work and context of work has a “specific resonance with its participants and its audience” (p. 5). This also, to certain percentages, involves them in the work. This includes various subject areas of work, including community theatre, theatre for social change, popular theatre, interventionist theatre, drama in education, prison theatre, theatre in health/education, and so on.


Prentki begins with the background of Development, which he describes as being launched by President Harry Truman in his Inaugural Address on January 20th, 1949. President Truman coined the terms ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ to describe the economical and social progress of countries. He explained the need for ‘developed’ countries to encourage development in ‘developing’ countries, stating that, “we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.” (p. 2). Prentki explains that by creating the terms ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’, he divided the world and created a paradigm, which still exists today. This idea uses Western imperialist ideas, Prentki describes, that it holds the idea that those who do not live to the standards of the west, lack the benefits of the economic and political systems. Truman publicised that it is a moral obligation to promote the ideas and values of the Western world to rest of the world.

In this case, the government, working with other governments, excluded the voice and needs of the recipients who were to receive this development. Prentki explains that the actual recipients of this development turned out to be the political class and the financial sector, causing a corrupt system of development.


TfD takes root in the philosophy of Marxism. Prentki clarifies that this means it takes the framework of critical social analysis inducted by Karl Marx. TfD takes on the notion that the world “needs to change, can be changed, and that the means of making change is human agency.” (p. 6). Hegel Marx writes that the driving force of change is tension and conflict. TfD practitioners use Marx’s ideas, unknowingly or not, that change itself comes from encounters with conflict between the understanding created though living experience and the ability to create alternative ideas. This becomes a theatrical process.

By using TfD a method of creating social change, Bertolt Brecht’s role should be acknowledged. Brecht uses Marx’s theories in theatre as means to change or affect the surrounding society or world. Brecht explains that he wanted theatre to be more than a mirror of the world. Brecht’s work explicitly studied social change and contradictions, and where change may arise.

TfD, like theatre in general, takes place and occurs when and where its representations are most relevant to its participants.


TfD, as a performance and work, utilities only participants, as it opens up to ‘non-actors’. This gets rid of the separation of the spectator and the performer. This did not hold great benefit the spectator, as it became “art for the producer, not art for the consumer” (p. 8). Expanding on this, Prentki states that learning exists from real, lived experience rather than absorbing of material and knowledge. This way, TfD benefits communities most using participation and interaction, as evidenced by the use of non-actors, and by using material participants bring.



Applied Theatre: Development by Tim Prentki – Chapter 1: History and Origins of Theatre for Development (2015)

10.11.15 Applied Performance Session 7

In this session, we focused on Theatre and Prison with Anna Herman, the head of education at Clean Break theatre company.


Introduction and Lie

Anna Herman seated us in a circle. To introduce ourselves, Herman asked that one-by-one we say our names and then state a lie about ourselves. My lie was that I was a part time astronaut. As we went around the circle, the class shared creative and flamboyant lies, including: that they’re The Weeknd’s (musical artist) cousin, or that they really dislike The Star Wars franchise.


This activity is a fun and safe way to introduce yourself. When working with vulnerable groups of people, like prisoners, asking to tell a lie instead of fact about themselves can provide shelter from distilling personal information they may not want to share. It can also help with nerves by allowing the lie to be about anything, it can be also be as imaginative and dishonest as needed to be, again safe guarding their true identity and providing relief.


This activity was then slowly developed to add a layer of acting. For this, I crossed my legs and attempted to portray a sense of arrogance and pride in being an astronaut that has visited Mars. Adding a minimal layer of performance begins introducing theatre and performance to the vulnerable people, like prisoners, who may have never had experience in this subject area before. This can later be developed to help them learn more skills in the area of performance.


Similarities and Differences

In this activity, working in pairs, we were asked to interact with eachother and find a single similarity and difference between us.


I worked with Ewelina. Ewelina and I know each other well so we worked around things we knew about each other. Our similarity was that when we go to the library to study, we procrastinate a lot. Our difference was that, Ewelina washes her hair twice a week, whereas I wash my hair every other day.

The group then shared the information they learnt about each other.


This activity, developing from the previous activity, permits the group to get to know each other and create a safe environment for the participants to communicate with each other. Talking to one another, in my experience, relieves tension and calms nerves as you break the tension and barriers that may be present. As well as talking and creating a less tense environment, this exercise allows you to share a few details about yourself after the previous exercise, and allows the participants to learn information about others. This begins development of group coherence and relationship, especially in an environment like prison where tensions may be strong and there may be a strong sense of punishment and victimisation. As stated in Theatre and Prison by Caoimhe McAvinchey (2011), This “infantilisation” and “institutionalisation” (p. 10) makes it difficult for prisoners to improve and create an independent life for themselves. McAvinchey expands to say a state or establishment could be judged on the prison and punishment choices it imposes. Though the author is careful about victim bias towards prisoners, she understands social, cultural and the commercial complexities involved. (McAvinchey, 2011, in Atwal, 2016).


Theatre in Prison (TIP) can help counter this by allowing inmates to create and live independently. TIP includes “theatre created by inmates for inmates, professional productions for prisons, and productions with a mix company of professional actors and prisoners” (McAvinchey , 2011, p. 55, in Atwal, 2016). This creates small connections between the participants and helps each person to establish their humanity.


Still Images

As the class sat together in a circle, the facilitator instructed us to organically make eye contact with another participant. Once the eye contact is established, both participants run into the centre of the circle to meet. As they run, Herman shouted ‘stop’. The participants had to freeze in their positions. The rest of the participants had to then create scenarios based on the position of the participants in the centre, and their relationship with one another, through posture, proximity and physicality.

Some questions to think about when analysing the participants’ positions are: What could they be doing? How do they link? What is their relationship?

For example, one pair was given the scenario of dancing in a disco due to their large physicality, which resembled dancing.


This activity is a simple way to devise or improvise pieces of performance, especially for participants that do not have experience in drama and performance, this activity organically lets participants guess and create scenarios, which could build longer performances. This helps take away rom the pressure of having to devise and plan ideas, which can be daunting for those without experience. It can also reduce clashing over ideas or disagreements.



Next, proceeding with the session, Herman explained hat a set of rules or a plan in important when working in prison settings. Every participant can view the rules, and refer back to them. The participants themselves create the rules. This allows the participants to shape their own outcome and they become actively in control of the process and become a strong part of it. Anna Hermann in The Mothership (2009) explains that in working with Clean Break women are usually asked to make a list of outcomes they expect from Clean Break, like I stated above. This includes various stuffs such as a new beginning, safety, freedom of expression, understanding, a second chance, and much more. The answers to this question tails around hope for the future and the desire to rebuild the self. (Hermann, 2009, in Atwal, 2016).


We as a class participated in the same process. In pairs, we discussed what we wanted from the session and the process of the session. Discussing in pairs beforehand helps the participants to help each other come up with ideas and check ideas. It also, again, removes issues of anxiety and pressure if participants help each other and work together before being exposed to the rest of the group.

These ideas were then shared as a class, which were noted on the board. The board was then placed in a visually and physically accessible part of the room, where everybody was free to refer back to it.


How do we want to work together?

The rules/guidelines we agreed on were:

  • Not to feel exposed
  • To keep active
  • Be open minded
  • Have a sense of play/fun
  • Listen to each other
  • Clear and precise tasks
  • Supportive
  • Approach the topics slowly
  • Include purpose of activities and keep the purpose clean
  • More time (if possible)
  • Patience
  • Awareness of each other.


The value of these guidelines:

  • Participants become aware of each other’s expectations. This allows you to co-operate
  • Every person agrees and shares the same level of knowledge on the guidelines and process of the session.
  • The groups claim ownership of the guidelines, which creates a sense of control.
  • Allows the participants to feel comfortable together.
  • Allows the participants to pinpoint what is expected. It becomes similar to a contract, which is accessible to each person.
  • It creates a way of working.


To advance with the session, Herman introduced the class to an activity to help us understand the position of the prisoners better and empathise better. These qualities help participants take on the role of facilitator in an effective way, as it gives you a level of understanding towards the prisoners. Herman asked a few questions or gave statements to think about:


  1. Think about a rule or law that you’ve broken.

My answer: When I was younger, my friends and I could not watch a film, as we were underage. To counter this, we paid for a different film and sneaked into the film we wanted to watch.


  1. A person you love.

My answer: My Dad.


  1. Something you love doing.

My answer: Reading poetry, looking at art, philosophy.


  1. Place you feel safe.

My answer: My room, or with someone.


We wrote our answers down in our own space privately, which is important to secure a safe and open environment. After finishing the questions, Herman asked us to think that because of the rule or law we broke, we’ve lost all of the other things, including the person we love, the things we love doing, and the place of safety.

I found this to be a powerful way to get people to empathise with prisoners, as it centralises or draws from the personal investments and experiences of the participant. The participant is able to reflect on their own feelings to understand the prisoners’ feelings. This can be very useful for practitioners and facilitators, who will work with prisoners. A level of understanding between the two will ease progression and success.


After this, Herman asked us to note down all the thoughts and feelings we felt. My thoughts and feelings were:

  • Really hurt.
  • Sad!
  • Empty pit in stomach
  • Disappointed that it has to be this way.


And finally, Herman asked us what we might need to recover from this. My answers were:

  • My own space
  • Hygiene facilities and items
  • Support/listener
  • An emotional or mental connection to someone
  • Inspiration (art/poems/philosophy).


Like I have stated before, this activity, taking from the personal investments and experiences of the participant, allows them to make a connection and bridge to understand and glimpse into the feelings or minds of people placed in situations of imprisonment.

Billy, the Girl

To experiment with and get a taster of Clean Break’s work, Herman provided us with a short extract called Billy, the Girl. Herman left us to read and analyse the script in groups of three. Whilst reading the script, we tried to understand Ingrid, the mother, and Billy’s, the ex-prisoner, relationship. Notes as annotated are available to view on the script (see below).

billy the girl 1

billy the girl 2

billy the girl 3

billy the girl 4

Based on this understanding, we were instructed to create two still images. The first still image showcased an issue Billy has faced or will face. The second still image showcased something that is going to support Billy, or help her more forward.


My group, Tiam Clayton and I decided to create something that will signify a barrier for Billy, played by Tiam in the first still image. This barrier could be not being connected to family, as displayed in the script, or other issues faced by prisoners like not being to get a job, etc.

To create this, Clayton and I linked arms and stood tall and strong by lengthening our spines and holding our shoulders back. Tiam, as Billy, who is shorter than both Clayton and I, had to motion climbing over us with difficulty.


The second image showed support through people, connections and services. This could be through organisations like Clean Break or friends. For this, I, playing Billy now, sat crouched on the floor holding onto Tiam’s leg and hand. Behind Tiam, Clayton holds onto Tiam’s hand. This creates a chain of people helping to raise each other up.


This activity allows you to begin improvisation around stories that are relatable to prisoners and can bring about exploration of their own circumstances. Still images are a simple, easy way to create stimulus for a more complex performance, and it does not require too much skill or effort. This is effective for the beginning stages of devising. Furthermore, dealing with scripts that display and explore themes that are similar to the prisoners’ lives helps them easily understand and add their own input to the creative process as they are able to relate and hold knowledge of this area.




Atwal, P. (2016) ‘Theatre and Prison by Caoimhe McAvinchey (2011) Precise’. PA5404: Applied Performance. Unpublished essay/assignment.


Atwal, P. (2016) ‘The Mothership by Anna Hermann (2009) Precise’. PA5404: Applied Performance. Unpublished essay/assignment.


McAvinchey, C. (2011) Theatre and Prison. Palgrave Macmillan.

10.11.15 Applied Performance Session 7

The Mothership by Anna Herrmann (2009)


Hermann, A. (2009) ‘The Mothership’ Sustainability and transformation in the work of Clean Break.


Anna Hermann, the head of education at Clean Break, writes about the experience of female ex-prisoners working with the company.


Women are usually asked to make a list of outcomes they expect from Clean Break. This includes various stuffs such as a new beginning, safety, freedom of expression, understanding, a second chance, and much more. These answers to this question tails around hope for the future. Hermann discusses ways in which Clean Break help realise these ideas.


Two women prisoners founded Clean Break in 1979, and it holds deep roots in the criminal justice system. Their current work inches around working with women from the community. These women are brought together to work with art education as students. Hermann makes the distinction between prison theatre and community theatre, exclaiming that Clean Break’s work has roots in and is perhaps community theatre.

The participants are taught skills and education is prominent. In this way Clean Break focuses on two distinct ways to work with participants. These are theatre production and educational/training programmes, which provides the participants with the necessary skills and opportunities for “expression, personal growth, and professional development” (p. 327).


Theatre works by commissioning an established female playwright to bring forward work, which explores and highlights issues faced by women offenders. Hermann states that this challenges audience’s perception of women and crime. This is done by centralising the participants’ experiences. The educational training programme fulfils Clean Break’s mission to address the importance of the arts and theatre, and their tools that enable “personal, social, professional, and creative development” (p. 329) of the participants involved in the criminal justice system. This work allows participation and empowerment, states Hermann.

The educational programme works on a no-judgement basis, and grows through value and appreciation of the participants. The participants are able to strive for more by participating in writing and performance, as well as self-development, anger management, literacy, and training in life skills, writes Hermann. Many participants have none to minimal theatre experience. Clean Break allows them to gain skills and qualifications, as well as essential support they may need, emotionally with advice and counselling.


Hermann writes about the effective aspects and aspects that need improving of Clean Break, surveyed from participants of Clean Break:

  • Clean Break creates a safe space for women. This is taken from the fact that all participants share similar experiences, this exempted judgements, and created a sense of equality and understanding. This allows the participants to take part in theatre and adopt new skills.

Though it is stated that the label of Clean Break carries connotations of the participants’ past, which they may not want to reveal. It can be excluding, and can do disservice to participants.

  • Clean Break allows the ability of creation of identity. Participants can openly and proudly create a new identity for themselves. This creates space for self-expression, improved self-esteem, and reward and encouragement.
  • The new identity permits space for personal development, rehabilitation. One participant stated that she felt she never has to go back to drugs or crime (p. 332). Newfound confidence, self-expressions, raised aspirations, and new skills are some of the key benefits.
  • Hermann raises the question of how these benefits are sustained in the long run? Many participants experience long, hard journeys, as they relapse.
  • Clean Break creates a positive, mutual relationship with the participants. This is important as it desists them from crime. This is due to the fact that women offenders need to feel they are people, and have worth. This creates reciprocal relationships. This allows the participants to come back to Clean Break when they need to, and have ownership of their rehabilitation (p. 333).
  • Hermann discusses dependence on Clean Break as the company carries an ‘open door policy’. Clean Break provides a safe, nurturing environment, which can make the outside environment unappealing. Clean Break aim to nurture independence within the participants, and hold a time limit on the courses, which allows women to naturally move on.
  • The participants face they could give back to advance skill in others. This creates feelings of fulfilment and heightened self worth.
The Mothership by Anna Herrmann (2009)

Theatre and Prison by Caoimhe McAvinchey (2011)

McAvinchey, C. (2011) Theatre and Prison. Palgrave Macmillan.


Caoimhe McAvinchey begins by explaining the importance of theatre and performance as a tool to understand political, social and economic consequences of prison. McAvinchey considers representation of prisoners based on race, sexuality, class and gender. She also considers neoliberal backgrounds in theatre practice to rehabilitate or correct the system, and the audience’s role or intuition to respond or critically engage with this theatre.

McAvinchey thinks about the interaction of individuals with the state, how punishment is executed and the effects of this, what is thought to be effective. She also looks at the performance of prison within this.


Something that is key to understanding is that, McAvinchey explains, most prisoners come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with low levels of education and unstable employment. Many have ties to the mental healthcare system, homelessness and drug taking issues. McAvinchey goes on to say that prisons have become warehouses for those with “society structural disadvantage” (p. 9).

Using information from organisation, Amnesty International, Humans Rights Watch, and The Howard League for Penal Reform, she explains that marginalised people are generally the least likely to be protected by the state, the least likely to get redressed and most harshly punished by the law (p. 9).

This “infantilisation” and “institutionalisation” (p. 10) makes it difficult for prisoners to improve and create an independent life for themselves. McAvinchey expands to say a state or establishment could be judged on the prison and punishment choices it imposes. Though the author is careful about victim bias towards prisoners, she understands social, cultural and the commercial complexities involved.

Despite this, the lack of questioning of prison settings furthers the state agenda. It is a symptom of “obscuring and reassuring effect of established institutions” (p. 15).


McAvinchey describes the difference in perception of the general population and prisoners. For the population, she states, it is about security and “restoration of social relationships” (p. 17), whereas for individuals that committed crimes, it is about “retribution, or as an opportunity for reformation and rehabilitation” (p. 17). A society symbolises itself in how it carries out punishments and why depending on social, political and economic factors. States project power and control through their penal system, as McAvinchey uses A. C. Grayling’s Ideas That Matter to explain. These could be through threats, force, suppression or even destruction (p. 19).


Globally, prisons and penal systems have been affected by globalisation. This affects the “penal practice, and the representation and value of the criminal body with it” (p. 34). Since prisoners largely come from disadvantaged backgrounds, the criminal body becomes non-productive against a capitalist system, which values earnings, employability, and work. Though in a neoliberal establishment, which relies on systems like penal systems, profits from criminal bodies, through the privatisation of these corrections industries, explains McAvinchey. This leads to more prisons, more jobs for the corrections industry workers and opportunities for business. This makes the prisoner perform in a capitalist system, without agency. “Their on-productivity, their non-performance as low-ability citizens” (p. 34) becomes valuable.


Theatre in Prison (TIP) can help counter this by allowing inmates to create and live independently. TIP includes “theatre created by inmates for inmates, professional productions for prisons, and productions with a mix company of professional actors and prisoners” (p. 55).

Drama can be used to teach skills or revolve issues, including “communication skills, human rights, parents and resettlement” (p. 57). These make it clear ways in which creativity can accommodate and create space for sociopolitical change. It focuses on the process and the looming outcomes. Even an example of an artist entering the prison setting or “border-crossing” (p. 59) can compromise the state’s power to punish or penalise, or challenge the authenticity of the prison building. However, something like this, or even performance does not make work radical.

Theatre and prison are two contrasting concepts. Prison carries assigned roles, and is specific down to time, space and action. It is regular and fixed. The prisoner remains the prisoner. Whereas, drama allows you to experiment with the truth, deception is welcome. “Interventions and fluidity of meaning are embraced” (p. 61).


Dehumanisation and infantilisation reduces prisoners and removes them from opportunity, choice and independence, as well as everyday life. Re-humanising prisoners and offering real opportunity allow rehabilitation and the reformation. Using Osbourne and Lawes, McAvinchey states that prisons should offer further social and cultural learning, and not deprivation of. Theatre, as a “social, political, cultural activity that would aid this realisation.”

Theatre offers the opportunity to create a cultural shift. Theatre can interrupt the institutionalised memory and order. Small changes can disrupt the wider discussion and narrative, including the everyday. Human rights could be liberated of punishment and condemnation (p. 72).

Theatre and Prison by Caoimhe McAvinchey (2011)

03.11.15 Applied Performance Session 6

In this session, my group created a short facilitation with my research group. After studying the Youth Theatre for Peace Manual (YTP), we put together a facilitation plan that will deliver information on the subject of conflict: 1) Group led Linking Tag game. 2) Mickel led the Machine/Dragons Den activity. 3) Robab and Anita lead Still Image Stories. 4) I continued the previous activity, but led to change the still images to resolve the issues presented. 5) Tiam was supposed to lead the Shamanic Staring exercise, but we ran out of time.


The YTP manual instructed us on creating various exercises with careful consideration of people who may have experienced conflict. Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT) creates a safe space for conflicting communities to break down barriers through contact and personal relationships. This provides the participants with the tools to address and explore issues of mutual concern, “establishing common ground for cooperation and coexistence” (YTP, p. 5, in Atwal, 2016).


Promoting lasting attitudinal and behavioural changes in youth and adults in relation to conflict issues at the community level, relations within the community, and…in relation to people of other ethnicities and religions, and nationality (YTP, p. 10, in Atwal, 2016).



Characters in the Circle

For this session, Ananda led an exercise based on Commedia Dell’arte. Ananda introduced the significant characters from Commedia Dell’arte, such as The Lovers, Magnifico, and The Capitano. As she introduced each character, she created a particular body language, facial expression, sound and movement to go with the character. As she embodied the character, the class learnt the characterisation, and performed it together in a circle. Ananda then picked out certain people to perform the characters to everybody.


This activity allows the class to together work on building characters. Doing it together also takes away from the embarrassment individuals may feel as the characters are heavily characterised and exaggerated. This activity also serves to help use the characters as a template to discuss stories of conflict, as each character carries a variety of traits, like the Pantalone is sneaky and villainous. This allows vulnerable people, who have experienced conflict, to use these characters and story telling to reflect on the conflict through drama/acting, to analyse it and perhaps reach a conclusion. The characters are playful and light, as they use humorous and iconic characteristics. This can help lighten the mood when addressing conflict, as stated in the YTP toolkit, the use of interactive performance provides a number of flexible activities and games that help create awareness and discussion around issues of conflict within communities (Atwal, 2016).


Story Telling

The class was split into groups. Ananda instructed the class to close our eyes, and listen to the story she was going to narrate. The story was a fairy tale about characters named Con and Anya. Con was an entitled Prince, who fell in love with a common man’s daughter, Anya. He tried to pursue her, and eventually had her kidnapped and abused her. Anya managed to escape, but drowned to the bottom of a river. Ananda then asked us to portray this story through five still images.

  • In my group, we began by showing Anya, played by Ashleigh, resting amongst trees and nature, as the character is a nature lover. The rest of the group portrayed the natural environment using physicality. For example, I created a triangle above my head with my arms to represent a mountain.
  • The second still image depicted Con and his men attempting to woo Anya. Ashleigh, as Anya, sat on the floor, whilst Anita, Aga and I played Con’s men attempting to impress her with things and physicality. Con, played by Clayton, stood behind representing an entitled and mean personality through his crossed arms and sly facial expression.
  • The third depicted Anya getting kidnapped. The group surrounded Ashleigh at different height levels, grabbing onto her arms and legs, in the direction of Con, to show that Con is perpetrator.
  • The fourth image shows Anya fleeing Con. Anita, Aga and I represented a circular tower of the castle by holding hands. Ashleigh portrayed Anya as jumping through the window, with Con closely behind her trying to catch her.
  • The fifth still image showed Anya singing at the bottom of the river she drowned in. We created this by standing Ashleigh in the middle and everybody else kneeled in a circle around her, with swaying arms to simulate waves.


This activity, like the previous activity, works well by dealing with stories of conflict and trauma by toning down the mood to become playful and childlike. The use of still images also doesn’t pressure the participants into creating complex pieces of work, so they don’t have to deal with reliving the trauma in a great amount of detail. It also may ease nerves and anxiety by stimulating the participants slowly, and then eventually developing the activity. It can be developed by adding dialogue or developing the characters further. Dialogue could be added through thought-tracking in a few words or sentences. Audience interaction could also be added, perhaps as the last development. Audience could either replace the participants or could suggest ways to mould the still images. This activity would work well with participants who have never worked with drama before and may feel vulnerable, as still images do not require a great deal of complex acting.



We discussed that theatre dealing with conflict, like the previous exercise, is used to resolve. Theatre in this situation creates a safe space for people dealing with conflicting ideas to come together and try and resolve the conflict. Theatre allows you to use techniques to help solve issues that would otherwise not be used. Performance and theatre techniques and devices allows people to work together and work differently. Performance creates the opportunity to analyse and reflect on conflict by going back in time and being able to see the conflict form different viewpoints.


In this sense, theatre can be used to heal and as therapy. When the affected share their stories, they create witnesses as other people hear the stories. This is called “secondary witnessing” (Breed, 2015). Secondary witnessing is as it is being witnessed, it can provide relief and can help the affected or trauma victims feel burden-less. Telling also helps order the story with a beginning, middle and end. This helps make sense of the story for the victim and can provide release, as traumatic memory is usually fragmented and unorganised. Activities like the fairy tale story can help with this by helping to allow victims to look at the memory again to reflect and also organise and order it.




Atwal, P. (2016) Youth Theater for Peace Programs in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Final Evaluation Report Precise. PA5404: Applied Performance. Unpublished essay/assignment.


Breed, A. (2015) Lecture. PA 5404: Applied Performance. University of East London. 3rd November.

03.11.15 Applied Performance Session 6

Youth Theatre for Peace: Drama for Conflict Transformation Toolkit

The Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) manual focuses on the introduction of a toolkit to help introduce young people to theatre that explores conflict and the transformation of conflict. Conflict and violence disrupts and displaces many lives, including the lives of young people. Giving young people positive engagement to voice their ideas is able to help them play roles in creating a space for peace.


The YTP project helps youth actively participant and engage with drama and theatre activities based on Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT). DCT is a theatrical concept involving participatory elements, in which the youth as participants create plays around issues based on conflict and then present them to their communities as interactive performances, states the manual. The use of interactive performance provides a number of flexible activities and games that help create awareness and discussion around issues of conflict within communities. Interactive theatre includes image theatre, forum theatre, and playback theatre.


Image Theatre is a theatre technique that allows participants and communities to explore real situations in their community and to view ideal situations the community may want. This is done through the use of still images.

Secondly, forum theatre, developed by Augusto Boal, is a way to break boundaries between the audience and the actors in theatre. The audience are able to explore and create action plans that can benefit towards a resolution of conflict, through the use dramatic interventions.

Finally, playback theatre was developed in the 1970s. It deals with concepts of storytelling, ritual and psychodrama, using participatory tools. It works through the sharing of personal stories, which are “played back” by the performers involved.


The manual creates a toolbox for DCT activities, including warms up, lead in activities, the main exercises, energisers and finally, the closing activities. This allows facilitators to create sessions that custom fit their own agenda or idea based on the needs of the participants, their own needs and time allowance. The material can also be created to associate with culture or be specific to a region. This allows themes important to the particular participant group to be incorporated into the session.

The manual states that location is important to secure the safety, emotional, psychological and physical, of the participants and facilitators. As DCT can bring up previous trauma the participants may have experienced, it is important to create a safe space for the exploration of conflict. The manual recommends the staff to be trained in psychological support.


The participant groups should be mixed groups of people, but should also include participants from the same regions or home communities. This allows a safe space to form, but also allows tolerant environments to form.

The use of ground rules and expectations for workshops is effective. This allows the participants to determined the kind of behaviour expected within the sessions, and allowed in the group. Participants create their own expectations and rules, rather than a top-down system, which perpetuates the rules. This allows the participants to feel a stronger sense of control, and this will prevent feelings of restriction and rebellion. This furthers the safety and productivity of the space.


The manual focuses on introducing activities that introduce DCT techniques. DCT exercises explore sensitive emotions and personal stories; a local counsellor’s presence and support can be helpful in engagement and safety. This is strongly recommended for communities that have faced a lot of violence or other trauma.

Facilitation and facilitators requires skills that will ensure that participants are able to freely engage with the sessions through question asking, sharing of ideas and risk taking. The facilitator must be able to support the participants to reach common objectives, to challenge thinking and provide different perspectives. This will allow a stronger structure of support.

The use of a reflection at the end of activities is helpful in creating discussion and debate about the learning experience of the participants. The participants should be able to bring up their own questions, themes and agendas. Some sample reflection questions include: What happened? How did you feel during the exercise? What did you notice in the group? What themes or ideas emerged? How might you use these exercises in the future? (p. 17).

Youth Theatre for Peace: Drama for Conflict Transformation Toolkit