Forum theatre

Forum theatre is an interactive form of theatre in which the audience gets the opportunity to change and influence the performance. One or several scenes are acted out for the audience. The scenes always contain a conflict and end when the conflict is at its worst. When the same scene is acted out again, the audience is invited to stop the play. The person who calls a stop to the play is invited to take over one of the roles and try to continue the play in a way that reduces or breaks up the conflict. After trying out their suggestion, the person who did the swap goes back to their place in the audience. The original scene is acted out again and other members of the audience can stop the action and take over a role to test out alternative ways to change the course of events. The format can be adjusted to be shorter, where scenes are only played out once and the audience is able to comment and guide the actors instead of participating themselves.

Target group: Broad, flexible.

Preparations: Contact a theatre group that preferably has experience of forum theatre and one or more researchers. The researcher and theatre need to meet a few times to work out the play. The screenwriter needs to understand the research and get help from the researcher to develop concrete dilemmas and situations, preferably based on reality, to build the play around. Then the script is written and the play is rehearsed. Allow about 4-5 months preparation time. Once developed, a play can be used multiple times and may go on tour.

Challenges: Forum theatre is based on a clear conflict, which may be difficult to identify in the research. This may lead to differences of opinion between production and research. To solve this, you should view forum theatre as an approach that asks a question, brings everything to a head, and then the audience is responsible for the discussion and questioning. Another way is to make several scenes that contradict each other, where the audience gets to empathise with different sides of the conflict. It is an advantage if the researcher can be on hand to comment and ask questions during the performance and in the end summarise what happened during the performance and how it relates to their research. A forum theatre requires commitment from lots of people. This means that you need adequate resources and a relatively long preparation time. Sign a contract with the theatre so everything is in writing. It also requires the project manager to take an on-going active role to ensure that the theatre company and the researcher meet and that there is enough material for the writer to work with. When the play is ready, it can, in principle, be shown as many times as you wish. From the beginning, plan a number of performances to help you recuperate as much of your investment in the project as possible.

Benefits: A good way to create engagement with the audience and initiate a discussion around an issue or an ethical dilemma.

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