Accepted paper:

Theatre, thought and action: three experiments in Africa using community performance to interrogate power structures.


Jane Plastow (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores, with reference to projects undertaken by the writer, how performance arts were used with marginalised social groups in three African nations to explore particpants lives and then illustrate injustices to those in power.

Paper long abstract:

This paper takes as it starting points Paulo Friere's ideas about mutually relevant learning processes, and Gramsci and Frantz Fanon's respective concepts of the organic and native intellectual. It then explores three community-based theatre projects for which the writer was largely responsible: with street children in Ethiopia; with rural primary school children in Eritrea; and with an inter-generational group of women in Uganda. The paper looks at how an evolving set of multi-arts practices sought to work with each group to help them identify and interrogate at progressively more complex levels issues they found problematic. A series of questions will be asked and discussed about the radicalism of such an approach and its challenge to prevailing neo-liberal development approaches, about the relationship between facilitators/researchers and community groups, and about how effective such work can be in using theatre as a vehicle first for thought but then for action, demanding change from: the individual; the group; those in power.

panel G50
'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance