Forum Theatre

Forum Theatre or the Theatre of the Oppressed is a fantastic form in which to engage with difficult situations in a creative and experiential way and empower ourselves to act more skilfully.  It’s also fun!

In 2013 I completed a number of professional training courses with Cardboard Citizens –   and have since run drama workshops and created drama with various different groups mainly on the subject of mental health.  I’ve worked with health professionals and with those who struggle with mental illness.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more or engage me for a workshop.




For those of you unfamiliar with Forum Theatre,  it was started by Augusto Boal (1931-2009) in Brazil. He believed that people can use theatre to challenge the oppression they face in everyday life. Through techniques such as Image Theatre, Invisible Theatre, Forum Theatre and techniques like Cop in the head and Rainbow of Desire, participants learn to use theatre as a means to explore both external oppressive behaviour and internal ‘cops in the head’.

Boal talked about ‘spectactors’, the audience being both spectator and actor.  The aim is to energise the participants so they become more than spectators, exploring and transforming the reality in which they are living.




Adrian Jackson, MBE, founder and chief executive of               Cardboard Citizens set CC up to create Forum Theatre with those who are homeless.  He translated Boal’s books into English and also runs courses on Forum Theatre and Rainbow of Desires.  I completed courses on writing for Forum, creating and ‘Jokering’ (facilitating) Forum and also Rainbow of Desires.




There are different levels to work on depending on the time available.


I will always begin with a range of Forum Theatre games which have specific purposes:

a)  to open us up to ‘possibilities’ and begin to challenge any fixed mindset

b)  to connect us with each other and to explore how we connect with others.

c)  to recognise how we are always creating narratives and interpreting events and to play with that

I’ve begun to bring  a ‘mindful’ approach to this by asking people what they notice at the end of each game and asking how this game and what they’ve learned might be relevant to their situation.



Here, we create with out bodies our response to oppressive situations we are in.  As individuals, in pairs and in groups, I will ask people to set up and create an ‘image’ of the oppression they feel.

We then ‘play’ with this image.



Working with the relevant people, I identify what the issues are and gather a story, a true story that will resonate with the group of people attending the performance.  I then create a piece of drama from the story and rehearse it either with trained actors or with volunteers from the group who  may have little or no  experience of acting but a great deal of experience with the issue at hand.

The drama needs to be relevant, engaging and it needs to end badly. The main character, the protagonist, does all they can to make their situation work but it just gets worse and finally they are defeated.


As the facilitator or Joker,  I draw responses from the audience and explain that we’re going to run through the drama again but this time they need to shout “STOP!” when they think the protagonist could have done something different and then come out of the audience and take the part of the protagonist and act out what they think will help the situation. Anything from the ordinary to the fantastical is fine.  Of course the other actors stay in role and don’t just roll over!   It’s important as the joker that I never force anyone to act who is uncomfortable and that I never leave anyone on stage too long.  When someone has a go, we applaud them and then ask,  ‘Was it enjoyable?’ ‘was it useful?’


It may seem unlikely that people will get out of their seats but when the drama is relevant and matters to them, they will come forward.



In early July this year (2019),  I ran  a Forum workshop for an hour and a half with a local mental health team as part of their away day.  This was a group of about 25 people.  I had one meeting before-hand to get some idea of the theme and on the day used forum games and image theatre to draw out issues for them.  Although some of them were clear that drama was ‘not their thing’ they engaged wholeheartedly and very creatively with the process.


In April this year, (2019) I had the pleasure of running a Forum workshop for about 100 health professionals as part of a day’s conference on ‘Spiritual Care in Practice’.  For half the time I led some relevant drama games, and asked for reflections on the relevance of the games.  The second half of the time was a Forum piece based on a true story that someone very generously shared with me and allowed me to use which centred around a secure unit in a psychiatric ward.  The central character was the mental health nurse.  A small group of volunteers had rehearsed it once with me and we then engaged others on the day to make the doorbell/phone noises and various interruptions that often happen on a ward.

I was very moved by the level of engagement from the people at the conference and by the wisdom that they shared.  There was a lot of laughter but there was also a powerful sense of the painful reality of the situation.


Comments about the day:

“It was an extraordinary and very moving experience. I was hugely impressed at your skilful production.”

“It was both moving and transforming.”

“Full to the brim with pathos and humour”

This photo is of the group I worked with to perform a Forum Piece called “Who do you think you are?” a drama looking at mental health issues in the work place.  we performed this at the Old Fire Station in Oxford in March 2015 as part of the Time To Change year.