Augusto Boal

In the 1992 council elections in Rio de Janeiro a first time candidate with the Workers’ Party succeeded in being elected. His name was Augusto Boal, a theatre practitioner dedicated to empowering society’s oppressed, and his selection marked the beginning of an experiment to fuse theatre and politics in a way that was previously unexplored. Boal is most famous for his book, Theatre of the Oppressed, in which he outlines his belief that conventional theatre reinforces the political ideologies which have created a society of extremes, in which the rich get richer and the poor poorer. His election, therefore, was a chance to make “‘theatre as politics’ instead of simply making ‘political theatre’” and provided the opportunity for the people of Rio de Janeiro to directly affect the legislative process. However, some detractors have suggested that this latest development directly contradicts the philosophical, political and theatrical theories that Boal professes as fundamental to his work. They claim that his initial mantra that theatre is a “rehearsal for revolution” has been replaced by a process of acceptance, of making-do in a corrupt and unequal political system. As Ben Kershaw, in his review of Legislative Theatre, states “the practices of Legislative Theatre may even be seen by some as a capitulation to the very forces of oppression that the theatre of the oppressed originally hoped to vanquish.”
Fundamental to any analysis of Legislative Theatre is an understanding of the political and philosophical ideologies that underpin Boal’s work. As he outlines in the foreword to Theatre of the Oppressed “all theatre is necessarily political” and thus all theatrical audiences must be politically engaged. He delineates how initially theatre was entirely of the people; it was synonymous with the carnival and the festival, with singing and dancing on the street. He suggests that theatre was then apprehended b…

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