By James Thompson
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Extra resources for Applied Theatre: Bewilderment and Beyond (Stage and Screen Studies, V. 5)
We needed to refocus on the Freirian concept of ‘cultural invasion’ (Freire, 1970, p. 161) and be clear that an agenda of change set from the outside is more often an imposition than an act of liberation. In learning a language to get us through certain gates, we had perhaps lost sight of the principles that were, until we returned to Brazil, hidden or unspoken. The break from political cabaret to participatory prison theatre required a challenge to certain tenets of radical theatre but a re-examination of others.
The dichotomy between captive and free person, Brazilian and gringo, could only be confused by challenging the assumption about knowledge that this division provides. I did not know what AIDS meant in that prison. The Image Theatre of Boal was used therefore to create versions of the group’s reality and give all the opportunity to read what they saw. One participant’s image of a guard and a prisoner was read by others as a father and son. This technique enabled multiple readings of images of AIDS to be linked to other narratives and for the group to hint at possible solutions.
Having a prearranged behavioural script to pass on – use condoms – would have ensured no dialogue and a reinforcement of the barriers between all these groups. Use a condom. – We don’t have any. Use a condom. – They are prohibitively expensive for our partners who come to the prison for conjugal visits. Use a condom. – Wives are sold on conjugal visits to other prisoners to pay off debts and you can’t control the condom use of your creditor. Use a condom. – I’ll die from violence long before I die from AIDS.