Ever heard of Augusto Boal?

He is a theatre director from Brazil and is probably most reputated for his development of the Theatre of the Oppressed. He developed this Theatre of the Oppressed to give the oppressed people in his country a chance to voice out their opinions and dissatisfactions. There were plenty of social and economic problems, ranging from the widening gap between the rich and the poor, to the injust laws and treatment dealt to the colonized people in Brazil. Boal also came up with Forum Theatre and Invisible Theatre, both of which are part of his grand Theatre of the Oppressed. Both forms of theatre broke away from the convention of theatre involving only professional actors, and done for a group of spectators to watch. His idea of theatre is more interactive, and involves ordinary people who become spect-actors, instead of spectators. For example, in Forum Theatre, a scene would be acted out first by a group of actors, normally on a certain realistic theme or problem. Then, the ordinary people would have the right to stop the theatre and replace one of the actors, and act impromptu according to what he deems a better way of dealing with the situation. This “theatre” is repeated several times, with various people contributing their ideas. In this way, people can break away from the suppressed mindset, and possibly generate solutions for their real-life problems. This is a dressed rehearsal for life, says Augusto Boal.

Invisible Theatre, on the other hand, involves ordinary people taking part unconsciously. As he is known to have done it many times in the Paris Subway, he would gather a group of actors, plant them in the subway trains, and start a conflict, say sexual harrassment. The actors would then gradually blow up the problem such that it would involve the ordinary passengers on board. Once a good heated debate is achieved, his group of actors would suddenly alight and disappear from the train. It does sound a little like how Japanese love to play pranks on people for entertainment, but at the same time, it reminds me of the Big Brother, that we are living in a world of surveillances. We cannot escape from the eyes of the authority, the media or even strangers. No matter where we go, we feel compelled to act according to social norms and abide by laws.

I have never acted for real before, apart from amaterish skits for school lessons, but I had the honour of being part of the Invisible Theatre group this time. A group of us, led by a leader, planned out a fictitious scenario of which we would act out in a certain random class. The reactions from the “ordinary spect-actors” were not as active as we had wanted, probably because we only had ten minutes to implement it, and it was too short a time to involve the others. Thankfully, after the whole theatre ended, most people said they had believed that the whole scenario was real, and they just did not want to get themselves tangled in the situation. I was also impressed by the acting skills of the amateur group of “actors”, as we started everything with only a few rounds of rehearsals without spectators. Even though I had never acted for real before, the entire tension and atmosphere of the scene kept myself from laughing or smiling.

In the end, it was a really enjoyable experience and perhaps I have just discovered the joys of acting.

Adults tell us we shouldn’t lie, but sometimes acting out a lie is pretty fun, isn’t it?