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A technique pioneered by Brazilian radical Augusto Boal, Forum Theatre enables young people to try out courses of action which could be applicable to their everyday lives. Originally the technique was developed by Boal as a political tool for change but has been widely adapted for use with young people. Forum Theatre is a form of interactive drama used to explore real practice scenarios in a way that empowers young people to rehearse solutions and change the outcome of a scenario for the better. We found this approach to be particularly useful for trialling both positive and negative coping mechanisms that young people brought to the group sessions. Forum theatre can be used in many different ways, but below is an example of a forum theatre workshop on good and bad ways of coping with situations that our out of our control.

Aim: To give your young people a chance to practice some of the coping mechanisms developed throughout the toolkit as well as some of their own. These sessions were effective in exploring how our choices and responses to different situations can impact ourselves and those around us. Playfully experimenting with different reactions highlighted that losing control can result in harming ourselves, as well as others, without being prescriptive.


A scene is played out to the group in which a main character is faced with a challenging situation. During the replay, any member of the audience is allowed to shout ‘Stop!’, step forward and take the place of the main character, showing how they could change the situation to enable a different outcome.


Preparing a Forum Theatre Scene:

Before your group begins their scene, split the group into smaller groups of 3 or 4. Give each group some flipchart paper, and ask them to raw a line down the middle, label one half ‘good coping mechanisms’ and the other half ‘bad coping mechanisms’. Ask the group to make a list of all the good ways they cope in difficult situations, and all the bad ways they cope. You might want to give an example, like, ‘talking to a friend you trust’ as a good coping mechanism and ‘ignoring a problem so it feels it’s gone away’ as a bad one. Highlight to the group that we all have good and bad ways of dealing with things in life, and that there’s nothing really wrong with that, except that if we work towards changing them we can make our lives a bit easier. After the group have written their lists, ask one person from each group to present, and pick out some interesting suggestions to have a broader conversation around.

Spend some time role playing the different ways of coping in order to explore the impact they can have on us and others around us.


Devising a Forum Theatre Scene:


  1. Divide the group into two. Give each group a scenario from the following:

You were late for an important appointment and missed your opportunity to be seen. Due to a misunderstanding, you had an argument with a friend. You reached your front door just now and realised your keys are missing. You got caught in the rain without an umbrella and your clothes are soaked through. You only had a few hours sleep and you can’t stay awake in class. Even though you haven’t done anything wrong, a police officer gave you a warning earlier this week. You were supposed to meet a friend but they cancelled on you at the last minute and you were really looking forward to talking to them.

Feel free to make up some scenarios of your own, but make sure they are based on relatively light-hearted practical issues that trigger responses (e.g. anger, frustration, stress) that could be handled using some of the techniques mentioned earlier in the toolkit. The scenes need to be light-hearted to avoid any unforeseen emotional reactions or triggers for the young people that may be outside of your remit to deal with.

  1. Ask the groups to devise a short scene around their scenario. At this point it might be worth fleshing out the background to the story/character a bit (don’t spend too long on this, but it might help later).
  2. Spend some time rehearsing the scene with the groups, keeping it simple. The scene should end with the main character not resolving the initial problem.


Presenting the theatre scene:


  1. Get the first group to present their scene to the other group.
  2. Firstly watch the scene through. At the end of the performance invite the audience to clap. The group may discuss the presentation between themselves
  3. Now ask the group to repeat the performance and at any time, any audience member can call out freeze and come onto stage to replace the main character in order to change the outcome of the scene
  4. Tell the audience they should only stop the scene if they have an idea of how to change/resolve the problem
  5. Once an audience member has stopped the scene ask them where they want the scene to start from and start the scene again
  6. The audience member will try to change the outcome and it is the other performer’s aim to make sure the same outcome happens
  7. If an audience member has an idea for change, but is reluctant to get on stage, they can suggest their ideas to the actors who can play out the suggestion
  8. Violence is not an option as a method of change
  9. After each audience interaction discuss with the group, what worked? What didn’t? What would they change about the method and why?
  10. Repeat this a few times so that different people can try out ideas
  11. Repeat the same process with the second group’s scene

Taking it home…

Take some quiet time at the end of the session encouraging young people to note down any of the themes that came up in the session that they feel are relevant to themselves. Alternatively, hold a closing group discussion, allowing the young people time to reflect on how the activity was relevant for them/what questions it brought up.


Forum Theatre Resources:

A clear space
Plenty of chairs

act out