First Fortnight Festival
Based on Boal’s Forum Theatre method, “Stories from the Front,” one of the final events of First Fortnight, weaved together recorded narrative, onstage performance and audience discussion about the topic of mental health to create an evening of powerful theatre that informed the minds and emotions of the audience.
Boal developed Forum theatre as part of his concept of “The Theatre of The Oppressed.” In this form of theatre, the audience is free to stop the actors at any point in the production and alter the performance to make it better represent the situation (most often pertaining to a social or political issue) they are portraying. This idea came through Boal’s reasoning that an actor can only ever really perform their own ideas as even when they are supposedly performing the ideas of others; it is through a lens of their own subjectivities. This production did not follow the exact format of forum theatre but instead combined elements of it with its own particular style to create an individual, powerful piece of theatre.
The piece followed the stories of a number of people who have suffered with mental health issues and those who have cared for them. Each segment opened with recorded interviews which then informed the performances, which were carried out by the people interviewed. The fact that the people whose stories were being performed acted them was very effective. It meant that the performances were less polished; however, they were raw and honest portrayals of the people’s experiences. The experiences behind the stories lent a true passion and reality to the scenes that brought them to a new plane and heightened the audiences’ connection to the narratives.
Further engaging the audience, the opportunities provided to them to comment, make suggestions and share their thoughts made this show a truly moving and educating experience. New perspectives on mental illness and new ideas were uncovered at every turn, but the overriding thought behind this piece was that of the importance of empathy and human understanding.
This show was a valuable experience that taught me a lot. If it is ever repeated, I would highly recommend that anyone with any interest in theatre, social change, mental health issues, and essentially, helping other human beings, should see it.