Durham University

Centre for Social Justice and Community Action

Performing Ethics

What is Theatre of the Oppressed and Forum Theatre?

Theatre of the Oppressed focuses on using theatre in social and political contexts as a tool for promoting education and social change, drawing on both personal and group perspectives. For Boal, the term “oppressed” embodied the notion of resistance, rather than passivity or victimhood.

Forum Theatre involves performance of a scenario showing “an oppression” - a problematic or unjust use of power that is experienced as a difficulty or obstruction. The scenario focuses on a particular situation relevant to the group that allows the possibility to deal with, and reflect on, difficult problems. The actors may be professionals or, as is described here, participants in a workshop: people who are themselves familiar with the kinds of events and relationships depicted in the scene. Theatre makes “an image of reality”, in what Boal designates “the aesthetic space”. This allows groups to work freely and safely with “the reality of the image” and to extrapolate their learning back into reality.

Participatory ethics through participatory theatre

Performing ethics: Using participatory theatre to explore ethical issues in CBPR

A 24 page booklet that outlines the nature of Forum Theatre and exercises and games for use in a workshop on ethics in community-based participatory research

Forum Theatre: Participatory ethics through participatory theatre (July 2014)


An 8-minute film produced by the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University, UK and LGBT Youth NW, Manchester, about communities and universities working together to develop ethical research to accompany the booklet, Performing ethics.