Theatre for development in context : exploring the possibilities and contradictions of visions of theatre and development within the action of community
This study is research into practice, concerned with locating a critical perspective
into the possibilities of drama in achieving sustainable development within
This qualitative research approach draws on action-research paradigms,
ethnographic techniques and drama methodologies to create in depth analysis of the
facilitation and action of community drama within case study contexts. The case
study contexts were drawn from the field of mental health provision and the context
of self-advocacy for people with learning difficulties. Drama and video workshops
were facilitated within these groups between periods of 9 - 18 months. Participants
were involved from three groups including a women's group and a male orientated
group within mental health provision, and a group for young adults with learning
difficulties within a self advocacy project.
This thesis contributes to knowledge in the field of Theatre for Development
and UK community based drama in the following ways: The thesis suggests that
previous assumptions and claims as to the 'success' of community drama projects
need closer, critical interrogation. Analysis of the field work reveals that 'visions' of
theatre and development face conflict when positioned in context, as both the nature
and action of community is itself contested and ambivalent.
The relationship of the facilitator role to other involved parties is given
specific interrogation. The role and persona of the facilitator as a key player is
identified, and demonstrated as such throughout the thesis through adoption of
self-reflexive strategies of writing. It becomes clear that the radical, pedagogic intent
of the drama process to foster collective ownership through the critical addressing
and the representation of issues pertinent to a group's social reality, is questioned by
those involved at various levels in the process.
In exploring the nature of drama and video representations as resistance and
intervention, sites of personal resistance and 'counter' interventions are illuminated.
However, the reality of resistance is also bound up within the complexity of identity
politics where the consequences of 'coming out' and accepting a label can become
both a liberatory and oppressive experience. In chapter eight the continual difficulty
of sustainability is examined and critiqued in the light of key issues identified within
the previous chapters.
Finally, the thesis assesses the substantive issues in relation to current
discourses in cultural theory. By resisting opportunities to prescribe models and
techniques thus reproducing the discourses critiqued this study culminates with
optimism. Developing creative frameworks, that genuinely engage with contradiction
and the complicated politics of context, are deemed as critical conditions for