Tag Archives: Augusto Boal

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A Threshold Moment – from Ruth in Budapest

A threshold moment.

After a feisty 2 weeks in Budapest last November Reboot the Roots were invited back to explore Augusto Boal’s transformative techniques with The Alternative Workshop Series Budapest. Last week, late February 2016, George Wielgus and myself facilitated the group for 3 days focusing on Rainbow of Desire.

This was the first time I had co-facilitated with Reboot the Roots and even though George and I had had detailed conversations about the form and content, I arrived on the first day nervous and expectant. What I found was a keen, smiling, (and late) group of social workers, teachers, people working with refugees, in human rights NGOs and drama students.

My role was to facilitate the mornings, preparing the group physically, emotionally and mentally for the afternoons and cultivating a culture of care within the space. Not everyone knew each other or the techniques, and I had concerns that newcomers might be overwhelmed. However the group bonded with ease and we reached a better-than-planned threshold moment by day three.

In the mornings we played trust games in pairs and in groups. We tried out how it feels to make physical connections, to touch and be touched, lift and be lifted. We played many power games some I’d devised to work alongside Rainbow of Desire, so I’m looking forward to trying them again when I facilitate with George in May.

In the afternoons George lead us through Rainbow of Desire including Analytical Mirror and Cop in the Head, all forms of Theatre of the Oppressed that focus on oppressions we experience from within. Augusto Boal, developed these technique in response to his time in Europe when he found the oppressions many people faced were internal more than external (different, he writes, to in the South American cultures with which he originally designed Forum Theatre.)

To give a surface overview George would ask a protagonist to perform an unfulfilled desire in front of the group. Then following a specific structure and involving other participants, the situation was explored from many angles. By the end the whole group is acting / (spect)acting resulting often in the protagonist reimagining their situation.

George is great at holding everyone’s attention, keeping sight of the structure while allowing spontaneity space to play. This for me was where the magic began. When the protagonists, antagonists and spectactors were moved to get involved, when without instruction people intuitively knew what to do, how they wanted to move, speak and relate to others in the space. In these moments there was a tangible sense of flow.

Sometimes however I felt the lines were not so clear. For example deciding when to step in and when to step out of commanding the space, balancing the linear versus nonlinear aspect of the technique, knowing where duty of care ends and self responsibility begins, and when the structure of the technique can be adapted and when its order needs to be kept… All this perhaps comes down to being present listening and intuitive. I’ve become interested in tracking what shifts the energy or mood. Noticing what actions and comments instigate change or reveal another layer of understanding and learning how we can use this to change the dynamics of a situation.
The threshold moment came on Sunday as a result of some well structured pedagogy and a fantastically open group. In the morning we went quite deep into personal boundaries by practicing saying no / stop to physical touch before it became too much. In the feedback people expressed appreciation for the clarity this gave them in how they asserted their boundaries in real life settings. People reflected on how hard it was to say stop because they didn’t want to be seen as weak, others were surprised by how much weight and pressure their partner enjoyed. There was a conversation about how the memory of this simple exercise would be helpful in real life in moments of physical, mental or emotional abuse of power. This series of exercises can be very triggering so it was beautiful to see a sense of respect and quiet collective appreciation. This vulnerable and honest state made the perfect foundation for an afternoon of the intense but palpably transformative Cop in the Head technique. What a workshop!!!!

And so to the future… After telling participants about my work with Eroles Project a learning centre in Spain, which this year explores the theme of Borders, many are keen on participating in the programme. What’s more two of the participants happened to work with Utilapu a Hungarian organisation working with refugees and migrants in Budapest and we are now in conversations about forming a partnership.

As I travel back to Madrid exhausted and enlivened, I am in the midst of designing a training using techniques from Theatre of the Oppressed. I’d like to zoom into boundaries and personal experiences of power to explore the universal imbalance of power. I am hoping to offer this to women’s groups and organisations in Madrid working with refugees. My experience in Budapest with Reboot the Roots has given me the confidence to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t. There is no reason for my life to be controlled by the Cops in my Head.

Over The Rainbow

Over The Rainbow

George, the Creative Director of RtR, was in Budapest for three days delivering an intensive course about Rainbow of Desire …

The Budapest crew!

Expect to cry. I now understand the emotional release of tears during a workshop is a sign that things are going well. It sounds bizarre, borderline perverse, but I now suspect if I ran a course in Rainbow and someone didn’t cry, I must be doing something wrong.

From Friday we used the Analytical Mirror to explore moments of indecision (which job to take, whether to move to another country with a partner), to Saturday when we applied the Rainbow itself to discussing a moment of rejection by a former lover, to Sunday’s exploration of ending a relationship that has become addictive, but toxic, through the Cop In The Head. Each time, despite moments of levity and joy, a palpable atmosphere descended upon the group, one of intense listening and focus as the protagonist battled with concrete versions of their doubts, fears, desires, talking them around into transformation.

My heart was in my throat throughout each presentation, as the responsibility of bringing people into some highly emotive states rested squarely on my shoulders, but I am relieved and joyful to report that, as ever, people emerged from the experience reporting release and relief, and often, a little better understanding of themselves.

Collaborating with Ruth Cross also provided a great foundation to the emotional work involved in the afternoons. Ruth facilitated some incredible sessions involving massage and power, and I look forward to working with her again in Ecodharma in May.

Equally, organiser Andras was amazing, managing with the help of his team to clean out and prepare a semi-derelict cafe space for us to use the basement of- replete with carpet tiles, heaters and lights!

I was thrilled to see so many of the people we worked with in November return, and hope to see them all again very soon to continue our journey. There are plans for subseqent workshops in Budapest, plus I have invited them all to join me in Cluj next month for a week of forum theatre training, and aswell there is Tu Fuokan festival coming up in June. It’s shaping up to be quite a year!

 

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

Rainbow of Desire in Budapest – from George

Rainbow Logo

So it’s another 6 hours until I take my bus from Liverpool Street to Stansted. Have double-checked my passport and ticket and now just looking over the details on what’s planned for this weekend. This is the first time I’ve run a 3-day Rainbow of Desire course, though I’ve done the individual exercises innumerable times in different forms. I’m very excited to see how it feels to dedicate a whole weekend to this technique. We are planning to look at Cop-In-The-Head, the Multiple Mirror and of course, the Rainbow of Desire itself, but I’d also like to try out such techniques as the Multiple Images of Happiness (what joy) and some others. But time is always so short! Am really glad that Ruth Cross from the Ecodharma/Eroles project/COP21/Beeva change crew is along to co-facilitate. Will let you all know how it goes!

For any of you not so familiar with RoD, you can read more here. It’s a good resource with some nice break-downs of the techniques. I’ll also be sure to post my own notes and responses to what happens on the RtR resources page afterwards. It’s essentially a theatrical technique for examining internalised oppressions – what happens when the cop leaves the ideological barracks and moves directly into our heads. You can read about some of the previous experiences we had with this technique in Ecodharma in our report here and also in Cluj last year, but I’ve included an extract below …

The RoD Technique – a woman has dinner with a man, they are both happy to be reunited after so long. The man invites the woman to sit on his knee, which she does, and then he reveals a ring and proposes to her.

The participant was invited to make images of the emotions she felt at this time: Excited, Shock, Nervousness. The audience suggested two more – Suspicion and Contentment – which the participant accepted. The scene was then replayed with each of these images in the protagonists place. The participant then arranged them into an image, then an ideal image, then dialogued with each of them trying to convince them to become ideal. The images then battled each other.

Participant reported the experience ‘fascinating’ and ‘powerful’, and that it allowed her to reflect on how she was then, compared to how she is now, and what areas of her life she still needs to work on.

The Analytical Image – a mother and child ride home in a car from visiting a friend who hosts many children. A conversation ensues whereby we learn that there is domestic violence between the absent parent and the child, and that the mother does not wish to discuss it. The mother suggests that the only solution is to call social services, who will take the child away and not punish the abusive parent.

The audience made images of the protagonist and the antagonist, which were then pairred off together and the scene replayed. The participant whose scene is was also played the part of the mother, and reported that it helped her understand a good deal more about the dilemma of her mother. She also reported that it was encouraging for her to be able to analyse the images rationally without succombing to emotion.

 

Let’s see what happens in Budapest …