Masterclass: Theatre of the Oppressed

October 27, 2016

Jennifer Hartley, an award winning director, writer and applied theatre practitioner who was trained under Augusto Boal came over to Singapore to conduct a 2-day masterclass for our trainers and partners on 22nd and 23rd of October 2016. We had some teachers and representatives from our re:ACT Festival 2016 partner organisations, Beyond Social Services and Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support who were with us for the workshop.


The masterclass focused on two techniques under Theatre of the Oppressed, created by Augusto Boal (founder of Forum Theatre). The masterclass explored two forms of the Theatre of the Oppressed meant to empower individuals to discover and explore oneself behind the masks that we put on. Rainbow of Desires physicalizes and clarifies the desires we have whereas Cops in the Head allows us to consciously redirect the voices in ourselves that limit our own possibilities. 


Before we create work for the empowerment of the discovery in oneself, we have to understand ourselves first. This masterclass was a great addition to the upcoming festival of re:ACT, as it provided different angles to see different situations and different sides of ourselves. 





Moments of Oppression

In our daily lives, we often see passed moments of oppression. These moments might happen at home, during commute time, in schools/ workplace etc. Sometimes they happen too frequently or too unexpectedly, but either way, we often do not know how to react to them. How can we take a step further to make a change? 


In this workshop, participants explored the use of images and movements for storytelling which reveal power play and moments of oppression. Participants molded situations of their stories and stepped out to observe and analyze the relationships between the people. Experiences as such allow people to take a step back and understand how to create a better change.


Re:ACT aims to create opportunities to let students explore these moments in their daily lives and understand that the first step in being an active agent for change is to be aware them. When moments of oppression are identified, we can find ways in our capacities to care, change and build an accepting community.


Same Same but Different

In order to build an accepting community, we would have to explore our inner selves and voices. As we confront and understand these thoughts, we are able to build more empathy in ourselves towards others. We learn that everyone has their own difficulties and neither one is more difficult than the other. Everyone has stories to tell, reasons for actions, triggers to fears and behind the masks we have created in line with our identities, we are Same same but different.


re:ACT also wants to create opportunities for reflection upon oneself in order to step forward with empathy to understand many others whom we are living with.


Theatre of the Oppressed acts as a pair of binoculars where the hidden details of the stories can be examined, allowing voices to be heard and thoughts to be planted. As Dr Jennifer Hartley puts it, be it Forum Theatre, Rainbow of Desires or Cops in the Head, the process thereafter is the act of stirring up a cup of water with mud and slowly allowing the residue to settle down again and find clarity.


Dr Jennifer Hartley has her own company, Theatre versus Oppression (TVO) based in Wales. She runs classes in Singapore at least once a year. To find out more about her work and programmes, please go to

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Masterclass: Theatre of the Oppressed

October 27, 2016

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