“A taste of Forum Theatre”
Reviewer: Lee Min Jie
Performance: 28 July 2016
International Friendship Day (IFD) is an interactive drama targeted at primary and secondary school students by The Necessary Stage. The programme booklet even comes with an educational kit and study guide.
IFD takes the form of Forum Theatre. Forum Theatre was created by Augusto Boal with the intentions of bringing about social and political change. Usually audiences would watch actors passively and leave when the play ends. Boal prefers “spect-actors” where audiences are involved and think critically about what they are watching.
In Forum Theatre audiences can halt the performance, suggest another course of action for any character or even replace the actors themselves, in an attempt to change the outcome of that scene. This way instead of being passive spectators, audiences are active participants.
Fortunately, International Friendship Day managed to achieve this.
Actors split up and join audiences for a short but revealing pre-show discussion. A quick round of introductions followed by us putting a number to how many foreigner friends we have. It is surprising to note how some of us have none at all. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if we were asked how many foreigners we know.
The play traces a group of students in a local school as they prepare IFD. Each scene is richly packed for students to intervene. Beginning from childish bullying and name calling, to the segregation of local and foreign students, to the retrenchment of a student’s father, to the unfair treatment of a girl who does not want to attend a classmate’s party etc
In anticipation of short attention spans, IFD keeps each scene short and succinct, scene changes are smooth and swift. Yet it refrains from commenting on each scenario, leaving it to the students to unpack the misfeasance. Comfortingly, the students are perceptive and thoughtful. Kudos to those who mustered the courage to go on stage and act out a short scene.
Post-its are distributed for audiences to pen their reflection sum up the post-show activity. A walk around the display of post-its is encouraging as students suggest ways their schools can promote foreign-local student cohesion through camps and workshops etc.
Perhaps if plays like these toured workplaces, xenophobia and bigotry amongst adults can be mitigated.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP DAY by The Necessary Stage
28 July 2016
Lasalle College of the Arts Flexible Performance Space
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Lee Min Jie is a third-year Theatre Studies major at the National University of Singapore who is drawn to Theatre’s ability to immerse one in a world carefully conjured up by artists.