Real Life Theatre is based on a form of theatre that has evolved from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed into something called Theatre for Living, developed by David Diamond in Canada. It is about communities using theatrical expression to tell their stories. Where Theatre of the Oppressed refers to "the oppressed" and "the oppressor", our work is much more aligned with David's approach of a complex integrated community. We all have both the oppressor and the oppressed within us, which you'll recognise if you have ever seen the bullied become the bully in the face of someone less powerful.
Real Life Theatre is based in Mt Dandenong in the Yarra Ranges just outside of Melbourne, and servicing a broader area including interstate. Our theatre workshops have a strong element of fun through delightful games and improvisation activities. And we look at social issues. Every workshop is based on a theme that is important to all the participants. It might be something generic like family health or social media, or it could be for a specific group dealing with the strain of being a carer or handling substance abuse. It can also be used as a PD tool for business and in schools. As a professional development tool, it's great for building coherence as a team and enhancing workplace and student/school relationships - anywhere where there is community.
In working and playing around a theme of common interest looking at social issues, there is personal growth. This happens in a shared community of understanding and support, and the healthy mixture of games in the workshop enables us to manage a clear and vibrant atmosphere in the midst of the growth. People come together, understand each other's issues and often see others in new light.
The personal experience of acting in this theatre modality is of actually living in the role. It can feel like stepping into another life, it is so real, as it always is coming from the actor's real life. This is why when we run the forum theatre, audience participation can happen when an audience member has personal experience. This is a crucial part of this form of theatre, and is a unique feature. It's not acting to be in someone else's skin - it's acting coming from within.
It can be deeply moving on a personal basis, and it can be deeply community building as participants and audience find empathy for others in the community who may otherwise appear to be unlike themselves. People can grow beyond their previous limitations and become inspirational to others, leading to the development of community leaders who are willing to step forward and initiate change. Issues that may have been regarded as 'no go areas', like silent pools of guilt or shame, can be opened up through symbolic creative expression as workshop participants find the courage to face and own their situations.
The benefits of this form of theatre can be far-reaching, moving from the individual to the whole community and beyond, as the whole is nothing more than a sum of the parts.