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SWSLC has pioneered the fusion of Forum Theatre and the law to form Legal Theatre.
Forum Theatre is a form of participatory theatre developed by Augusto Boal in Argentina in the early 1970's. It was specifically designed to educate and engage with the most disadvantaged members of society.
Traditionally, members of the community actually constructed and performed the theatre. So the theatre provides a vehicle for a social voice. It was first known, and still is in certain quarters, as Theatre of the Oppressed.
In conventional theatre, the audience members are passive observers. Forum Theatre transforms passive spectators into active participants - known as spect-actors. Through their interaction, spect-actors share ideas about issues that concern their community and engage in dialogue about how to create social change to address those issues.
UNESCO is an advocate of this form of community engagement:
Forum Theatre provokes performers and spect-actors to go deeper, to actively participate in developing the message, and connect it to their own life and behaviour. In this way, Forum Theatre is a rehearsal for life.
At the very least, forum theatre is a vehicle for creative, community based dialogue and constructive interaction. At its best, it provides an opportunity for a community to define and accept issues and as a community, generate solutions for those issues. This occurs in a reality, which through audience participation, is defined by that community.
This is why SWSLC has, within the legal sphere, pioneered and continues to be committed to the marriage of forum theatre and the law. It provides the perfect environment to educate and raise awareness on legal rights and responsibilities - within a context that is real, relevant and immediate to the audience.
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SWSLC has developed and delivered many successful Legal Theatre projects. For example:
Songs of Anklets
This production tackled discrimination against women. Songs of Anklets is an engaging and entertaining production, utilising traditional South Asian dance and music to communicate and raise awareness about human rights. In particular, it looked at discrimination against women and the principles Australia has embraced as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Songs of Anklets received the 2006 NSW Prevention of Violence against Women award and was independently evaluated by the University of Sydney as one of the best examples of community engagement.
Can you hear me?
This production addressed the social and legal implications of school bullying. Can You Hear Me? was a three year project that entailed Legal Theatre workshops for school students between 15 to 17 years in over 50 schools in the Liverpool, Fairfield and Bankstown LGAs. Can You Hear Me? is an engaging and confronting production, utilising audience participation and forum theatre methods to communicate and raise awareness about bullying and the law.
A teacher resource kit (booklet and step-by-step DVD) was developed as part of the project to assist teachers to employ Legal Theatre as a tool for addressing bullying. The kit also includes a section on the legal consequences of bullying. The kits are in the process of being distributed to high schools throughout New South Wales.
This production confronted the issue of domestic violence by focusing on the life of a women named Marla. Marla utilised audience interaction and forum theatre methods to highlight and explore social, cultural and legal issues and their complicated interrelationship in domestic violence.
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