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p.ii Contents Contesting Space... by Kathleen
Gallagher, Isabelle Kim, NOT Peter Gallagher
Photo Captions p.xi/xii by Sahni NOT Shani
Photo Caption p.xii by Anderson NOT Oddie
P. 115 Author Kathleen Gallagher, NOT Kay
VOLUME 53, Nos.l&2 ,,
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden)
Returning the Gaze: Reclaiming the Voice
Post-Colonialism and its Implications
for Drama and Education
Foreword by Rex Nettleford iii
Guest Editorial by Brian Heap v
ADDRESS The Arts and Post Colonial Certitude
Rex Netleford 1
KEYNOTE: Cannibal Scholars, native informants and smugglers of
disqualified knowledge: Performing the Caribbean in the Northern Academy
Honor Ford-Smith 8
KEYNOTE: Applied Theatre: Pure of heart- Naively Complicit
Peter O'Connor 23
KEYNOTE:Drama in Education: Finding Self, finding "home"
Urvashi Sahni 37
KEYNOTE: "You're not allowed to say that"
Minefields and political correctness
Judith Ackroyd, Andy Pilkinton 49
Mediatised performance and Theatre for Young People: How TYP is responding to
The Bufoon and Representation: The case of 'Oliver' in Jamaican Theatre.
Tanya Batson-Savage 76
Processing Post-Colonialism: using Drama to produce multifaceted art experiences from
notionally mono-cultural material.
Pamela Bowell and Brian S. Heap 84
Parallel Space but Disparate Usage Negotiating Language Use in a Bilingual Society
Jeanette Campbell 95
When Inuit Sculpture opens into Stories
Francine Chaind 104
Contesting Space and Power through Digital Drama Research: Colonial Histories,
; Kathleen Gallagher, Isabelle Kim 115
The Creative Ethos of the African Diaspora: Performance Aesthetics and the Fight for
Freedom and Identity
Clinton Hutton 127
Emancipating Shakespeare: Cultural Transmission or Cultural Transformation?
Alistair Martin-Smith,Annette Hayton, and Maya Ishiura 150
Permission to speak?
Briar 0'Connor 160
The ARROW programme: Genesis, Ideas, Growth and Aspiration
David Oddie 168
A quantitative research method in reception theory in international theatre Case studies
Dan Olsen 181
From Neocolonial to Postcolonial: Implications for the Practice of Theatre for Develop-
Tim Prentki 194
Creative Teaching Teaching Creativity
Aud BerggrafSaeebe, Laura A. McCammon, Larry O'Farrell 205
Postcolonialism, Positioning and The Use of Drama in the Teaching of French
Jean Small 216
Nian the story of Chinese
Jeffrey Tan 222
Playbuilding in a Japanese College EFL Classroom: Its Advantages and Disadvantages
Mariko Yoshida 231
Book Reviews 241
List of Contributors 247
Caribbean Quartert, Volume 53, Numbers 1&2, 2007 is a special double issue entitled
'Returning the Gaze: Reclaiming the Voice. Post-Colonialism and its Implications for Drama
and Education'. It is a collection of papers presented in the summer of 2006 at at the
International Drama in Education (IDIERI) Conference hosted by the Philip Sherlock Centre
for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus'
Five keynote papers and sixteen presentations, by Drama Practitioners in the field of
Education and Mental Health from Australia, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan,
NewZealand and the United States as well as the Caribbean are here included.
Despite the diversity of cultures from which they come and the varied resources
available, as well as the range of policies adopted, the same view is universally shared, namely
that drama as an educational tool can open doors, dismantle barriers and offer clear insights
into the world of the Other in a way that conventional formal education cannot always do. This
at a time when many educational systems are 'downsizing' the arts in favour of extra classes in
the three "r's" though not always in a successful attempt to conquer illiteracy.
Many young persons, like their elders are being marginalized by reason of race, gender,
religion, or the vagaries of political partisanship, even while the world is shrinking with
globalization a phenomenon which is forcing many into zones of comfort in order to escape
the continuing hegemonic control of traditional centres of power located in the North Atlantic.
The retreat to religious fundamentalism, youth violence and a coarsening of the sensibility
often in conscious revolt against established order may well not be accidental. Caribbean
Quarterly welcomes Brian Heap, the far-sighted and gifted Staff Tutor in Drama at the UWI,
as Guest Editor of this ground-breaking and thought provoking collection.
THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
Professor the Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M. Vice Chancellor Emeritus, Editor
Sir Roy Augier, Professor Emeritus, History, Mona
Professor H. Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal, UWI, Cave Hill
Professor L. Carrington, PVC, NonCampus Countries and Distance Education
Professor B. Chevannes, Research Fellow, Mona School of Business, UWI, Mona
Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie, PVC and Principal, UWI, Mona
Professor Wayne Hunt, PVC Research, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor B. Lalla, Dept. of Liberal Arts, Faculty of Arts and Education, UWI, St. Augustine
Professor the Hon. E. Morrison, PVC, Graduate Studies and Research, UWI, Mona
Dr. H. Simmons-McDonald, Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Education, UWI, Cave Hill
Linda Speth, General Manager, UWI Press
Dr. B. Tewari, PVC and Principal, UWI, St. Augustine
Dr. V. Salter, Managing Editor
All Correspondence and contributions should be addressed to: The Editor, Caribbean
Quarter, Cultural Studies Initiative, Office of the Vice Chancellor Emeritus, The University of the
West Indies, PO Box 130, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Tel. No.: 876-970-3261, Fax; 876-977-6105
Email: email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Manuscripts: We invite readers to submit manuscripts pr recommend subjects which they would
like to see discussed in Caribbean.Quarterl. Articles and book reviews of relevance to the Caribbean
will be gratefully received.. Authors should refer to the guidelines on this web page. Articles
submitted are not returned. Contributors are asked not to send international postal coupons for
Exchanges: Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section. Library, The
University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microfilm: Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean
Quarterly is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index: 1949-2004 Author Keyword and Subject Index available as a hard copy. The
journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI.
It was at the University of Northampton in 2003 towards the end of the Fourth
International Drama in Education Research Institute that the idea of bringing this prestigious
conference to Jamaica was first broached. The notion of hosting a group of distinguished
Drama researchers from around the world at the University of the West Indies, Mona, seemed
a rather daunting prospect at first. Being all too aware of the relatively small number of Drama
educators inJamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, it appeared that the major responsibility for
hosting IDIERI 5 was likely to fall heavily on just a few shoulders.
Against these reservations, however, there had to be weighed the enormous opportunity,
which was being presented for raising the research profile of the University of the West Indies
in Drama in Education. For decades in Jamaica, for example, a succession of organizations
such as Jamaica Welfare, the Social Development Commission, the Secondary Schools Drama
Festival, the Little Theatre Movement, the Institute of Jamaica, the Jamaica Festival
Commission, the Creative Arts Centre, the Cultural Training Centre, the Jamaica Cultural
Development Commission, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and
the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, have contributed to the heightened visibility
of Drama and Theatre in both education and community development. The story is replicated
across much of the Region with Trinidad and Tobago's strong traditions in Secondary Schools
Drama Festival, Carnival and Festival Arts, and the recent opening of the Errol G. Barrow
Centre for Creative Imagination at the UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados, as well as the
introduction of the Caribbean Examinations Council's syllabus in Theatre Arts.
The evidence appeared to be overwhelming. So much great West Indian achievement in
the dramatic arts and education already existed, yet relatively little by way of published research
and documented history. Emboldened, therefore, not only by West Indian stoicism but also by
traditional wisdom i.e. 'Wi likkle but wi tallawah', the decision was made for the UWI, Mona to
proceed with preparations to host the 2006 IDIERI conference.
Seeking a rationale for IDIERI in Jamaica was helped considerably by the
following quotation from Philip Taylor:
The aim (of thefirst IDIERI in 1995) was to critique different modalities of research design,
to draw connections between them, and to probe how knowledge can be advanced by their
application. The term 'institute' was chosen specifical to describe this interaction. An
institute connotes a body, which produces and promotes educational advancement, a place
whee ideas can be investigated and new visions proposed An institute can become a beacon
through which emerging understandings happen, where stervopical notions can be challenged,
whee new beginnings occur. (Preface to Researching Drama and Arts Education,
Falmer Press, (1996))
Guided by this, it was hoped that by hosting IDIERI, The University of the West Indies,
Mona would be able to assist in expanding the community of drama researchers in the
Caribbean, by including those teachers, practitioners, artists, and academics, whose voices are
often muted, whether by reason of international power relations, geographical isolation or
political, social, and economic challenges.
The main focus selected for the Fifth International Drama in Education
Research Institute was 'Returning the Gate, Reclaiming the Voice Post Colonialism and its implications
for Drama and Education'. This theme was chosen in the hope that an attempt could be made to
examine ways in which Drama, in an educational context, can forge links between issues of
colonialism, imperialism and Third World nationalism on the one hand, and of race, ethnicity
and multiculturalism on the other.
Delegates to IDIERI 5 were invited to consider ways in which they might assist in
making even a small contribution to the promotion of a global shift away from the type of
Eurocentric thinking which has traditionally been at the core of identity production, in which
Drama in Education often holds a key position, and towards a Polycentric multiculturalism
which is both reciprocal and dialogical.
This type of multiculturalism decolonizes representation, not only in terms of cultural
artefacts literary canons, museum exhibits and performance art but also in terms of power
relations between communities. For the researcher, it establishes connections between the
usually compartmentalized fields of media studies, literary theory, reflexive and experimental
ethnography, Third World feminism and postcolonial studies. Researchers of varying levels
were asked to reflect on ways in which contemporary representation in Drama afford
opportunities to place often ghettoized histories and discourse in productive relation.
This special edition of the Caribbean Quarterly then, offers a selection of the many
remarkable responses to the cah for papers, which came from the fifteen different countries
represented at the conference. They range in content from Dr. Urvashi Sahni's moving
account of liberating Drama work with young women in India, to Dr. Michael Anderson's
investigations into the relationship between new technologies and Drama; from Dr Mariko
Yoshida's work using Drama in language teaching to Dr Francine Chain6's projects with visual
arts and the devising of Dramas inspired by Inuit sculptures.
For five days, local and international delegates shared a series of memorable experiences
including 'cultural immersion' sessions conducted by MichaelJagasar and the Hosay drummers
of Clarendon; a 'Bruckins Party' chaired by Richard Darby and performed by members of the
Manchioneal Cultural Group; and a moving presentation by Jeffrey Tan, a personal reflection
on Chinese culture and the loss of a Chinese dialect with the death of his grandmother.
Juliana Saxton, Professor Emerita of the University of Victoria is fond of pointing out
that there is always something special about IDIERI. Smaller and more intimate than most
conferences these days, it nonetheless always attracts a remarkable gathering of personalities
and in turn, produces a series of rich exchanges between them. IDIERI 5 was no exception,
and wil be remembered by the attendees for many different reasons for a long time to come.
Hopefully this selection of papers from the conference in Kingston, Jamaica will help to
rekindle those memories while at the same time it contributes in some small measure, to the
world of Drama scholarship and research.
The organizers of the Fifth International Drama in Education Research Institute
wish to place on record their deep appreciation for the financial support received
from the following organizations-:
The Office of the Vice Chancellor The University of the West Indies
The Grace Kennedy Foundation
The CHASE Fund
The Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts
We wish also to express our gratitude to the following individuals and organizations
without whose generous assistance, this international event would not have been
Professor the Honourable Rex Nettleford, Vice-Chancellor Emeritus, UWI; David
Booth, Professor Emeritus, OISE, University of Toronto; Dr. Urvashi Sahni; Dr.
Peter O'Connor; Honor Ford Smith PhD; Dr. Judith Ackroyd; Professor Andrew
Pilkington; Mr. Jeffiey Tan; Mrs Jean Smith; Dr. the Honourable Mrs. Barbara
Gloudon; Mr. Alwin Bully; Mrs Patricia Robinson; Dr. Veronica Salter; Mr.
Burchell Duhaney; Mr. Winston Ewert; Mr. Eugene Williams; Mr. Vivian Crawford;
Ms. Anya Gloudon-Nelson; Mr. Noel Kelly; Mrs. Pamela Bowell; Ms. Carolyn
Allen; Ms. Deby-Ann Stem; Ms. Anna Jones; Mr. Winston Jones; Ms. Nadia
Roxburgh; Mr. Antonio Graham; Ms. Joan Andrea Hutchinson; Mr. Michael
Jagasar and the Hosay drummers of Clarendon; Mr. Richard Darby and the
Manchioneal Cultural Group; Mr. Karl Williams; Mr. Christopher McFarlane; Ms.
Teneile Warren; Mr. Andre Robinson; Ms. Shav.na-Kae Burns; Mr. Christopher
Benjamin; Ms. Carla Moore; Mrs Sharon Fong Kong Foran; The UWI Panoridim
Steel Orchestra; The University Singers; the University Dramatic Arts Society; The
University Players; The University Dance Society; the Staff of the Mona Visitors'
Lodge; the Staff of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel; Fab Five Band; The Little Theatre
Movement; The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; The UWI
Press; Ian Randle Publishers; The Caribbean Quarterly; The Alpha Boys School;
and all the delegates, whether local or from overseas, who contributed to the
success of the Conference by their presence, their discussion and debate and
through the generous sharing of their extensive scholarship and research.
Actor Boy image, (from a print by Belissario) by kind permission of the Institute of
Exhibition: Inuit. quand la parole prend forme. Musee national des beaux-arts du quebec (Feb9
-May 7,2006) Photos: MNBAQ, Jean-Guy K6rouac. (Chaine)
The House Crown- Jangkunnu (Hutton)
Revival Table (Hutton)
Revival kings (Hutton)
A Typical home (Shani)
(Shani) The Play
(Oddie) Skid 180 Promotion Pictures
ADDRESS : The Arts and Post Colonial Certitude
The role of the arts in general and the dramatic arts in particular in post-colonialism
elevates Jamaica and the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean to the status of "best case
scenario" For the experience of this country and region over the past half a century endorses
the notion of the centrality of the exercise of the creative imagination, of which artistic
products are an iconic result, in both nation building and the quest for identity and cultural
certitude. The claim to such centrality becomes even more marked when in a globalised world
the efforts at cultural homogenization drives would-be victims tenanting the Two Thirds
World to zones of comfort in search of particularity, specificity of life-experiences and
existence and that sense of self and society which the struggle against colonial subjugation
promised in any case.
It is no surprise, then, that we in this part of the world arguably have more artists per
square inch than is probably good for us. From the ancestral Festival Arts of masquerade or
jonkonnu (strong in Jamaica, Belize on the Central American mainland, the Bahamas and
Bermuda) through pre-Lenten Carnival whose locale remains Trinidad reaching out to the rest
of the Eastern Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora in Toronto, Brooklyn, Miami, and
London, to Hosay the East Indian Hindu observance of a Muslim commemoration morphed
into a major Caribbean festival art extant in Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana all of these speak
to the heritage (tangible and intangible) that has been bequeathed to the region by forebears
who found solace, resilience and renewal in masking, metaphor and myth. They all provided a
route to redemption and certitude in coping with the obscenities of slavery, indentureship and
the humiliation and dehumanization which those socio-economic systems imposed on
hundreds of thousands severed from ancestral hearths most of them involuntarily to
plough the fields and scatter what others were to regard as "good seeds" on the-land.
The intensification of such transgressions informing relations between masters and
servants came, albeit unintentionally, with colonialism presided over by gubernatorial viceroys
who embodied stubborn and lasting notions of high culture versus low culture, superior versus
inferior, Caucasian versus Others and Europe over Africa in particular, with the second
category in each binary equation relegated to inferior status.
So our art, as in painting, had to be "primitive"; our music (as Derek Walcott once said)
had to be without depth because it was created for us to enjoy; our drama to be minstrel farces;
our languages creole aberrations to the norm of Standard English; our dance lascivious and
groin centred; and our skin colour indicative of what was described as being the result of having
groin centred; and our skin colour indicative of what was described as being the result of having
been 'overcooked in the womb.' On this last there were, of course, medium rare and even rare
depending on the amount of melanin in the epidermis.
Such were the burdens that colonials like us had to bear. Small wonder that those who
were fighting for self-determination in the years preceding actual Independence tackled with
resolute vigour such misconceptions of human existence. If individuals led the way in taking
the arts on the road in quest of certitude, the collective consciousness had to be sensitized to
the task. Norman Washington Manley, Jamaica's founding father and self-government
advocate was the first political leader in the English-speaking Caribbean to give to
arts-and-culture a portfolio realizing the systemic denigration of things African and the force of
the Eurocentrism which frustrated native expressions and threatened the quest for that cultural
certitude among the majority.
As far back as 1939 he is recorded as saying: "The immediate past has attempted to
destroy the influence of the glory that is Africa; it has attempted to make us condemn and
mistrust the vitality, vigour, the rhythmic emotionalism that we get from our African ancestors.
It has flung us into conflict with the English traditions of the public schools and even worse it
has imposed on us the Greek ideal of balanced beauty" The speech had come in the wake of
his sculptor-wife, Edna's, prophetic iconic piece of sculpture entitled Negro Aroused.
Such was the mindset of the progressives amongJamaican nationalists in the struggle "to
be." As subjects of his Britannic Majesty and citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies the
idea of being "Jamaican" was itself a revolutionary concept at the time. And how else to realize
the dream than through the arts? The painters started to paint what they saw in their tropical
landscapes, the literary artists wrote about themselves in novels and poetry poetry admittedly
with Victorian metres and rhyme patterns, some of them full of "thees", "thous" and "art"
But there was always Louise Bennett, albeit relegated to the margin of "good" literature,
defiantly using the language of her people and staying the course until the country was forced
to hail her a literary artist par excellence. In the theatre the old sketches and comedy skits
found a place eventually in what became the annual Pantomime of the Little Theatre
Movement which understandably started out with English-style pantomimes with such titles as
"Cinderella" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" but eventually morphed into genuine Jamaican
musicals with Louise Bennett and Ranny Williams bringing native-born, native-bred
authenticity to the form, with Barbara Gloudon herself defiantly maintaining the tradition of
planting the seeds in our own soil. The pantomime provided a cradle for the development of
numerous Jamaican theatre luminaries from playwrights, directors, composers to actors.
It was to become something of a model for efforts in other parts of the Caricom
Caribbean with Trinidad, Barbados and Antigua producing their own versions. As a truly
Caribbean form it was to suffer the hangovers from old colonialism which dismissed it as a kind
of bastard hybrid in the hierarchy of what is topped by so-called legitimate theatre. But the
process of imitation, adjustment/adaptation into significant creativity continued, producing
the likes of Trevor Rhone and Denis Scott and the Sistren Collective in Jamaica, Errol Hill and
Derek Walcott with his Trinidad Players in Trinidad, Walcott's brother Roddy in St. Lucia
along with others and someone like Winston Saunders in the Bahamas, all producing creative
work with an indigenous voice.
It was in this spirit that Errol Hill appealed in a doctoral thesis, which became a book that
the Trinidad carnival should become a mandate for a national theatre. The classicism of a truly
West Indian theatre genre is still evident in a play like "Ti Jean" while the cult film classic "The
Harder They Come", by Perry Henzell, now morphed into a musical on the London off-West
End stage heralded possibilities of a amaican film industry which though still struggling to get
off the ground could yet make it with the growth of genuine writing talent, production skills
and marketing savvy.
All such efforts were subject to a full grasp of the social realities of both our region and
the wider world with which it has always been engaged and even moreso now in the globalised
The responsibility is clearly for us to define self, to delineate parameters of operation,
experimentation and exploration, to bring to dramatic arts the texture and vitality which the
process of cross-fertilization, all within historical memory, has bequeathed us. For the
narrative of "becoming" in this part of the world rests on the knowledge gained from the
interaction between diverse cultures and civilizations meeting on foreign soil. Africa, Europe,
India, China have all been and are still here having met, as Columbus did, with the Native
Americans who have inhabited these shores time out of mind. The social ancestral reality of
our region has made us into part-African, part-European, part-Asian, part-native American but
totally Caribbean. What an exciting challenge for the dramatic arts to find form and delineate
ideal as well as to promise hope to a groping society that is still searching for place and purpose
Drama, along with other arts, does this best of all hence the development of the
different genres in this country of dance-theatre, musical theatre, documentary theatre, choral
theatre and the like, The late Dennis Scott, when he was involved in dance-theatre, used to say
that all theatre is ritual. And since the indigenous folk are, above all, the most adept in engaging
this imperative of life and living, they (our people from below) have served as primary source in
the journey out of colonialism into Independence and beyond.
I have no doubt that the migrant settlers in places like Australia and New Zealand find
much to draw on from Aboriginees and Maoris. I had reason to comment years ago that "the
contemporary stage when it embraces elements of ritual may be initially dismissed as ethnic
rather than classical, as unformed rather than legitimate and so on. For the ethnic tier in the
pecking order is not supposed to be capable of any perfection of form or universal appeal. Nor
is it supposed to be able to achieve the dominance of reason, clarity and order. Such Cartesian
attributes are reserved for the classical aesthetic of so-called high culture. And such an
aesthetic reputedly came from a civilization that was truly capable of thought and the
translation of imagination into ordered rational wholes. That civilization had to be Europe
which went on to conquer and colonize millions presumably of lesser breed and to claim a form
of supremacy said to be evident in the output in the creative arts, philosophy, religion
(Christendom was once the name for the West where Christianity reigns) [if not in form
certainly in substance], and in science and technology, the apotheosis of Western
What the creative imagination of the Blacks both on the African continent and in the
diaspora, as of Asia and other non-Aryan parts of the Planet has done is to affirm the
complexity of the creative process which were best seen not in terms of a rigid pyramid but
rather in terms of a dynamic phenomenon characterized by simultaneous modes of expression,
as actually happens in every civilization worth its salt.
Outside of the so-called mainstream Anglo-American culture, Black and Asian
civilizations which go to make up a mighty part of the Two-Thirds World manifest their driving
aesthetic energy and their artistic force on the contemporary stage in the co-existence of the
ancestral/traditional mode interacting with the seemingly unruly luxuriant
popular/contemporary mode while each serves as source of energy for a classic mode which is
often the result of the active engagement of some individual genius or a set of inventive
talented souls with the mind, manners, memory, sense and sensibility of their milieu.
All parts of the Planet, from South East Asia through India to the Caribbean, can no
doubt point to evidence of this fact as a certain country of the North Atlantic made bold to do
in its assertive projection into colonial life (from grammar schools to amateur theatricals) of
that admittedly great poet and dramaturge William Shakespeare, the dramatic icon of the
English language who drew on ritual, on conscious de-Romanization under Tudor rule as well
as on the many cross-fertilizing elements to enrich and shape contemporary Elizabethan
Such, as the Elizabethans experienced, is the mental slavery from which the entire
two-thirds world must now be emancipated. Countries like India, China,Japan with ancestral
pedigree and current promise of economic and technological power are already taking cte of
themselves. Almost the entire continent of Africa which is still groping for material wellbeing
continues to suffer a particular kind of denigration. It makes sense that its diaspora
concentrated in the Americas, and within that the Caribbean, should continue to be burdened
with the special demands of decolonization.
In so far as the arts have acted as a point of power in engaging the phenomenon, it
becomes important to the field of education. And this is so if only the 21st century will get
used to thinking that in the realm of excellence there is no hierarchy and that the once
colonized subjugated world can throw up excellence not only in the field of sports but in the
arts without executants being regarded as minstrels or exotic purveyors of indulgences for the
amusement of one's betters.
Our education systems must therefore seek to re-assure our young in particular (though
their parents and elders are in no less need of liberation) that what happens in London is by
definition no "better than" what happens elsewhere on the Planet or the journey to the
metropole whether London, Paris or New York is not necessary for an artwork's consecration
and acceptance in its very land of origin. It is to the undying credit of the region's popular
musicians that artistes like the Mighty Sparrow, Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and others were
superstars in their own countries before the Grammy and metropolitan audiences got a hold of
them. "The persistent division of performing arts offerings into high and low, into something
called classical or popular modem or something called post-modem, or into ethnic theatre
constitutes a ritual of denigration of things non-Graeco-Roman, by extension of things
non-metropolitan, by extension of theatre bled of the organic juices and ancestral ritual and
other such vital sources of energy, as I also once remarked in addressing the issue of ritual in
Here in Jamaica artistic display and production were further guaranteed sustainability by
the setting up of arts-training institutions and the facilitating of individual efforts without
government usurping the prerogative of artists to pursue their own goals. Even in setting up
the artistic-cultural institutions, due regard was paid to the reality of the inherent tensions that
characterize creative activity. A system of network management was preferred to monolithic
czar-like, command-type top-down arrangements. Yet even in the Caribbean (including
Jamaica) artistic output emanating from below struggled for status in the received cultural
hierarchy which places things European at the apex. The modernizing elites are in constant
danger of remaining tenaciously Eurocentric, and in this respect the post-Independent
Caribbean is not likely to be different. This challenges the new political order to act in
consonance with the wider society, something crucially important in the building of a new,
post-Independence Caribbean. But such building makes no sense without the shaping of a new
society. This in itself speaks of process. It is long-distance running, not sprinting, and here
artistic creativity can be of tremendous help in finding one's way. Flags, anthems, national
symbols bringing recognition and status to the country in the world's family of nations are
relatively easy to come by. Freedom as the unlocking of a citizen's creative potential within a
Americas points not to linear progress but to varied, contradictory stages along the way, in
which the shaping of the society takes logical priority over the setting up of the nation-state.
It is undeniable that the sine qua non of a healthy nation includes healthcare, housing and
education that can lead to employment with tolerable wages, as well as freedom from the fear
of oppression by state authorities or by criminal elements among civilians. But none of this will
make sense without the guarantees of a cultural certitude shared by the mass of the population.
It is asking for trouble if a numerical majority is forced to function as a cultural minority
according to which everything emanating from the exercise of their creative imagination as
do language, religion, or the arts is regarded as less than good by those who are custodians of
the 'mainstream culture'. The whole process of nation-building is skewed if this is not taken
into consideration: something Caribbean nations have learnt and are still learning to
understand. Equally, the contributions by large minorities in the building of a nation if
deliberately excluded from the socio-cultural complex will result in resistance, even violence.
The experience of the United States is a case in point: that is, if one takes into account the
history of the civil rights struggle and the continuing perception of a society that speaks of
"minorities" as if they are tribes apart in a multicultural dispensation where each lives not
together but side by side one with another. The Dramatic Arts are not infrequently an antidote
to this poison in the body politic.
Yet the arts are frequently listed in government reports under the 'non-productive
sector'. This misrepresentation in attitude if not in print is yet to be corrected even in nations
like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago which have produced a thriving and profitable cultural
industry comprising reggae and calypso. West Indian entrepreneurs have done far too little to
benefit from this multi-million dollar industry emanating from the West Indian creative
imagination. Many reggae artists, in contrast, are millionaires as the late Bob Marley in his
recordings continues to demonstrate. But the nation to which he belonged failed to make the
best economic use of talents like Marley's to attain goals of development. This does not mean
that government in interfacing with the arts should invoke command economics whatever the
temptations to intervene, control and dictate.
The arts send out signals in the subtlest of ways to the effect that nothing short of a
partnership in which government acts as facilitator will be adequate. Freedom is the very
essence of creative artistic action which must be permitted to occur in unfettered ways within
civil society. As the conscience of the free society, the arts and especially drama provide an
excellent means of self-cleansing, self-reflection, and self-criticism, uncomfortable though this
at times may be to the government, to private sector moguls and to the wider society. Above all,
the arts provide an effective strategy of 'demarginalisation' for those who will have grown up in
societies which have made them 'outsiders' in the very land they are expected to call home. The
arts in turn provide avenues for the harmony of inner and outer space: the surest guarantee to
psychic and social stability which are critical to nation-building. What an education for a
citizen, if thus exposed, between cradle and grave!
The arts function to best effect when, as Norman Manley of Jamaica felt, they are
allowed the freedom of diversity and difference to find form and purpose in the contradictions
and complexities of human existence. Accordingly, they could benefit nation-building which
Manley saw not only as an act of intelligence, but also as the work of artists giving form to
substance and grappling with the reality of human experience in its myriad, contradictory,
multi-sourced character. The aim was to elevate everyday individual existence to higher levels
of civilized expression in the concepts of the nation, democracy, and civilization. How the arts
are taught is here very important. For such learning attributes as critical thinking coupled with
passionate engagement, objectivity coupled with boldness of speculation, studied detachment
alongside rational involvement are all gifts from working in the dramatic arts.
Those who are charged with building or with helping to determine a new world order in
these times of globalization (and we are all so charged) should see themselves as artists
moulding a new world, a new Jamaica/Caribbean, a new United States and therefore engaged
in awesome and often contradictory processes. The hope is to craft, out of the chaos bred by
intolerance and lack of understanding, out of the refusal to cope with the dilemma of difference
and the reality of complex diversity, a society fit for human habitation as the groping
twenty-first century even now demands.
Such is the challenge for both arts education and arts in education.
KEYNOTE: Cannibals, colonial scholars and
performance as postcolonial Caribbean knowledge
At a colloquium on diaspora and area studies, Shalini Pun (Puri, 2006, p.l) asked: How
would this conference be different if it were taking place in Belfast or Gaza? Following her line
of questioning, I want to ask how this conference would be different if it were taking place in
Toronto or Auckland or Accra? What performances do the particularities of place command
in us? What is made visible in the city of Kingston that might be invisible somewhere else?
One obvious answer might be that being in Kingston produces insight into old colonial
legacies and the practices of new imperialism, as David Harvey (2003) calls the present global
order based on neo liberal globalization, dispossession and spatial transformations. The
Caribbean was the principal site of an earlier moment of globalization when the first early
modem societies were forged, as CLR James famously argued. The plantation, the haciendas
and mines of Latin America and the resources of Asia, were sources of wealth for an enormous
Empire. By 1914, Europe controlled 85% of the world as colonies, protectorates, dominions
and commonwealths (Said, 1994, p.8). In the four hundred years or so leading up to 1914 there
was horrific genocidal violence, the production of new forms of economic organization,
commodities, technologies and social possibilities. Entire populations were drawn into new
relationships not only with their imperial overlords but also with their own people and others.
As Edward Said (1978) teaches us, none of this would have been possible without the
creation of a body of knowledge which justified colonial practices and presented the entire
project as a benevolent project. Beliefs, concepts, languages and institutions emerged so as to
justify Europe's right to rule and to successfully enlist the consent of those they governed. All
this not only altered how Europeans and European settlers understood who they were and
what they were entitled to but it also altered the way the colonized know themselves and their
So, here we are, on one of the sites of the inauguration of European invasion of the
Americas. James Scott (1990) effectively argues that if it is to be effective power has to be
performed, and he shows that these performances are often embodied. Perhaps the most
effective measure of the reach of power then, is the traces it leaves on our own body the
instrument and stock in trade of the drama and performance educator. The body became the
principal site of the racialized and gendered meanings of imperialism and the improvisations of
resistance to it. According to colonial knowledge production, for example, the color, shape
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Perfomance....
and textures of the body signify innate social and psychological meanings which determine our
abilities. The legacies of this racial ideology make and re-make us in different ways -not only in
terms of material access but also in terms of how we think and the possibilities we can imagine.
If we allow ourselves the dangerous possibility of engaging with embodied memory in the
context of difference, we quickly and uncomfortably become aware that our different social,
racial, spiritual and geographic positions make possible not just what we know but also how we
know. By that I mean that we become aware that there are limits to what we know and that
there are rules governing knowledge production which legitimize some forms of knowledge
and disqualify others.
As a teacher in Jamaica in the past and in Canada in the present my work in performance
has been heavily mediated by enduring colonial discourses, though clearly the details of this
play out differently. When I worked at the Edna Manley College in Jamaica in the 1970s and
80s we asked how we might create narratives which might transform colonial stereotypes and
inspire postcolonial subjects to transform their societies? How might we alter the inherited
representations of the colonizer and the colonized which Fanon so perceptively analyzed as
produced in relation to each other? How might we circulate these new narratives broadly? I
became aware how theatrical forms inherited from colonization were deeply marked by
assumptions about individual consciousness that were not always transferable to the
Caribbean. When I returned to University in Canada as a mature student I found that in spite of
the fact that decolonization had been one of the single most important issues of the 20th
century almost all the reading on class bibliographies were written by Europeans or North
Americans, and the work of scholars from the colonized world rarely made it on to reading
lists. When I began teaching in this context in an impoverished area studies program focused
on the Anglophone Caribbean, I felt I had been cast in the role of native informant that is,
someone whose presence in the hierarchies of knowledge production is valued for their
"special capacity to assist in the retrieval of non-Western voices" (Razack, 2002, p.43) and the
ability to interpret them so that the powerful can rule more effectively.
As a performance and drama educator, working in a world in which the enduring legacies
of empire remain violently present, I observe how excluding, differentiating and subordinating
practices repeat themselves in new and complicated ways ranging from university admission
systems, immigration regulation and labor recruitment to policing practices all held in place
by bodies of knowledge. As scholars and teachers, it is dangerous to ignore the limits set by the
rules defining what counts as knowledge and the ways in which these allow old legacies to
repeat themselves in our teaching and research. The question I want to focus on in this paper
is how can my work as a scholar and teacher unsettle the knowledge that reproduces and
justifies subordinate and superior difference? How for example can the knowledge I produce
challenge work that justifies the unequal movement of bodies of different colors and classes
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across borders, or the narratives of settler states that position people of color as subordinate
and deny the role of colonization in the formation of nation and identity? My present location
as a teacher forces me to look for the mechanisms that make these processes appear ordinary
while their racism is denied.
One way that scholars have begun to challenge colonial ways of knowing is through an
examination of the unquestioned exclusions of Western thought and so I will begin my
discussion with a brief discussion of one of Sylvia Wynter's essays. The discussion that follows
draws on her work to examine two examples of ways in which performance can reveal the
effects of colonial discourses and then unsettle the rules that underlie what counts as
knowledge. I draw on one example from my own classroom and am grateful to Kara Springer
for allowing me to use her poem. The second example is taken from the work of Jamaican
playwright Dennis Scott whose work I argue offers a methodology for unsettling what counts
as knowledge. Scott's work I show does this by disrupting the binaries of self/other, writing/
orality, mind/body and by revealing how hierarchical difference is manufactured and how it
might be disrupted.
Cannibalism, knowledge and colonial constructs of difference
Jamaican playwright and scholar Sylvia Winter (1995) proposes that while post
colonial societies have changed in some ways, they remain stubbornly oppressive in many ways,
continuing to repeat the exclusions and dominations of the colonial era because they remain
tied to colonial frameworks of knowledge production. Her argument goes roughly as follows -
Columbus' voyage demonstrated the weakness of medieval epistemes by revealing the
inaccuracy of its representation of the world. Columbus' journey and the process it began led
to changes in medieval systems of knowledge production and ultimately ushered in a new
secular based epistemology. At the centre of this new system of knowledge was man rather
than God but man emerged in contrast to others defined as lesser beings people of colour,
women of all colors, children, the disabled and homosexuals. Man became "us" middle class,
white able bodied men and everyone else became "them."
Both Todorov (1984) and Zamora (1990/1) corroborate her argument when they point
out that Columbus' description of his first voyage to the Caribbean characterizes the Taino by
what they lack. Early European male colonizers could not understand difference without
linking it to superiority or inferiority. Taino men, for example, are described as mancebos
which translated means adolescents and suggests they are somehow less than grown men.
They are marked by weakness or cowardice or ignorance or by their animal sexuality. In the
gradual incarnation of European rescue narratives, domination came to be justified as a means
of saving these others from what they lacked.
Wynter argues that post colonial societies can only avoid repeating European patterns of
domination and subordination if the epistemological assumption that there is a normative
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Performance....
notion of man is challenged and replaced. This requires acknowledging that notions of "man"
are produced through the subordination of different others and then finding ways to disturb
these settled categories. While the anti- colonial intellectuals like Fanon and Cesaire questioned
the dominance of Europe they found it difficult to break out of their training which prevented
them from validating forms of knowledge excluded from the Western rationalist tradition.
One way to begin to break out of this trap, Wynter suggests, is to carefully interrogate racialized
representations of the region.
Bearing in mind Wynter's argument, I want to examine one of the images
which emerge in writings about the colonial Caribbean at the moment of invasion. One of the
quintessential figures of Caribbean difference emerging from early colonial conquest was the
cannibal. Indeed the Caribbean was thought to be the home of cannibals. Ever sincel492 the
word Caribbean and cannibal has been conflated (Hulme, 1986). Shakespeare has much to
answer for in fixing this conflation with the figure of Caliban whose name famously derived
from the word Cannibal. Caliban emerges from the hurricane of European renaissance
imagination as a grumbling and cantankerous victim. A rebel who is presented as a sexual
predator and a threat to civilization, Caliban is trapped into a form of dependent opposition
and is as a result unable to negotiate his own freedom. Frozen in opposition to Prospero, but
unable to break free of him, he resists but never transforms. The early cannibal emerging from
contact suggests that the region and its peoples are from a place where European civilization
can be devoured and excreted into savage nature that it is a site where Western culture is so
threatened that it might revert to unmediated nature for the pleasurable nourishment of all that
"man" is not resulting of course in the overthrow of civilization. Later on when uprooted
Africans enter the region somewhat different images emerge. While abolitionists represented
Africans as helpless victims of slavery who had to be saved, men like Thomas Carlyle saw them
as inherently criminal, violent and greedy. Both were marked by a form of cultural loss (
uprooting from Africa) and this loss or amputation from origins made it possible for the "West
Indian" to be recreated by empire through cultural ingestion. In other words later on the
regions inhabitants can be eaten up by empire in ways that other "natives" who remain in their
place of origin have not.
It is this imperial appetite that Mimi Scheller (2003) examines when she asks:
'Was the Caribbean truly a place where Europeans were in danger of being
eaten? Or were they in fact the ones who posed a threat to the bodies, health,
and lives of the indigenous people of the region, and later to the enslaved and
indentured workers who were consumed in the system of plantation slavery
and colonial capitalism." (Scheller, p.143, 2003) "What happens" she wonders
"when we think about bodies, not as consuming food but as becoming food for
others? In what sense can the human body be eaten by another and how does
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consumption of the human body function as a boundary limit for consumer
excess." (Scheller, p.144, 2003)
Theories of Caribbean culture have stressed transculturation and creolization, cultural
borrowing and mixture in the midst of skewed power relations (see for example Ortiz, 1947;
Brathwaite, 1971; Shepherd & G. Richards, 2002), repeating chaotic heterogeneity (Benitez
Rojo, 1995) African retentionism (Herskovitts 1937; 1990,) ; a gendered dialectic of reputation
and respectability (Wilson, 1973), pluralism, dependency and dispossession (Beckford, 1972).
Perhaps building on the doctoral work of Eric Williams and on the absences in Beckford's
elaboration of the systemic dominance of plantation and its cultural effects, Scheller proposes
that Europeans think about themselves in terms of their global practices of consumption,
incorporation and denial and the ethical impact of this on their formation. She takes
"consumption" as a metaphorical, cultural and material concept and connects contemporary
consumption of the Caribbean in tourism for instance with its forerunners sugar and coffee.
She reminds us of the ways in which sugar was configured as contaminated by bodies of slaves
and indentured who in abolitionist education were configured as falling into mills and boiling
vats, or dismembering themselves as they worked. Her project disturbs the innocent amnesiac
indulgences of passive cultural and material consumption. She compellingly argues that
European identity is brought into being by its history of consumption and that that history
began with consumption of the Caribbean. The centrality of these relations of production and
consumption to knowledge production in Europe are evident in the work of Hans Sloane, for
whom Sloane square in London is named. Sloane who collected animal, vegetable and human
specimens in Jamaica is a founding father of British botanical studies. His work facilitated the
development medical knowledge often on the basis of what he had seen in Jamaica alongside
making a fortune from slave plantations.
Scheller's work encourages her readers to examine the ways in which this history
transforms them, their ethics and their sense of entitlement and possibility. But while her work
focuses on the way in which the north is accountable for its consumption of the Caribbean,
Scheller does not develop what this means for those from the region and its diaspora. She does
not elaborate this in terms of either subjectivity or possibility. Is it possible for example to exist
creatively outside of or in spite of such a history? Do the tentacles of commodification and
consumption enmesh everything? What happens when products made in the Caribbean are
sold back to the region for consumption by those who live there? What happens to someone
who consumes manufactured images of himself or herself? What happens when we eat
ourselves as a result of the relations of consumption in which we are located? I want to give
one example of the reach of these relations as it manifested in my performance class.
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Performance....
Sugar poem: Identity, legacies of consumption and the quest for a "real" home.
For three years I taught a course in Caribbean performance at the University
of Toronto. Combining theory and practice, students investigated the ways in which power
impacted performance traditions of the region historically and in the present and then created
scenes that responded to what they had studied. The process of creating their own scenes
began with an exercise based on studying the ancestral figures in African- Caribbean religious
ritual and in Jonkonnu. I asked students in my Caribbean performance seminar to create an
ancestral character who appears in the present to deliver a message without speaking. In a
second stage, I built on this by asking students to bring in an object that symbolized home and
to create a monologue about it while using the object. A third exercise asked them to combine
the results of the earlier exercise with the second and to create a performance that incorporated
The work of one Caribbean student in my performance class can be read as a
performance of the effects of the long history of consumption on identity and the search for
home and belonging. Kara Springer's work focused on the enduring effects of sugar as a
symbol and mythology of the region. She brought in a white bowl of white icing sugar as a
symbol of home. Seated on a wide circle of black cloth, dressed in brown, she blew clouds of
white icing sugar into the air while she mixed more white icing with water in a bowl. As she
stirred, she spilled drops of it on her costume and on the cloth so that a three dimensional
abstract pattern in black, white and brown emerged. While doing this she softly intoned a
poem. I will quote lengthily from the poem as it is central to the point I want to make about the
long term effects of transnational consumption on identity.
I remember reading once about these women
Who said that sugar had the devil m it
And I know that they knew because this shit holds me
It draws me in and fills me with its emptiness
It makes me weak like nothing else............
I used to dream about this
When it was something different
Something other than empty
This when it lay beautifully spread at the centre of the ceremony
That joined 2 people together forever
That brought the rest of us together as well
To witness, to celebrate, to remember
That we all still existed in our different covers of the world
And could still come back home when love or loss called us
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My mouth watered for weeks before it came
Before even we left the coldness to return
To the islands, the sand, the sun, home
They called it that
And so we did too, and felt it
But only so far and that was never far enough really
Because how far could we really get in 3 maybe 4 weeks a year?
And how I coveted the icing on that cake
Gathering up the bits and pieces that went astray
Off the tray off the knife off their plates
And into my little napkin or scrap of tinfoil
To be savoured and saved and made to last
Maybe even further than those 3 weeks -
Maybe all the way back home
But of course it never did because
My will never was strong enough
To conquer my desire
And now back home is north instead of south
And if it's cold there I'll arrive back at school
With my brilliant tan
And they'll see I'm an island girl
And then later they'll laugh
When it begins to peel right off my sunburned nose
Whose skin stands stark, pale and deprived underneath it
And then one year the recipe comes with me
The one Aunty Ann cuts off the side of a box of sugar just for me
And blissfully I go to make it
To enjoy it right out of the bowl and off the spoon
But of course it's different here
There's so much of it at my disposal
And there's no cake dripping with fruit and rum to spread it on
So it doesn't set the same way
I try all these different things
I make all these tiny little bowls full
And I eat and I eat and I eat
And eventually I don't bother
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Performance....
With the butter or the milk or the lime anymore
It's easier to just make it with water
And then one day the water goes too
And it's just these bowls full of white powder
And I love this powder
I love everything about it
I love its softness, its delicacy, it's looseness
That never fails to leave these tracks
On my face my clothes
And sometimes if I eat it too quickly or carelessly
I breathe it in
A puff of white smoke explodes in my lungs
I hold my breath
Trying not to move
Waiting for it to dissolve there
I eat it with this special little spoon I pocket from has beans caf& downtown
And I consume and I consume and I consume
And now I go through a half kilo bag in 3 days
And I know this is disgusting now
I hide the bags in a drawer in my room
But she still finds the little bowls with my little spoon caked in white powder
But now it's like, what can she really do
I mean, what can anyone do
This is my demon now
And I just wonder when is this gonna stop
How much of this can my body really take?
Sometimes I try to overdose.
Thinking if I make myself sick on it then surely the cravings will stop.
But somehow they just never seem to want to leave me
And now this is me hating myself
Because it's like really, what the fuck are you doing?
And it's like, I want to disappear and kill myself softly just a little
Because I know I must be cutting away little pieces of my life
As I fill my body with this poison again and again
And now it's like I don't even know what hunger is anymore
Cause it all just feels like a sugar craving to me.
KARA SPRINGER, 2003
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Recited in a soft whisper, chanted in repetitive cadences to a hip hop rhythm, the
performance poem relies on the parallel between addiction to sugar and being enslaved. Sugar
is at first a symbolic part of the sweetness of home and the larger rituals of community that
surround it. Later separated from this context, it becomes a form of poison which is also a
regional symbol, circulated in boxes for consumption. Eating it becomes the dramatization of
a compulsive desire for an elusive home, a stable and sweet place of belonging, an attempt to
bridge dislocated community, a desire to thwart unwanted separation. Eating sugar suggests an
attempt to incorporate the longed for but illusive home into the body of the consumer. But
sugar of course is a substance, not a place of community and love. The poem evokes a self
destructive submission to the demonic violence of history disguised as a sweetness, whose
legacy is the need to reach doggedly for a sense of belonging which continuously retreats again
and again. Out of the box the whitening powder becomes a living genie, coercively destroying
and dominating the young protagonist's ego. Read against Scheller's work the poem performs
the effects of consuming manufactured images of the Caribbean which are marketed and sold
back to us as authentic images of regional culture. It stages the painful contradictions of global
consumption and the very intimate effects of this on Caribbean identities and notions of home.
It is tempting to say that notions of home are always infused with unfulfilled desires.
Indeed Chamberlin argues compellingly that readers need to understand:
how it is in contradiction that [stories about longing for home] bring comfort,
not obliterating the feelings of loss and longing but rather, reminding us of
them even as they release us from their hold (Chamberlin, 2004, p. 92).
"Sugar poem" evokes contradictions of loss and longing painfully and beautifully but it
doesn't comfort or release; it leaves us disturbed, imprisoned in empathy for the trapped
protagonist. Farley (1997) contends that violent racial domination, such as African slavery in
the Americas, is a particular kind of political project which is in part constructed through the
performance that produces sadistic pleasure in the body of the dominant viewer. This is
achieved through humiliation of the body of the color and then denial of the whole process.
The poem demonstrates in complex ways how such a sado- masochistic relationship can
internalize itself across time in deeply intimate ways.
How might teachers and producers of performance deal with the long reach of enduring
images of frustration and self destruction as they encourage writer/performers to develop their
work? A writer who has given some thought to this is the Jamaican playwright Dennis Scott
and it is to his work I want now to turn for clues of how to approach such a development.
In Dennis Scott's play An Echo in the Bone (1970) Rachel, the wife of a peasant farmer,
Crew holds a nine-night or wake for her husband who has murdered a white planter and then
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Performance....
drowned himself. During the wake ancestors manifest in the bodies of the mourners and they
relive the events leading up to the murder. The play moves back and forth across time and the
mourners take on the roles of multiple characters of different races as they enact the entire
history of their relationship with colonization across the centuries. The play proposes a
counter narrative to colonial versions of history as it dramatizes middle passage, slavery and
In order to undertake such a historical joumey, Scott first disturbs notions of scholarly
objectivity by exposing the complicity of European scholars in defending slavery and he shows
how they are complicit in justifying the consumption of otherness. In one scene a white
woman boards a slave ship in mid Atlantic to view the human cargo on the middle passage.
Shown what is described as a "strong specimen," she exclaims "Oh I'd like to have him,
perhaps when we arrive Papa will get him for me." She produces Bryan Edward's treatise' on
the West Indies, and compares her theoretical knowledge to the data on the deck. Scott stages
the contradiction between written knowledge and embodied action by juxtaposing Edward's
historical text on the Caribbean with the action of the slaves:
BRIGIT: I have a volume by Mr. Bryan Edwards, just published, about the
islands. Do let me read you what he says about them.
STONE [Sighs]: Very good, Ma'am.
[While BRIGIT reads, JACKO stumbles against RATTLER, peers into his
BRIGIT: 'The Papaws or people of Whydah, are unquestionably the most
docile and best- disposed slaves that are imported from any part of Africa.
Without the fierce and savage manners of the Coromantyn Negroes, they are
also happily exempt from the timid and despondent nature of the Eboes....
The transformation of African men and women into willing slaves is achieved,
in this rendering, through writing and scholarship even though this is contradicted by
observable reality. When the Bosun intervenes in a fight between two Africans, one captive
spits at him. The Bosun cuts his tongue out. This act is both a form of physical torture and an
act of linguistic silencing, since pen and paper continue to speak authoritatively for the mute
slave throughout the play. After a gasp, our female researcher meets the Bosun's impassive
eyes with the exclamation "Filthy Beast. How dare he!" She agrees to keep the Bosun's secret
effectively denying and erasing his cruelty. Retreating to her cabin she is seen eating pieces of
meat an action suggesting that she eats the dismembered man's tongue; reversing images of
the famed cannibal of the Indies and creating white female cannibals, displaying the gentility of
the white woman as she ingests the other. Scott exposes scholarly complicity with colonial
violence and with the process of concealing the violence underlying the making of the white
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middle class subject. Writing and scholarship far from being impartial instruments of
knowledge are shaped by the scholar-writers relationship to power. If we want to understand
the other side of the story, to hear the narratives of subordination and survival of it, we need to
look outside written historical record.
While there may be no position of complete innocence in a world shaped by
violent power, I want to read Echo in the Bone as proposing that performance offers one path
of investigation which might move us beyond the limitations of colonial scholarship and points
to the kind of knowledge necessary for the formation of post colonial subjects. I will trace the
steps to this intellectual commitment.
Fanon, Scott and Ego Collapse
Following the dramatization of Western cannibal scholarship, An Echo in the
Bone relies on the structures of the mythical, religious traditions of popular Caribbean spiritual
traditions as the main site of alternative narratives. That is the play encourages us to look
outside the rationalist tradition even as we recognize that this same tradition cannot be entirely
jettisoned. Like Fanon Scott believed that the rational humanism of Europe depends on the
construction of the irrational savage. Like Fanon he believed that the internalization of racist
discourses within the colonized resulted in the development of a false super ego and a
conflicted mimcry of dominant white identity. When confronted with the imperial gaze which
fixes, objectifies and sexualizes the black person and confirms his or her difference, this fragile
performance of selfhood produced within colonial knowledge systems shatters and the person
is plunged into an abyss of fragmentation from which it is difficult to recover. This is what
happens to Crew before he murders Mr Charles. During the play the same collapse threatens
to engulf his son. It is this abyss that "Sugar poem" also describes, though Springer describes a
young woman in North America rather than that of a man living in the region. "There is,"
Fanon wrote, "a zone of non-being, an extraordinarily sterile and arid region, an utterly naked
declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born. In most cases the black man lacks the
advantage of being able to accomplish this descent into hell (Fanon, 1967, p.8)". For Fanon the
solution to this problem was militarized or armoured insurgent masculinity and revolutionary
Paget Henry (1992) reminds us that Fanon was locked into an argument with
the European existentialists. So constrained was he to write back at their knowledge that he
missed a great deal else going on around him. According to Henry he missed the ways
ontological messages of popular spirituality. He was unable to free himself from this
understanding of ego collapse, because other ways of knowing had been positioned as
superstitious, primitive and exotic by European thinkers. In an effort to avoid any
re-inscription of cultural difference, Fanon locked himself into a binary he critiqued. The cost
was that he excluded practices that could not be explained by post-enlightenment
Caonibal, ColonialScholars and Performance....
philosophical tools. Fanon borrowed the concept of non-being from French existentialists
Sartre, Hegel, Kierkegaard and Jaspers and he ignored the experiential and mythical tradition of
African Caribbean thought. Henry argues:
The realities discovered by African explorers (of ego dissolution) were not
coded in the impersonal language of being and nonbeing, in itself and for-itself.
On the contrary, they were coded in the more personal language of gods and
spirits who were in charge of various aspects of creation, including the process
of ego-genesis and hence ego performance. (Henry, 1996, p. 237. my
Henry's argument is an excellent introduction to Scott's play, An Echo in the Bone in which
the structure of the traditional Jamaican ritual wake (nine night) provides a space for the
performance of the remembered roots of ego crisis and ego genesis through the staging of
Textually Scott both interrogates and incorporates the western tradition, destabilizing
written arguments by staging alternative scenarios. Scott writes text and then using the
performer's body he unsettles the stable illocutionary nature of text by rupturing the temporal
and spatial boundaries as well as the boundaries of individual consciousness on stage. All this
challenges the Cartesian mind/body split. In Echo, the performer's body becomes an
incitement to ego development through embodied mourning and through the enacting of
memory and taboo desire. This becomes an alternative rationalist approach in which the
disciplining and regulation of the body is central to the production of individual consciousness.
By mixing western dramatic structure and Caribbean spirituality, the play unsettles binary
thinking and suggests a method for ego integration through performance structures derived
from hybrid combination of history and memory, Western drama and African Caribbean
While Scott agrees with Fanon about the binaries of colonial knowledge production, he
differs about how to rupture these. For Scott, armed struggle does not result in a tabula rasa.
For him armed struggle relies on the old dichotomies us and them. Though violence may be
necessary as a last resort (Scott is not a pacifist) reliance on binary racial representations risks
reproducing a politics of revenge and envy. There can be no tabula rasa, because the force of
history is present in all that we do, as James Baldwin once put it it echoes in the bone. The
play demonstrates that the other can never be completely outside the self. The white man
emerges among the ancestors in the play. He is the father of black children, present in the
community itself. Complete rupture with what has gone before is idealistic. Resistance is
always stained by accommodation because the stable dichotomy between victimizer and victim
or oppressor and oppressed is something that is created. Role shift in the context of an
exploration of memory allows an exploration of this instability. Violent removal of the body of
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the colonizer fails to deal with the dynamics underlying dominant and subordinate difference.
Violence, as Scott stages it, is cyclical; repetitive, turning on itself, turning on both victim and
perpetrator in multiple ways across time and space. The divisions of the past and present are
not discrete. The productivity of a past which we have all consumed and which has in sense
consumed us, make it impossible to start all over again. Memory, like the earth's underground
rock foundation, affects the landscape visible above ground. Violence creates subjects frozen
in past trauma unable to undertake creative action in the present according to Judith Herman
(1992). Trauma continues to spurt up through the fissures of the unconscious, like geysers of
blood connecting past and present causing echo crisis.
This crisis is, in the play dealt with through embodied mourning, effectively a
physicalized journey through the past, which results in the creation of new narratives that
incorporate what has been split off and excluded. Performing taboo desires, exploring the
other in the self and in the ancestral community, masking the self to pursue knowledge, are all
narrative tactics which rupture the stable categories of self and other. The play poses the
question: given all the violence that has passed what else is it possible to be and to know?
Of course there is no single answer to this and any answers we may attempt are inevitably
only partial. But the question can provoke an exploration through performance of what lies
underneath the symptoms of ego collapse and its implications. Mourning then becomes a form
of work meaningfully undertaken in dialogue and in community. For Scott, the translation of
the wake into a dramatic structure for the play allows the community of the living, in the
company of the living dead, to engage in such a dialogue across time and space.
Shifting the mind/body impasse through performance
While Fanon examines effects of European discourses on ego dissolution and race, and
poses the crisis of non-being as something that has to be solved on the terms of the Cartesian
legacy, Scott proposes an alternative that effectively goes around the mind/body impasse,
shifting the discussion away from this and focusing on how the body knows, and how the body
negotiates trauma drawing on the practices ofAfro-Caribbean spirituality as means to deal with
Scott does not, however, throw out the baby with the bathwater. Performance offers a
method of investigation through enacting shifting roles/ shifting temporalities/shifting spaces.
It can become the empirical site for self conscious knowledge creation in community but it can
only do so in dialogue with colonial discourses. Going around the mind/body impasse and
validating suppressed knowledge requires a dialogical investigation of the written records. The
process is undertaken in relation to a particular historical theme or issue from colonial
discourse. The symbols brought by both the powerful and the weak can then be positioned
and repositioned, made and remade in "a struggle for possession of the sign" (Hebdidge, 1979,
p. 19). The practice relies on layered performance and play in dialogue with dominant
Cannibals, Colonial Scholars and Performance....
representation. It is this performance which ultimately undoes the orthodoxies of the self and
other. And it is this freedom from the binary self/other which opens the alternative to
violence. But this freedom from the constraints of "us" and "them" can only come about if
one is prepared to enter into the difficulty and risky journey and exploration of how history has
shaped us, privileged and deformed us, if one is prepared to look at what we share and what we
don't in our different bodies and social locations
Cannibal scholars and enduring colonial images
Perhaps it is not so much the translation practices of the denigrated native informant
which need to be further theorized but rather an ugly figure who in a reversal of colonial tropes
of region, we might call the cannibal scholar. The cannibal scholar is s/he who either consumes
the knowledge of the subaltern and unaccountable, gives nothing back. Alternatively s/he is
the scholar afraid to risk historical investigation of difference, who maintains the privilege of
innocence while denying the ways in which s/he is formed by economies and cultures of global
I have argued that one helpful principle for challenging complicity and repetition can be
summed up as a commitment to unsettling the enduring legacies of colonial knowledge
production which dichotomize mind and body, self and other, writing and performance. One
productive path for this work can be the performance of old colonial images and the
investigation of them across time and space and across racial difference drawing on non
western performance traditions. One methodology for unsettling binaries of self and other
both within the self and without can be to go around the Cartesian mind/body impasse by
performing in embodied ways our different locations across global flows that produce
hierarchies of difference. Such a commitment necessarily invokes "contrapuntal dialogue" to
cite Said's use of musical theory. Such critical dialogue investigates enduring colonial images
and examines about how difference is manufactured and circulated. Such a dialogue is always
difficult and often painful but it is one way to engender active human subjects able to imagine
and enact conditions of social possibility in which difference is freed from notions of
subordination or superiority. As Sherene Razack (2002) has argued attentiveness to what we
share and don't share and to our investments in our social locations as scholars and artists can
be important to any understanding of how we can collaborate as researchers and as teachers
across borders and across our own differences.
* Acknowledgement I want to thank Kara Springer for permitting me to use her work.
Byron Edward published in 1801 The History of British Colonies in the West Indies. Scott has altered
the spelling of his namelightly and puts the date of the ship scene a few years earlier that the
publication of Edward's b'ok.
Honor Forde Smith
Beckford, G. (1972). Persistent poverty: unerdervelopment in plantation economies of the Third World Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Benitez Rojo, A. (1995). The repeating island- the Caribbean in the post- modern perspective. (trans. James
Maraniss) Durham: Duke University Press.
Brathwaite, E. K. (1971). The development of role society in Jamaica 1770-1822. Oxford: Oxford
Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.
Farley, A.P. (1997). "The black body as fetish object" University of Oregon: Oregon Law Riview, 76(3),
Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Henry, P. (1996). "Fanon, African and Afro-Caribbean philosophy" In L.R. Gordon, T. D.
Sharplcy-Whiting, & R. T. White (Eds.), Fanon:A critical reader. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 220-243
Ortiz, F. (1995 ). Cuban counterpoint: tobacco and sugar (H. De Onis, Trans.). Durham, NC: Duke
University Press. (Original work published by Alfred Knopp).
Henry, P. (2000). Caliban's reason: IntroducingAfro-Caribbeanphilosophy. New York: Routledge.
I lulme, P (1986). ColonialEncounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797. London: Methuen.
Puri, S. (2006). "Fielding questions: area studies and the humanities" A paper prepared for the
International colloquium on Area Studies and Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of
Toronto, April 1, 2006.
Razack, S. (2002) "Your place or mine: transnational feminist collaboration" In Anti Racist Feminism:
CriticalRace and Gender Studies. Ed. Agnes Calliste and George Sefa Dei. Fernwood Publishing: Halifax,
Said, ,. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Vintage.
Said, I. (1994). Culture and imperialism. New York: Vintage.
Scott, D. (1985 11970j). "An Echo in the bone." In E. Hill (Ed.), Playsfor today. Essex, UK:
Scott, J. C. (1990). Domination and the arts of resistance: hidden transcripts. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Springer, K. (2003). Sugarpoem. Unpublished. Used with permission of the author
Todorov, T. (1984). :olumbus and the Indians' in The conquest ofAmerica: the conquest of the Other, New
York: Ilarper Row pp. 34-50.
Wilson, P.J. (1973). Crab antics: the social anthropology of English speaking societies of the English Caribbean.
New I aven: Yale University Press.
Wynter, S. (1995) "1492: a new world view" In V.L.Hyatt & R. Nettleford (Eds), Race discourse, and the
origin of the Americas: a new world view. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 5-57
Margarita Zamora (1990/1) "Abreast of Colombus: Gender and Discovery" In CulturalCritique #17,
Winter 1990/1 pp. 127-149.
KEYNOTE: Applied Theatre: Pure of heart -
As new migrants on Ellis Island waited under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty they
faced a range of challenges to gain entry into the New World. One such hurdle for the huddled
masses was a diagnosis of mental illness.
Officials had about six seconds to detect signs of mental illness. An illustrated guide
helped staff to identify facial types of mental disorder. Doctors outlined tell-tale symptoms
including facetiousness, nail-biting, smiling and other eccentricities (Sayce 2000:56).
Staff were instructed: "If an Englishman reacts to questions in the manner of an
Irishman, his lack of mental balance would be suspected" (Sayce 2000:58).
Those suspected of having a mental illness had a cross chalked onto their clothing. They
were then taken for a short interview where they were asked further questions. Often taking no
longer than five minutes, those whose mental illness was confirmed had their cross circled,
detained in wire cages clearly visible to all other migrants and were put back on the ship and
sent back to whence they came.
Confronted with the tide of this conference, Returning the Gaze, Reclaiming the Voice: Post
Colonialism and its Implications for Drama and Education I have wondered about the gaze of those
whose job it was to mark out the 'other', the medical gaze that so efficiently, ruthlessly and
completely parallels the colonising gaze which Jennifer Kelly reminds us "the purpose of which
is that it should subdue those who receive it and make them wish to be invisible" (p.19). How
might those visibly marked with the stigma of mental illness, made therefore both visible and
invisible simultaneously return the gaze, reclaim their voices and join the new world?
If we do in fact live in a post-colonial world, we also live in a world where our systems for
defining the otherness that is not acceptable have a veneer of greater sophistication and
refinement than those practised by those guardians of the free world, as have our tools for
medicalising and diagnosing mental illness. The end result has been to create a colonised class
of people, merely glanced at as they are passed in the streets, their new homes in a world which
has decolonised the institution but failed to pay more than lip service to notions of
multiculturalism which might include the mentally ill within it.
Of course, other societies at other times have branded or marked out for exclusion those
unfortunate enough to be labelled with a mental illness. Erving Goffman's treatise on stigma
(1963) draws the meaning of the term from its Greek derivative of the branding and marking of
slaves so that citizens could know who was not deserving of equal rights. History is littered
with the tragedy of the stigma, persecution and at times the planned killing of those labelled
with a mental illness. For example, during the Great Confinement in sixteenth and seventeenth
century Europe, the newly emptied leprosariums "permitted to eject, as into another world, all
forms of social uselessness" (Foucault 1965:58). As late as 1815 Foucault notes, "the hospital
of Bethlehem [Bedlam] exhibited lunatics for a penny, every Sunday" (1965:68). In the planned
genocide of Nazi Germany the mentally ill were the first to be separated out, silenced and their
gaze forever stilled. At least 250,000 people with mental or physical illnesses were killed in
programmes where those described as "useless eaters and lives unworthy of life" were gassed
in ex-psychiatric hospitals or were killed by lethal injection or shot (Sayce 2000). In the former
Soviet Union political dissidents were "diagnosed as sluggish schizophrenics and then locked
up and drugged" (Breggin 1991:27).
Not surprisingly the poor, people of colour and women in particular have been the
victims of social, economic and political exclusion as a result of a mental illness diagnosis.
Even today women are lobotomised at least twice as often as men, and two-thirds of shock
patients are women (Breggin 1991:319). Black patients in the United Kingdom are twice as
likely to be detained as white patients, more likely to be prescribed a major tranquilliser and,
although Afro-Caribbeans constitute only 1% of the population, they account for 15% of
inmates of special hospitals (Turner 1995:82).
The stigmatisation and exclusion as a result of a mental illness diagnosis led Szasz in the
early 1960s to deny the very existence of mental illness suggesting, "the very concept of mental
illness was a form of social labelling designed to serve as a facade for the suppression of
non-conformist behaviour" (Grob 1994:271). Breggin argued that:
When it diagnoses drugs and incarcerates the homeless poor, psychiatry covers
up the political issue, society's unwillingness to provide jobs, housing or an
adequate safety net. People victimised by socio economic conditions are
turned over to psychiatry for further abuse (1991:66).
Psychiatrists present mental illness as a disease of the brain, usually referred to in terms
of chemical changes that effect mood and behaviour. In general, this brain disease model fits
within the wider medical model which has seen the ascendance of the detached clinical gaze
lead to the development of an 'optics of power' (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983:156) that has
extended beyond the individual body in order to oversee and manage populations (Germon
De-institutionalisation from the 1980s spread internationally in response to the call for
more affordable health care regimes, and the desire to close down large-scale institutions. At
the same time the burgeoning mental illness industry saw incredible growth in drug treatments.
In 2000 Prozac alone had worldwide sales of over $US3 billion. Elli Lilley's psychiatric drug
sales grew from $US3 billion in 1987 to over $6 billion in 1996 (Sayce 2000) and $12.5 billion
worldwide last year, sales in the US growing by over 800% in the last 10 years. As Turner notes,
Appled Theatre: Pure of heart Naively Compicit
"The asylum as a specific site for moral resocialisation became redundant in the face of
techniques which could re-orientate thought more directly" (1995:58). The cops have definitely
moved into the head. To match the growth in psychotropic drug sales the Diagnostic and
Statistic Manual 4 (DSM4) increased the numbers of mental'disorders from 297 in the 1980s to
374 in the 1990s. According to The Washington Post, (April 20 2006) a recent analysis published
in Psychotherapy and Pjychosomatics found:
Every psychiatric expert involved in writing the standard diagnostic criteria for
disorders such as depression and schizophrenia has had financial ties to drug
companies that sell medications for those illnesses.
One mental illness commonly diagnosed in the early to mid-1800s is no longer listed in
the psychiatrist's canon. The disease prevalent amongst slaves was even considered at one
point to be contagious. The disease called drapetomania had the main symptom of "an
overwhelming desire to be free"
Different experiences such as hearing voices or delusional behaviour are only diagnosed
or recognized as a mental illness in those cultures where such behaviours are unusual. The rarer
and more unsanctioned the behaviour, the more likely it is to lead to social exclusion and to the
labelling of a mental illness. As Mary O'Hagan writes:
My mood swings are not an illness but a strange and inexplicable experience
that has been captured, impounded and colonised by the psychocratic
regulation of reality. Like colonised indigenous people I have been denied
what is truly mine (1986:21).
The diagnosis of a mental illness can be seen as part of the wider system of oppression of
the poor, people of colour and others who fail to be productive members of a capitalist society.
Building on the work of Laing (1965), Goffman (1968), Scheff (1967), Szasz (1972) and Scull
(1993), the mental illness industry can be seen as a tool of the state. The diagnosis of a mental
illness legitimates abuse and control over those the state may regard as threats, for example,
people of colour, women who are disobedient to their husbands, men who have sex with other
men and the poor in general. Foucault argued:
The modem penitentiary, hospital, prison and school are elements within an
expanding apparatus of control discipline and regulation (a panoptic system of
surveillance) which have secured order not through overt violence but through
a micro politics of discipline whereby people have been morally regulated into
conformity (Tumer 1995:12).
A resident of London who on average is filmed by CCTV up to 200 times a day knows
the pervasive nature of such systems.
How then might drama fight the psychocratic regulation of reality? How might drama
assist in returning the gaze of a panoptic system of surveillance? How might the stories of
those who have been "captured, impounded and colonised" have a space to be heard? As our
conference theme enjoins us, what are the implications for drama and education in such a
No Salvation Rhetoric or Hero Narrative
The National Project to Counter Stigma and Discrimination was established by the New
Zealand government in 1997. The Project recognized that people with a diagnosis of mental
illness are marginalized and excluded from full participation in society. The Mental Health
Foundation was contracted to provide workshops for mental health service providers to shift
workplace attitudes and behaviours that were discriminatory or stigmatising. I in turn was
employed by the Foundation to develop and lead those workshops. In two years I facilitated
over sixty workshops in psychiatric settings working with both staff and client groups. The
workshops, often two or three days long used process drama as a central device for people to
reflect on their attitudes and behaviours associated with mental illness.
If you are hoping for a keynote today which inspires with the grand heroic narrative you
are to be disappointed today. Tempting as it is to regale you with triumphant tales of how
drama triumphed like an avenging angel, gave voice to the unheard and stared down the evil
coloniser/psychiatrist, neither life nor drama is thankfully that simple or straightforward.
Rather than drawing some universal understanding of how process drama operated it has
suggested some beginning understandings of what the implications are for those of us who
recognize that although drama may not single-handedly be able to transform the world we live
in, this does not mean we can or should retreat from the battlefield.
I co-facilitated the workshops with a friend and colleague from the Mental Health
Foundation of New Zealand,John Matteson.John had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at
18 and had spent considerable time in psychiatric institutions, boarding houses and halfway
homes. He survived his initial diagnosis and treatment and became a university graduate and a
musician with his own recording studio and a number of CDs. John was responsible for the
music and storytelling aspects of the workshop and I was responsible for using drama as a way
to assist people to reflect on their attitudes and behaviours associated with mental illness.
John and I had devised a three step model for the workshop. In step one participants
work at identifying the features of stigma and discrimination using a range of musical, visual art
and drama conventions, centred on John's personal story as a mental health consumer. In step
two participants consider the features of their workplace if stigma and discrimination had been
countered and in step three participants consider the ways in which this could be achieved. In
the workshops we used an adaptation of Boal's "image of transition" (1995:115), to summarise
or crystallise all the other conventions used at each step.
Appled Theatre: Pure of heart Naively Comprcit
A reflective practitioner research into a series of three workshops became the basis of my
doctoral studies. I want to talk today about one workshop held in the far North of New
Zealand with a group of ten people. The group was made up of mental health workers, several
people who identified as mental health consumers, myself, John and another colleague from
the Mental Health Foundation, Francine.
In fact I want to talk about only twenty seconds of drama in one of those workshops to
illustrate what I consider to be implications for work with marginalised and colonised groups.
These ten seconds of drama arose from a story John had told the workshop of his time
doing 'industrial therapy', which essentially involved stuffing different coloured plastic sponges
into bags. This therapy occurred for up to eight hours a day. Groups were asked to create a still
image to crystallise the morning's work on what stigma and discrimination looked like. The
group John was working with decided they could recreate this moment, but because they saw it
as such a mindless task they would showJohn doing it with his head covered up. They achieved
this by buttoning John's shirt up over his head as he sat on a chair perched on top of a table.
Bevan, a mental health worker placed his head on the table between the legs of the chair. To
the side of John and Bevan, Nahi, another mental health worker stood as the industrial
therapist with one finger pointing in an admonishing fashion at John.
The mental health professionals and the group of clients who gazed on the image all
recognized the colonising power of the mental illness label. John described it later like this: "I
was in a precarious position. Sitting aloof and having no head. I never saw it. I only felt it. I
was only in it. It was face-less. People do not see people with mental illness as human."
John also commented on how the actual emotions he felt were symbolic of the feelings
he and many consumers felt about the mental health system.
The actual physiology of the event, when you are at the end of the day and you have your
head stuffed in a jumper and a shirt, and it's so hot and suffocating. It's the suffocated feeling
of being in the mental health system.
Utilising Boal's "image of transition" convention I asked the group to construct an image
which acts as a counter or opposite to the first image. The group decided they wanted to
symbolise how John and therefore other mental health consumers get their heads back and
re-connect with the world. They chose the moment of his graduation from university with a
degree in health science. John agreed to let the group use this part of the story, although later in
the interview he acknowledged the total fiction of the resolution that was presented in the
It was wonderful because people were celebrating the event with me but in reality that's
not what happened. It wasn't like that and when the drama was being constructed I just kept
my mouth shut and people assumed there was that celebration. I was barely allowed to pass
and I did not go to the graduation ceremony and there was no triumphant and 'John's got a
degree and he's transcended all these struggles' But for the drama the symbolism was the
John was willing for the story to be retold in a fictional manner for two reasons. He
recognized the wider implications for the drama and its symbolic meaning by playing out the
story this way. He also recognized the drama allowed him to play out an alternative to what had
happened in his real life. Although John recognized that the celebration was symbolic, he
acknowledged that it happened for real for him in the drama.
It was quite lovely that all these strangers and people who didn't know me celebrated that
event with me five years later. I really did deserve a party or a pat on the back and I got that in
In the collision between the symbolism of the drama and the reality ofJohn's life he was
able to simultaneously represent the success of all consumers who become reconnected but
also finally celebrate for real his achievement of gaining a degree.
The group were then asked to move the first image to the second on a series of counted
beats with the other groups able to stop the movement at any point to say what it was they were
seeing. As I counted the first beat, two things simultaneously happened in the image. Bevan
was up with astonishing agility and grace on the table behindJohn. John meanwhile reached up
to undo his button. One viewer, Francine, read that the movement showed the first step in the
campaign needed to be about consumers giving themselves back their faces.
On the count of threeJohn was struggling with the button. He could not see and so had
real trouble undoing the button. Bevan reached around and undid the button forJohn. It then
became clear if the two were get down off the table safely they would need to help each other.
Either they would both get down safely or both would fall. I became intensely concerned
about the precariousness of the situation for John and now for Bevan. As I said to John in the
interview later, I did not know which worried me more: dropping him in the drama and how
that would be read symbolically by the group, or my genuine concern for his real safety. Both
were interlinked and as I said to the group at the time, "If we drop him there's a long way to
ForJohn, the tension was more pertinent. He too was aware of the intense meaning that
would be taken from the group if he fell. Later he said "the only way I could get down was with
Bevan's help and I recognized the relevance of that symbolisation to the national campaign."
Later I told John of my fear when I asked, "What would have happened if you'd fallen?"
John's response surprised me:
It would have been more realistic of people's experiences with mental illness to
be dropped. Most people don't make it to the floor safely. That's the reality.
Applid Theatn: Pun of heart Naivey Compcil
The tragedy is that we celebrate one person's getting down off the chair
because it is so uncommon and yet thousands of others have been denied even
that. Most people are knocked off the chair and onto the floor because of one
discrimination thing and that's all it takes.
It seems John was aware that there was far more danger and importance in getting to the
ground safely in the drama than there was in real life. In real life John could get back up off the
floor. Yet in drama we risked saying that people cannot get to the counter image, it is too hard
and it is too difficult. John was determined not to fall because of the symbolic importance of
such an event, more than a fear for his own safety in the reality.
For the next three seconds John struggled with another button as Bevan held him
securely on the table. At the count of six, a participant called Stop and said that she saw Bevan
assisting with the first button but that he was now moving back to allow John to do the rest for
himself. She suggested this showed Bevan was giving the choice to John to undo the next
button or to remain suffocated.
At the time I didn't' notice, but in viewing the video that was being taken for the
purposes of my research I noticed at count seven Bevan gently stroked John's emerging head.
It was a gentle loving gesture. In the interview later Bevan said, "On the table with John it was
just something I would do naturally, put my arm around a person and help them in any way that
As I watched and rewatched the video I wondered what those moments were telling me
about the nature o( empowerment. Does empowerment mean consumers being left to undo
the buttons for themselves? Or is it about showing and actually undoing the first button and
then standing back as they fumble through the next steps? These issues were to surface more
seriously later in the drama.
By ten seconds John was out. In my research journal I wrote:
John breaks free from his shirt. He has this enormous grin all over his face.
The smile is real and also a part of the Drama. He's free symbolically but he's
also free literally.
Later in an interview with John he said,
The most happiness I felt was getting free of the shirt from off my face. It
doesn't matter about the degree or the qualifications that helped get myself
back. Just getting my face back was cool.
John's freeing allowed us to see him, and it also allowed for the first time forJohn to gaze
Peter O'Coi or
The period of enlightenment was, however, a dangerous moment, perhaps even more
precarious than before, because not only could he fall but he could see for the first time how
truly vulnerable he was. I wanted to draw the group into considering the wider implications of
what we were seeing, and asked what this might tell us about how this particular image might
inform our work in the campaign. One participant, Rona, suggested that it was down to our
intentions as workers. She said,
If it is not done with pure intent you can do more harm than good. The return
to the community was done to cut costs and so has done more harm than good.
Now that we have opened him up, it's even worse if we drop him, because he
will fall on his face.
In the next two seconds Bevan had whisked the chair off the table and was helpingJohn
down. i said Stop and commented, "To me there is a surety about Bevan, he knows he isn't
going to drop John, that we need to know what to do next."
Francine replied, "He's starting to push a little." I assumed that she was supportive of
what he was doing and so I said, "Yes, he's developing an energy now." Francine sounded
quite distressed and said, "No, no, he's starting to push."
Later in the interview I asked Francine about this moment. She said, "I remember being
quite agitated and concerned about what you said was happening." My reading of Bevan
showing a natural caring and efficient charge of the situation was not how Francine saw it at all.
Francine was managing the contract 'on behalf of consumers, and the image was asking
her questions about her role in the campaign -questions Francine had difficulty answering.
The image seemed to zero in on Francine's key concerns about not only her own role in the
campaign but about the nature of the campaign itself.
I suppose it is one of my fears and the image encapsulated that. It is more difficult to
have changed at a pace that can truly involve everybody. The process always has people out the
front bashing down the brick walls and other people coming behind and building bridges. I
believe there is a pressure in this project that we need to have a certain amount of stuff happen
within three years. If the people for whom the outcomes are the most important can't actually
do what we want them to do, we have to go ahead and do a whole lot of stuff that actually
mirrors the whole process that we are trying to change.
Contrary to my notions of enablement Bevan's pushing was, to Francine, yet more
colonising of the mental health consumers experience and usurping of control.
Francine read and reflected on the image so much from her own perspective that in the
interview she argued vehemently with me. "You say Bevan only undid the first button but I
saw all the buttons being undone by Bevan." On reviewing the videotape it is very clear Bevan
undid the first button and John undid the rest on his own.
AppiSd Theatm: Pnr of heart Naive Complidt
The image moved two seconds forward and Rona said Stop. The last seconds quickly
counted down and the image became the counter image. This timeJohn's face was even more
radiantly happy and relieved. The room heaved with relief as the burden of the work finished.
The group in the image hugged as we spontaneously clapped. It seemed we clapped as much
for our own involvement in the drama as we did for the 'performance.'
We gathered for the poroporoaki. Its function was to close the proceedings of the day.
People had the opportunity to stand and share their feelings about what had happened. Each
speech was supported by waiata.
John started this final part of the session by reflecting on the experience he had just been
through. He said, "Sitting there in the dark, you're suffocating, you've got your head down, it's
hard to breathe and the only way out is with the support of those around you." "I really don't
care who gets who out of the darkness, the important thing is to get out" Although it was
unstated, we recognized John was talking about far more than his experience in the drama. As
his waiata, John sang the song he had written for his friend Arthur.
I met a man called Jesus
He thought he was the saviour
The second Son of God
Overmedicated and crucified
Perhaps he was (Matteson 2001).
So what might we glean from this story about the nature of working in post-colonial
worlds, what implications for those of us who work to make those whose faces are invisible
The role of those who work using drama as a tool to combat injustice or in simply
providing space for the voice of minorities to be heard is often challenged by those who
suggest it is the right and prerogative of the minority group to free themselves unencumbered
by the good intentions of the majority. However, I'm with John when it comes to not caring
who gets who out of the darkness, the important thing is to get out. It means I am clear about
not being frightened off by the political correctness that fosters inaction. In a New Zealand
context I have seen too many young teachers frightened to teach indigenous Miori content and
form for fear they will be seen as re-colonisers as appropriators of that which doesn't belong to
them. It means the stories and forms remain hidden and risk being lost. In Hong Kong years of
neglect of traditional drama forms as a direct result of colonisation, meant that when I worked
with a reference group to establish drama education in Hong Kong schools the largely British
trained group of drama specialists were unable to think of any indigenous forms to teach or
work with in schools. Although the stated aims for the schooling system was to tell the Hong
Kong story, the traditional and indigenous forms were unavailable to those who were
structuring the process by which that might happen. It means when our company works both
Miori and Settler or Pakeha members of our company need to know and be comfortable with
using a range of Miori forms and processes in our work. For example we often start our work
with the formal powhiri where each member of the team plays a specific performative and
spiritual role. We use the traditional forms of whakawhanaugatanga (literally translated as to
make family) where people share where they are from to establish connections at the start of
work. We close with poroporoaki where people stand and share their thoughts on the day, free
from interruption, the strength and support of what they say revealed in the waiata or song that
follows. All members of our theatre in education team are expected to know and to follow the
protocols and processes of things Maori when we work in Miori Contexts.
I therefore resist the notion that my white maleness disqualifies me from working with
indigenous groups, people of colour or with people with disabilities. I don't want to be like
Francine and worry so much about whether I am as guilty as those who stigmatise and
discriminate that I abdicate from the battlefield.
And I recognize as Bevan did that there is inherent risk in this work. If you are truly to
make the difference, you must place yourself in a position where you must risk as much as
those who are willing to risk all to get free of the cloak of invisibility. When the face of those
made invisible is finally freed we need to recognize the added dangers that causes. The moment
John was able to gaze back at us was also when he was the most vulnerable. We need to
acknowledge that returning the gaze is dangerous work. It carries with it great personal risk.
Failure to acknowledge and plan for the risk can have disastrous results. I have seen one too
many intervention programmes for young people at risk where the vulnerability of young
people is forged into spell binding performances of their personal stories. In these
performances young people are opened up for all the world to see their hurt, displayed in
theatre that borders on the voyeuristic, and then forgotten as the intervening theatre company
moves on to save their next faceless victim. The risks to young people is subsumed by the goal
of telling their powerful stories to communities as both entertainment and therapy. I know of
one theatre group which had a young woman disclose her sexual abuse by her uncle to the small
community where they both lived. This certainly made for powerful theatre, yet the
repercussions for both the family and the young person were enormous when the theatre
group moved on. In the heroic narrative that surrounds these theatre groups this young person
was transformed and saved by the power of drama, but the world she returned to remained the
same except potentially even more dangerous.
We need to recognize that not all risks are worth the taking, that in doing drama we can
do more harm than good. There are no guarantees. That if we aren't as Rona put it "pure in
our intent", if we are unsure and lack the gentle but firm place that Bevan occupied we may lose
everything we started out with. Yet I am glad we didn't stop the drama when we saw how
Appled Theatrr: Pur of heart Naivey CompScit
dangerous it was for both Bevan and John. By persevering through that doubt and fear we
achieved something in both drama and real terms for our trouble. But like Bevan you need to
be sure of your footing, of why you are there.
I would like to ask the question "Why are you there?" to the applied theatre group which
has taken up residence at Kingseat Hospital. Kingseat is a large asylum built in the late
nineteenth century finally closed in early 1990s. It was where John was drugged and locked up
when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was where John and I had planned to host a
series of "reclaiming the asylum" evenings of music and theatre, until the Mental Health
Foundation pulled its backing fearful of the public reaction. This summer a group of actors
have run a nightly interactive horror evening, replete with screaming madmen, chainsaws and
dribbling maniacs. Critics have been accused of being humourless and spoiling innocent family
fun (the evening is targeted largely to teenagers who flock to the old asylum in droves). I guess
the reason this applied theatre works is to make a lot of money.
And yet of course I too was funded and to achieve measurable outcomes. The project's
stated outcomes were to challenge and eliminate negative attitudes and behaviours towards
mental illness. As worthy as these outcomes may be I did not want to facilitate a workshop that
merely led participants to a predetermined set of behaviours, however much I agreed with
them. As O'Toole notes, "objective-centred behaviour analysis and modification is not art"
If as Dorothy Heathcote suggests the theatre gives the audience the permission to stare
(1984) than process drama and other forms of lehrstuck theatre which is played to the internal
audience alone, gives permission to look deeply into ourselves. Perhaps it is in the reflective
nature of drama that we may empower the return of our own gaze.
My aim therefore, was through the dramatic processes to assist people to reflect on their
attitudes and behaviours. That reflection would allow for participants in the workshop to find
their own answers, to uncover whether their attitudes and behaviours needed changing. I
wanted to become more than a technician in my work and work as an artist for as Cecily O'Neill
suggests, "The craftsperson uses skills to achieve a predetermined end, but the artist uses skills
to discover ends through action" (1995:65). In acknowledging the inherent paradox of process
drama, O'Neill argues:
In reflection, the students made both explicit and implicit connection with their
own lives. I have found that however deliberately the drama may be distanced
from real life, it is invariably the deepest concerns of their own lives that
participants discover in their drama (1995:4).
O'Neill recognizes that reflection in drama relates to deeply personal and
context-specific learning rooted in each participant's own sense of who they are and who they
might become. The reflection does not draw out an understanding of some universal value
system for humanity. Instead it draws to the particular life of the participants. This can be seen
nearly in Francine's questioning of the nature of empowerment through the undoing ofJohn's
buttons. She may frame the question in terms of how it might be achieved as an abstract
construct, but her interest and engagement with it is deeply personal and particular to her own
life story. I certainly wasn't funded to have Francine begin to question her role and place on the
project, for her to use those moments in the drama as a touch stone for discussing her and my
work together, when I would be reminded I was always willing to push when she was willing to
wait. Where my willingness to see the justice in the ends meant she saw I was willing to
compromise the means. In applied theatre work funded by agencies with clear deliverables,
clear outcomes that measure success there will always be a tension between these and the
unexpected, outcomes that arise from applied theatre as an art form.
Increasingly though too I have wondered about the expectations and intentions of those
who fund applied theatre practitioners to work in social justice arenas. Is it perhaps too
charmingly naive to simply reflect on our personal intent and not consider the political and
social context of the work? Was the campaign really designed to significantly improve the lived
experience of people with mental illness or were there other goals in mind?
The Campaign to CounterStigma and Discrimination associated with Mental Illness had wide cross
party support in its formation under a right-wing government intent on rendering a market
solution to every social issue. What was the subtext as the group displayed the ability ofJohn as
a representative of mental health consumers to overcome his oppression with the gentleness of
a kind and benevolent friendly mental health worker? Was my work, pure in its intent, naive in
its complicity with a campaign that reduced stigma and discrimination to individual actions and
completely ignored the economic and political imperatives that had chucked people with a
mental illness onto the streets? Was the campaign, and my part in it, simply about making it
easier for the state to abandon the mentally ill to the community once it had softened personal
attitudes to mental illness? At the time of the campaign, a new Mental Health Act gave greater
power to psychiatrists to detain people against their will, and lobotomies and Electro
convulsive therapy as treatment continues unabated. Did the happy ending we all clapped for
deny the reality which still sees people with a mental illness struggling to find employment,
decent housing, and health insurance? John may get safely down and we may all feel better for
it, and yet the mechanisms of injustice and inequality are left unperturbed by our single
triumph. As our group sought for individual transformation of John and ourselves, the
spotlight on the need for social transformation is turned elsewhere. Not a bad investment for a
founder who wants to spend a small amount to look like they're doing something without having
to do anything to shift the political and economic factors that sustains discrimination and
stigma. As the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand have witnessed increasing
Appled Theatre: Pure of heart Naively Complicit
disparity between rich and poor and the place of the mentally ill has become increasingly
tenuous, each country has run campaigns to counter the discrimination associated with mental
illness, all of them using some form of applied theatre.
In using Boal's (1995) convention of the image of transition had I simply created a
catharsis which purged the need for social action by substituting it with dramatic action? Had
our drama simply allowed ourselves to absolve ourselves from the problems caused by the
vicious cycles of, worsening poverty and social exclusion. Is it cheaper and safer for
governments to control the return of the gaze through highly managed public education
campaigns than address the underlying root causes?
The implications of this for those of us who work in applied theatre is that we work in a
murky and rarely travelled terrain. That as James Thompson (2003) notes this is a bewildering
space. It is a high risk venture, but in recolonisng the language of the new right, it can yield high
gains. The excitement and passion that guides my work is no longer the passion I had as a
young man to change the world, to be a new form of missionary intent on using drama as a
mighty weapon. My excitement and passion resides now in trying to understand and reify the
potential not fully tapped in our art form. It means we who work in these uncharted territories
will make mistakes, be challenged as interlopers, and risk recolonising as we forge ahead. Yet
drama provides the space where we may return our own gaze, reclaim our own voice. So we will
continue to work because we know to do otherwise is the path to accepting the world for what
it is rather than imagining what it might become.
Boal, A. (1995). The Rainbow of Desire. London: Routledge.
Breggin, P. (1991). Toxic Psychiaty. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and Civiisation: A History of Insanity in the Age ofReason. London: Tavistock.
Germon,J. E. (1999). "Degrees of Freedom, Inscribing Gender on the Intersexed Body"
Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Auckland.
Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Goffman, E. (1968). Asylums. London: Penguin Books.
Grob, G. (1994). The Mad Among Us: A History of the Care ofAmerica's Mental45 IlL Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Heathcote, D. (1984)i n L. Johnson & C. O'Neill (Eds.). Collected writings on education and drama. London
Hutchinson and Co.
Laing, R.D. (1965). The Divided Self Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Matteson, J. (2001). Boarding House Blues. On Pychiatric Survivor. Compact Disc. Auckland: ECT Records.
Kelly, J. (1998). Under the Gate: Learning to be Black in White Society. Nova Scotia: Femwood Publishing.
O'Hagan, M. (1986). From Taking Snapshots to Making Movies. Auckland: Mental Health Foundation.
36 Peter O'COnmr
O'Neill, C. (1995). Drama Worlds: A Framework frProcess Drama. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.
OToole, J. (1992). The Process of Drama. London: Routledge.
Sayce, L. (2000). From Pychiatric Patient to Citizen. Overcoming Discrimination and SocialExclsion. New
York: St Martin's Press.
Scheff, T. (Ed). (1967). MentalIllness and Social Process. New York: Harper and Row.
Scull, A.T. (1993). The Most Soltary of Afflictions. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Szasz, T.S. (1972). The Myth of MentalIllness. London: Paladin.
Thompson, J. (2003) Applied Theat: Bewilderment and Beyond Switzerland: Peter Lang Publications.
Turner, B.S. (1995). Medical Power and Social Knowledge. London: Sage.
Washington Post. April 20, 2006 A07.
KEYNOTE: Drama in Education: Finding self,
In this paper I describe and discuss a drama project that I have done with a group of 9th
grade girls in India. I discuss it in the context of my understanding of the goals of teaching and
learning as I have used them in my work. I also map the metaphysical and epistemological
terrain that I travel, using Bond's ideas of imagination and the 'self and the concept of 'home
as he used it, connecting them very tangentially to the ideas of self and reality as used in
Vedanta in Indian Philosophy and weaving both into my own idea of 'self
The Goals of Education: I believe it is very important for educators to have a
metaphysical understanding and perspective and even more importantly an epistemological
understanding i.e., if we are brave enough to take on the highly complex project of educating
others, then we need to have some understanding of what is worth teaching and why, along
with an answer to the question what is knowledge and how do we know.
And it's not as though we have to have all the answers, the metaphysical quest one that
asks what is reality and who am I? is truly a perennial one. After years of asking questions and
exploring several avenues, I make a tentative suggestion that the goal of all teaching and
learning, all education actually is to answer the fundamental question Who am I and what is
my relationship with the Universe and others in it."
I also believe and tentatively propose the notion that all knowing is really 'self knowing
and all 'self knowing is self-creating.
The Vedantic Conception Of Self
It seems important then, to define the 'self I do so from my own perspective that is
taken from Advaita Vedanta (the most prevalent Indian Philosophical system based on the
Vedas), which has echoes among several western philosophers and interestingly in Edward
Who then is the 'self that knows and is known, how is the self known and what happens
when the self knows and is known.
According to Advaita Vedanta, Reality or Brahman is of the nature of truth,
consciousness and bliss and the self or Atman, is identical with Brahman. So Reality is actually
Atman-Brahman. As such, "The self is the supreme value...it is dearer than the son, dearer
than wealth, dearer than anything else, and is innermost."p.127 Advaita Vedanta makes a
distinction between the individual self or Jiva and the non-dual self, or transcendent self, i.e.,
Atman. It is the Atman which is of highest value. The self is said to exist not in the sense that
"minds are" or "bodies are". Existence is not a predicate of the self; self is existence.
Further more, the Self is of the nature of release. Atman and moksa(transcendent
freedom or Nirvana) are synonyms in Advaita Vedanta. The self is ever free, freedom is its very
nature. Only this truth is not realized because of nescience or Maya. The removal of Maya or
nescience alone is required for the attainment of release. Release is attained and bondage
'destroyed' when nescience is removed.p. 130 As the self gets to know itself, it is released and in
doing so attains it's true nature.
Edward Bond' s notion of the child and 'home'
This philosophy finds resonances in Edward Bond's ideas. According to Bond, monad
is a Greek word for unity, something that is indivisible or without parts. Bond contends that the
child begins as a monad, an undifferentiated indivisible unity, and totality of itself and the
world, and that from this the child separates as a different entity from the world.
"the monad has no window on the world and no door on time. It existsin
eternity. All its events are elemental, cosmic, total. (2000a:114)
In Notes on Imagination (Bond, 1995), a key theme of Bond's account of self is
introduced: that the mind works to find meaning and value and to understand the world, not
only on the basis of a steady processing or assimilation of experience, but that the mind itself
undergoes qualitative change in the process of encountering the world. P.142
This implies that the in acquiring new experiences, knowledge, skills and memories, the
self changes qualitatively through different constructions of maps, by integrating meanings and
stories into its existing self. It creates its self-meaning, i.e., it creates itself in the process of
knowing itself. Self knowledge is self-creation.
"Imagination structures experience as a map. The map is the site of story. The
first map is the neonate's. Later maps are imposed on this and each other. The
self is a palimpsest of maps. "(Bond, 2000a:117)
Bond places value and the need for justice at the heart of things.
The palimpsest self many selves existing on the same plane would seem to correspond
to Jiva under Maya. This series of horizontal selves that are the history of the character's
relationship to justice, include the self that is the original site of radical innocence. This self
provides the link that holds all the others together and gives coherence and composure to the
self. Here the Self might be what Vedantist mean by Atman. Bond's idea has clear resonances
with the Vedantic notion ofAtman-Brahman and Maya. It is this Self/Atman-Brahman, that
Bond contends drama has access to.
Finding Sef, Finding Home
Gap and Site
This leads to the idea of the 'gap' a sort of mini-nothingness between each self and the
world. Animals have no gap, their contact with reality is direct not mediated through culture.
According to Bond, the gap is the site of a two-way interaction between the self and society -
world. It's the way we establish our volatile relationship with material reality. In effect, you can
say we create ourselves in the gap. We are the total meaning we produce in the gap... the gap is
like the site of a self-theatre. We do not live our biology in a mere animalistic way but the
meaning we create in the gap. p.128
Mind/Self Gap ideology
Radical innocence, reason and imagination
Bond has an important conception of the child's 'right to be in the world' 'to be at home
in the world' and 'for the world to be its home', as he puts it -
"..there is a basic orientation of the newborn human towards the world, and of
the world towards it. Intrinsic to this new center of awareness is its right to be;
this is gradually articulated into its right to be at home, to make the world its
home and for the world to be its home, which in time is articulated into the
right of itself and others to be at home in the world p.135
Bond also 'twins' reason and imagination, the minds two basic processes. While reason
is shared with some animals, imagination is distinctively human. Whereas reason seeks out the
structure of the non-human or material world and how it works, imagination has its origin in
the mind's understanding of the human world. Imagination seeks out the structure of the
human world of actions and events, what he calls the logic of fate and freedom' Imagination
increasingly becomes twinned with reason and is used with reason to understand the physical
and human world. Together reason and imagination seek to know reality, i.e., know
Imagination T Imagination
Mind/World +- 4- -* Self-Knowledge
Reason 1- Reason
My conception of Self
I look at the self as being in a perennial state of becoming, as it tries to locate itself in
relation to the bewildering phenomena of the world and other selves, struggles to make sense
or 'meaning' of all its experience, and yearns to find it's 'home' as it were. It is always a
developing self- an inter-personal construction, constructed with language both a verbal self,
a "named" self, named by ourselves and others, and dialogic self or a relational self, constituted
dialogically by our interactions with others, their perception and treatment of us, the roles
assigned to us and those that we play in the many discourses in which we participate. This view
of the socially constituted self takes the Marxist stand that the socio-cultural and political world
in which an individual lives defines the possibilities or limits of development. The self is also
politically constituted, positioned in social structures, participating in institutions, constructed
by the roles played within these.
I think of the 'self' as being an imagined self, constructed and created by our imagination
and the meaning that we assign to ourselves in relation to the worlds we inhabit. I do believe
that the 'self' needs to be released and this release is a leap of imagination, the jiva or empirical
self or palimpsest self, released to realize its nature as Atman-Brahman, to find it's home in the
world/Brahman and to make the world its home.
And finally I love the Vedantic idea ofAham Brahm Asmi -I am Brahman, i.e., I am all
that exists and everything that exists is in me. It is such a freeing notion and such an expansive
one, and gives one such a "being-at-home-in-the-world" feeling.
World +- -+ SELF <- -+ Others
Reason Jiva Reason
Fimdig Sel, Fixd&g Home
The goal of the project was to provide an interpersonal, social and aesthetic context,
'gap' or 'site' in which a group of 9th grade girls, in an urban girls high school in Lucknow, in
the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in India, might focus on themselves and find an answer
to the question "Who am I and what is my relationship with the Universe and others in it."
Method I worked with these girls for 8 weeks, meeting them 3 times a week for an hour.
We engaged in several activities, including writing, dialogue, role play, drawing, collage making,
dancing and a staged theatre performance.
I video taped our meetings for analysis and supplemented these with extensive field
notes. I analysed, their writing and collages and multiple conversations throughout the
duration of the project, including the conversations during the rehearsal for the play.
The Pariipantr Though I worked with a group of 11 girls, I focused on 5 girls whom I
Rachna is a 16 year old 9th grader living with her parents, 2 brothers and 4
sisters in a 2 room house. Her father is a washerman and earns Rs.3000 to
3,500 per month (Approx 80USD). Mother is illiterate and father has
studied upto 5th grade.
Kunti is 14 and Rama is 16, both in 9th grade. They live with their parents, 4
sisters, 1 brother and his wife in a 2 room house. Their father is unemployed
and brother is the only earning member. He earns approx Rs.5,500 (120
USD) per month. Both parents are illiterate.
Cristina is a 16 year old 9th grader, living at home with her parents, 1
brother and 3 sisters in a servant quarter in the home in which her father
works. Both parents work. Father is a driver and mother works as a maid in
a school. Together they make Rs.4,500 pm. Father has studied upto 10th
grade, mother upto 5th grade. They are Catholic.
Arti is a 16 year old 9th grader, living with her parents, 2 brothers and 2
sisters in a servant quarter in the home where her mother works as a maid.
Father is a compounder in a local pharmacy. Together they earn rs. 3,500
per month. Mother is illiterate, father has a high school education.
(see, Photos, pp.viii-x)
Sequence of events and activities:
The students began by introducing themselves verbally, in writing and in drawing. They
did small role plays to give a flavour of their everyday lives. The girls then spoke of the fear of
being a woman, described what that meant through drama and writing. The drama was
discussed and the writing was read out and shared. The girls then made a collage out of pictures
that they chose to show who they thought they were and what their fears were. We talked about
overcoming these fears and did small role plays. The girls danced and did still images about
bondage and release. They made a collage about their dreams for the future and talked about it.
Finally I decided to do a staged performance with the students, based on my belief that
students grow in strength as they work at a performance and because they love performing.
These girls had never been on stage. We worked at a performance of a play: Rani Laxmi Bai for
6 weeks and finally staged it in a public auditorium.
Some Key Findings:
The fear of being a woman: The girls speak(translated from Hindi) Their perception of
themselves and 'home'
The following are excerpts from the girls' essays on what were their fears as women.
"We cannot go out of the house. If we go out then people look askance at us
and say nasty things about us to our parents. So our parents do not let us go out
of the house and scold us saying If you go out then I'll break your legs."
"And when you are at home, everyone is forever nagging you "don't do this,
don't do that." How should a woman go out? She is always afraid of society and
"It is considered a misfortune to be born a girl. A girls honour is very dear to
her. Since childhood she is told not to go out, not to play, to do housework or
else how will you be accepted by your in-laws once you are married? If you go
out boys will hurt you, molest you. All this is firmly entrenched in her mind, so
that she is unable to recognize herself. Sometimes she is prey to men and victim
to rape. This happens because she does not know how to deal with the world
outside, but everyone blames her and she becomes 'bad'. "Why did you go out
of the house". So she imprisons herself at home.
Girls cannot speak to anyone in society. They can't express their wishes to
anyone, because no one cares what girls think or say and no one listens to them.
People also take advantage of girls weaknesses and so girls repress their desires.
Their parents don't pay much attention to them either, because they think the
Fiding Se, Finding Home
girl doesn't belong in their home anyway, since she will get married one day and
go away to her marital home. So girls just silence themselves.
Society frightens you of course, but more than that we are afraid of men,
because we are made to fear them from childhood. Finally fear sets in our
I am afraid of being a woman, because there is not respect or value for women
in society. People always look at women with a bad eye, mostly people at home.
So we have to live in hiding, almost to protect ourselves. Even if we want to
live fearlessly, our parents fill us with fear, so that we learn to live in fear and
can't rid ourselves of it.
It is clear from the above quotes that the girls do not feel 'at home' in the world. In fact
they do not feel at home in their homes either. For Rachna, the 'home' is a prison and the
world is fraught with danger. For Kunti, the house is a prison, the world a threat and she living
in fear. Rama feels the home is not hers, her voice is unheard at home and outside, disregarded
and the message very clear "you don't belong." Christina and Arti speak of their fear of men,
from whom they have to protect themselves even as they have no choice about who they will
marry and have to share their homes with.
Their role plays depicted similar feelings of being servile, caged and under threat. Their
collages had images of their yearning to be free, to be treated as equal, to be allowed to study, to
NOT be like their mothers, silently suffering.
(see picture, p.viii-x)
This is a story of great Indian Hero, Rani ofJhansi. She was born in 1835 to a Brahmin
family and became Rani Laxmi Bai ofJhansi in 1842, when she married the Raja ofJhansi. She
was widowed shortly afterwards. She was an extremely unusual woman, grew up trained in
sword fighting, horse riding, wrestling too. She trained all her maids in waiting similarly as soon
as she got married and built up a women's army. She fought the British to keepJhansi, was the
commander in chief of her army. Her most trusted generals were women and her women
army fought in the infantry, cavalry and artillery divisions. The British were stunned to see her
women army and overawed by the young queen's prowess. General Rose said of her.."She
was not beautiful. Her face was pock marked, but she was a fine general. The finest. If we had
even one general like her we would have never lost India." She was one of the main heroes of
the first battle of Independence or The Indian Mutiny of 1857. She took on the British army
almost by herself and was martyred in the process. She died fighting on June 18,1858. She
fought with two swords, the reins of her horse held between her teeth and her infant son tied to
It's quite a story and I chose it because it is part of their literature course and because I
found it to be an extremely inspiring tale for women. The purpose was for them to live
through' the possibility of a 'self like Ranis a real historic figure and to give themselves to the
self-creation in that site. Also to enable them to learn from the aesthetic experience of the
performance and to rise to the demands of the performance, which they certainly did.
(see pictures p.viii-x)
Learning to be 'at home in the world'
We did a lot of reflective discussion around the role plays and the collages. Our drama
provided the girls with a 'site' to do the self-work that is needed to 'know' the self and
'construct' it. Girls used writing, dialogue, role play, dance as 'sites' of self-knowing and
self-construction. This is not a place that they had ever found..never the time, nor the space:
nor the legitimacy to have a 'site' for self-work. And this because women should not have
selves, they do not have the right to 'be'. And most certainly they have no right to a
home..either in their houses or out in the world. The world is not their home and they are not
at home in the world.
Finding sites, they used all these media in the 'gap' that the drama provided, in which
they made sense of their lives using imagination and reason both. They found a circle of
sharing. A respectful willing responsive audience who participated in the self-construction
All teaching and learning should be aimed at helping our students exercise their right to
'be' in the world, to be at home in the world and for the world to be their home, which is the
same as helping them to locate themselves in relation to the universe and others in it ie.,
answer the fundamental question "who am I and what is my relationship to the Universe and
others in it. Vedanta would say help them find their fundamental unity or themselves as
Atman-Brahman. Bond would talk of recovering their radical innocence.
I agree with Bond, Heathcote and others that cold reason is not sufficient to explore
human worlds. Imagination is key and it has been highly underrated as a cognitive mode. I like
Bond's idea of twinning reason and imagination. In our drama the girls were using both and
trying to make the leap of imagination beyond the traditions and ideologies that had denied
them a home. The self is constructed in the process of being known and then there is a fresh
knowing and a fresh creating and so on, the palimpsest self is a useful way of looking at it.
In the course of their rehearsals, they learnt to speak loudly, strongly, to walk tall and to
raise and hold a steady gaze. All things that their real life contexts taught them NOT to do.
FidiA Si f Finadi Home
unnecessarily, to keep their voices down, to keep themselves out of sight if possible and to be
these voiceless, self-less, quiet servers of everyone in their families. "If you speak loudly your
in-laws will think you are being very arrogant and argumentative" "You are a girl and then you
dare to look straight at me and talk back?!! How dare you?"
The girls had to learn (mock)sword fighting for one of the scenes in the play. I asked
them who they thought were their present day real life enemies andhow would they fight them.
The girls said it was their families and society. They said "we have to be strong inside of
ourselves to fight them", affirming the need to unify within, be 'at home' within ourselves in
order to be at home in the world or make the world our home.
The regular curriculum does not afford opportunities or 'sites' to work in the gap in this
self-constructive way. There is very little help in the search for 'home'. There is very little
legitimacy for this self-work, for imagination, in an official epistemological stance adopted by
most schools in most countries.
My students say they gained more from this drama than they did from all their studies put
together and I am inclined to agree, because I believe that in the course of this project they
found a site where they could use their imagination and reason to confront their worlds and the
society they lived in and the ideology that governed their lives, make sense of it and thus work
out "the logic of their own humanness. In the course of it they learnt that they had a right to 'be'
a self, i.e., be a person with wishes, with aspirations and a 'self." They used the 'gap' to contest
the ideology that governed their relationship with the world and had defined their place in it so
far. And they began to imagine themselves at home in the world and start to see their world as
their home." As is evident from their own verbal reports and their 2nd collages.
Their environments are poor, brutal and extremely oppressive and limited. The tentacles
of patriarchy hold them strong and fast, as Cristina put it:
"Our parents are going to marry us off when they think it is right for us and
there isn't much we can do. They won't change. But we can change and do
things differently when it's our turn. Right now we have to do what they say."
Kunti contested this:
"No we can certainly talk to them and have our say. If we are strong within
ourselves, we can change them..maybe."
Their 2nd collages which they made towards the end of the project are a delight to
behold. Very upbeat in nature, they show an exhuberant sense of life and a reaching out and
upwards to its possibilities. Rachna wants to be a sailor, Kunti wants to be a pilot, Arti wants to
be a dancer, Christina wants to be Computer professional and Rama wants to be a designer. All
professions that are very far removed from the circumstances in which they are living, which
makes it twice as creditable that they have the courage to dream so boldly.
The self seems to have stirred, it has been 'released', asserting its right to be, invoking
justice. I believe that the self-knowing and self-construction that the girls have been engaged in
as they dramatised themselves, dialogised themselves, storied themselves, imagined
themselves, will inexorably continue, because the self once invoked will "out"
I asked the girls what they thought they were learning as we were rehearsing for the play.
I got many varied responses:
We are learning to walk tall
We are learning to speak loudly and strongly
We are learning to look up
We are learning to act and be expressive
But the clincher was this one -"We are learning to be strong". I rejoiced! I believe that
strong imaginations make strong individuals and the important thing that students should
gain is a way to strengthen their imaginations, which will show them a way to reach beyond
their circumstances and work out "the logic of their humanness"
Schools must provide these sites, and ways of using gaps for transacting the self/creating
the self. Imagination is the prime mode of knowing and this must be 'released' in all of us,
teachers and learners both. And drama certainly shows us the way.
The Theme of the Conference:
I now turn to the theme of the conference Returning the gaze, reclaiming the voice,
post-colonialism and its Implications for Drama and Education.
At risk of sounding biographical, I refer to my own history. I was born in 1955, 8 years
after India threw off the colonial yoke. My father was a part of the freedom struggle and he
suffered a loss of his home as he made his way in bloody trains from Western Punjab to Delhi
as a refugee. It is small wonder then that he treated us to a healthy diet of 'hate the muslims and
hate the British' as we grew up. We were forbidden to speak in English at home, though we
went to an English medium school, for reasons of social status, English being the power
language, and being a girl in a very strongly patriarchal Punjabi home, I was specially forbidden
to wear Western clothes, cut my hair, or behave 'western' in any way: Learn to behave like
women of our culture, and not like the carantan's (Indian slang for western woman), you are an
Indian woman" Behaving like an Indian woman ofcourse meant being a voiceless, submissive,
creature, serving everyone self-lessly and always being willing to eliminate ones 'self in the
interests of the family and society. The English language and culture signified, independence
and individualism and for women particularly it was considered wholly inappropriate. I was
told nearly "not to argue or make my opinions known", and to keep my gaze down,
respectfully especially when I spoke to my elders and to my husband or in-laws. Strangely
enough, my 'self was a fairly strong and rebellious one, not so easily silenced or hidden and I
Finding Sea, Finding Home
respectfully especially when I spoke to my elders and to my husband or in-laws. Strangely
enough, my 'self was a fairly strong and rebellious one, not so easily silenced or hidden and I
resolved infact to speak in English, and to be like the western women independent and
free... I embraced the colonial culture and rejected my own...it seemed wholly inappropriate to
my perception of who I might be.
Here I define 'culture' and draw some inferences for our discussion on "colonialism"
Taking a semiotic view of culture, Geertz(1973) defines culture as a symbolically encoded
system of meanings saying that "man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself
has spun, I take culture to be these webs"(p.5) Along with Ferdman(1991), Heath (1983), and
Schiefflin (1990), he states that people codify and represent their values beliefs and noms in
the cultural symbols that they generate together, language being the primary one, reflecting the
world view of a culture or its "consciousness" (Pattison, 1982), thus building a shared world of
meanings. Agreeing with the scholars referred to above, I take the processual view of culture
provided by Rosaldo (1989), viewing it as a multi-layered, multi-faceted, overlapping, dynamic,
changing process, an intersubjective social construction.
There is also the problem of "location of culture" Often a cultural homogeneity is
assumed, especially by outsiders and strong patriarchs like my father. They fail to take
cognizance of the formation of "cultural borderlands"(Rosaldo, 1989) along social barriers and
boundaries such as class, caste, gender and age. And such borderlands, should be regarded not
as analytically empty transitional zones, but as sites of creative and cultural production that
require investigation"p. 208
So when we discuss culture and its appropriateness the important thing to consider is
that there are cultures within cultures and each sub-culture has its own story to tell Each
cultural borderland has its own terrain..it's own purposes and aspirations and self-conceptions.
The important question to ask when cultures and culturally indigenous purposes are being
referred to is -"whose purposes within the culture are being referred to? As the Jain
philosophers pointed out, since people occupy different social spaces, they define reality and
their place in it, differently. Men's purposes are different from women's purposes and adult's
purposes are different from children's. The world makes different sense to each of these
groups. And the issue of power is a salient one. What is culturally appropriate or culturally
relevant to a certain culture is not best decided by the dominant group within a cultural
community, normally the upper class adult males. I chose to appropriate the colonial tongue
and values to find my voice and define my self in the terms of another culture, which my father
saw as being highly culturally inappropriate.
I submit that the voices of women generally and more so women from subordinate class
and caste groups were silenced in colonial India and are silenced now. Their gaze was been
averted then and is averted now. I was bor of a middle class home and was continuously
affected the masters feudal lords and upper caste folk and men in particular as the British took
away their weapons of oppression from them and appropriated them. Not much changed for
the underclass and caste folk and women in particular. They were colonized then and are
colonized now. Decolonisation of women is needed in Post colonial India as in most of the
Post colonial world. They are still homeless in the world, like all colonized people, still
alienated from themselves, strangers in their skins and in the world.
From Vedanta: (Contemporary Indian Philosophy: Edited by Margaret Chatterjee 1998, "The Insights of
Advaita" by T.M.P Mahadevan.
Edward Bond: Imagination and Self in Edward Bond's work: by Bill Roper in Edward Bond and the
Dramatic Child: Ed by David Davis
Geertz,C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected Essys New York: Basic Books
Rosaldo, R. (1989). Culture and truth. Boston, MA: Beacon Press
Pattison, R. (1982). On literary: Thepoitics of the word from Homer to the age of rck. Oxford: Oxford
Ferdman, B (1991) Literacy and cultural identity. In M.Mashiko & B.P. Kennedy (Eds.), Language
issues in literacy and bilingual/multicultural education (pp.347-372) Reprinted Series No. 22: Hanard
Heath, S.B (1983). Ways with words: Language, lfe and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press
Schiefflin, B. (1990). Thegive and take of everyday fe. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press
KEYNOTE: "You're not allowed to say that"
Minefields and political correctness
Judith Ackroyd and Andrew Pilkington
Twenty years ago, I was working in a tough all boys comprehensive school
where the vast majority of pupils were White and working class. I recall just
three British Asian lads prior to the arrival of Abdul. Abdul didn't speak
English. He was very short compared to the children in his year. He wore a blue
parker jacket with a false fur lining around a large hood as many other lads did.
Abdul, however, kept his hood up, drawn over his shaved head.
One day as I walked down the corridor, I saw a boy shove Abdul as he passed.
Imagine my horror when I heard Abdul turn on him, saying 'Get off, Paki'.
How would Abdul find out what Paki meant? What on earth would he feel
when he found out?
Let us begin with ourselves and our disciplinary affiliations. We are from two different
disciplines: Drama and Sociology. We have worked together before using the powerful
pedagogy of drama to explore in the classroom sociological issues, most notably in relation to
ethnic identities (Ackroyd & Pilkington, 2000) and political apologies (Pilkington & Ackroyd,
2006). We have subsequently extended and applied this broad approach to the institution as a
whole, developing a DVD and workshop leaders' pack, Minefields, to be used in equality and
diversity training sessions to be rolled out to staff across our university. We have piloted the
training programme with a cross-section of staff and already delivered it to non- academic staff
in one (overwhelmingly White and female) department.
We work within the UR where there has been renewed pressure on Higher Education
Institutions (and other public organizations) since the turn of the century to ensure that staff
receive equality and diversity training. The pressure to address equality and diversity issues (and
its previous incarnation equal opportunity issues) has waxed and waned over the years. What
has prompted organizations to pay more attention of late to equality and diversity issues is the
Race Relations (Amendment) Act, which came into force in 2001.
While some authorities initially identified as a priority specific staff development and
training in race and community relations, most have subsequently opted for a more generic
approach. A number of factors have prompted organizations to move in this direction. These
include the development of further equality legislation and increasing recognition that different
dimensions of inequalityy are interrelated. The cumulative impact of these factors has been to
encourage institutions to develop generic equality and diversity policies and plans and place any
specific race equality policies and plans within that framework. This in turn has meant that
training has tended also to become) generic.
Although we should not exaggerate the priority given to equality and diversity by either
the state or public bodies such as the police and Higher Education Institutions, there is little
doubt that renewed emphasis has recently been given to issues relating to equality and diversity
(Pilkington, 2004). If we take the case of our own university, monies were set aside in the
Human Resources budget to meet the equality and diversity component of the Human
Resources strategy. Hence, there was the possibility of funding to support new equality and
diversity training. We took up this opportunity.
Drama and the production process
It's often said that if an audience knows what message a performance is giving, interest is
lost. As audiences, we can feel resentful if we sense that we are being preached at, especially
when we have come to be intrigued, excited and entertained. Theatre designed for children to
learn road safety will avoid telling them directly how to cross a road. A drama will unfold that
invites the children to discover how important it is to understand the dangers of roads and the
implications of careless behaviour. Victor Ukaegbu's research of community theatre in Ogwa,
in the Imu states of Nigeria, describes how community performers prepare plays that attempt
to change the behaviour of people who will be in the audience. On one occasion, they devised a
play to change the behaviour of someone who was badly treating his child; on another
occasion, drama was used to try and break the resolve of a man who wouldn't leave his house,
when there was a need for a new road to serve the community, and the house was in the way.
Here, the audience gather not knowing who or what will be addressed in the play. There is
anticipation as members wonder perhaps, whether they themselves will be included in the play.
Their interest is captured by not knowing what the message of the play will be. They don't
know what to expect.
But, such ruminations do not seem to be of much help for our purposes. What can
participants expect when they go to an equality and diversity training workshop, beyond
equality and diversity training? And what is their attitude towards training in equality and
diversity? Groan. So if messages are best concealed, what hope did we have? Participants think
that they know the message and it isn't a fun one, so we are seemingly on to a loser straight
Our assumption then is that staff attending equality and diversity workshops arrive at
best with predictable notions of what to expect and at worst with seething resentment that they
will be subject to a PC discourse. We wished to disrupt such expectations and therefore our
dramatic solution was to choose to have as our central character in the DVD somebody who
Your'e not Allowed to Say That...Political Correctness
awoke happy enough only to discover this was the dreaded day for the equality and diversity
workshop. This character shared, so we assumed, the sceptical feelings of attendees. This
opening was, therefore, clearly designed to give permission for participants to feel negative
about the training.
Willis and D'Arienzo remind us that 'sometimes projecting a feeling of the familiar is as
effective in arousing interest as novelty is. People are caught by stories that provide echoes of
their own experiences' (1981: 219). What our opening section set up was a combination of the
novel, and at the same time, the familiar. The participants were offered the familiar feeling of
irritation and negativity about equality and diversity, yet at the same time, there was the
unexpected, because equality and diversity training is not expected to diss equality and diversity
We had seen Complicite's production, A Minute Too Late, (2005) in which expressions of
embarrassment are physically shown through the body. The central character attempts to make
conversation with other mourners at a funeral and suddenly contorts himself, expressing his
excruciating embarrassment at having said the wrong thing. It was hilarious. Th& Lyttleton
Theatre audience rocked with laughter. We wanted the participants in the training workshop to
laugh, too, and thus built this into our piece. So we see our character 'getting things wrong' and
suffering for it similarly. But they didn't laugh. They needed to hear the laughter of those of us
involved in the training before they dared even to smile. We had to give them permission to
laugh, and even when we did, there was a reluctance to join in. Perhaps they felt it was a trick.
To laugh would be to demonstrate how un-PC they were and they would be found out and
It is worth noting that the examples of gaffes depicted in the film were generated from
real events. At one university meeting, a female academic colleague raised her eyes to the ceiling
when someone (a male) referred to 'manning the phones' at an open day. On another occasion,
during a break a workshop leader went outside to have a smoke. Judith now an ex-smoker -
retorted that smokers are usually nice people to stand in the gutter with. Two academic
colleagues visibly winced because the workshop leader was a wheelchair user, and so clearly
couldn't stand anywhere! These gaffes were, to us, trivial matters. The image of a minefield,
which we later discovered to be a common metaphor to deride what are seen as ludicrous
language rules, was chosen to express the fear of our central character that he couldn't put a
foot right (BBC, 2002). The minefields were of course in the character's head, though
nonetheless real for that.
Surprises in the reception process
Our first workshop activity invited participants to complete a thought bubble to express
what the character was actually thinking about the equality and diversity workshop when he
saw it in his diary. In drama practice, it is often good to get reservations and negative notions
out in the air so that they are not left haunting the drama. The opportunity is best provided in
our experience, through roles so that no one has to take responsibility for their remarks. Even
though the film introduces comedy, establishes a character who is sceptical about equality and
diversity, and the task requires participants to consider his thoughts and not their own,
participants were very reluctant to put anything negative about such training on paper. When
we went around and spoke to them in their pairs and gave them examples, it became dear that
they had ideas and had whispered them to each other, but didn't wish to speak them out loud or
to write them into the thought bubble. Eventually, the bubbles were filled out. Examples are:
Foot in Mouth workshop
Why can't I be me?
Thought police workshop
Bloody do-gooders workshop
Politically correct workshop
Waste of time. What's it got to do with me?
More legislation! Can't we be left to get on with things?ll
Political correctness gone mad. I've got better things to do. Just talking about
things we already know.
At the time, we invited some laughter when we read the bubbles out loud. It was crucial
to enable the participants to feel that they could actually participate. If they were too frightened
to contribute, we could expect to achieve very little. We needed them to know that they were
'allowed' to say what they liked. (We shall return to this point). However, some days later, when
we reflected on the workshop, it hit us that these lines probably represented what they really
felt about coming to our workshop.
In a subsequent activity, the workshop participants were divided into two groups and
each was given a pile of post-its with words or phrases on them, such as ladies; brown; queer,
coloured; foreigner; handicapped. The task of each group was to place the words in one of
three columns according to how comfortable they felt saying the terms. The green column
indicated that they were comfortable; the red that they were not; and the amber that they were
unsure. As the participants worked on them, we overheard the following:
You can't say that.
There's a different word now.
Honestly, what on earth's wrong with saying that?
Now how can I say this in a PC way...?
You could take it so far, you couldn't say, ladies and gentlemen
Some of them don't mind being called coloured
How would I know?
Yomr'e not Allowed to Say That...Poliical Correctness
While laughter is invited at the central character in the film for ranting on about his great
fear, the thought police, these participants appeared to be completely convinced that there is a
set of terms that were 'allowed' and 'disallowed'. We were unable to dislodge their prior
expectations of equality and diversity. The meaning of equality and diversity training was not as
fluid as we'd hoped. The title itself had fixed the meaning of the workshop in a not dissimilar
way to the way captions can at least partially fix the meaning of photographs (Barthes, 1972).
Despite the fact that the DVD presented a preferred meaning which entailed
lampooning the central character's anxiety about using the right words, our experience of
piloting and delivering the workshops has revealed among some participants a steadfast refusal
to decode the meaning of the DVD in this way. For these participants, there was an
unwillingness not to believe that we were reminding them that certain words should not be
used. What we have in mind here is not a considered view that certain words are inappropriate
because for example they are derogatory/offensive and show a lack of respect for specific
Others. Rather the concern is with saying something that will get you into trouble because it is
not allowed. The reception process has brought home to us just how powerful prior
expectations are for any learning and reflection. At one level, our belief that participants would
be somewhat sceptical of the benefits of attending equality and diversity sessions was borne
out. On the other hand, we did not anticipate the hold the notion of PC held for some of the
participants (see Nasir, 2006).
So what is political correctness? The term generally has negative connotations. It may
carry meanings which conjure up notions of totalitarianism and Orwell's 'thought police' (see
for example Bruce, 2001). Whatever the actual origins of the word, it is not unusual for the
concept to suggest the critical importance of staying in tune with the shifting party line. In view
of the tendency for the concept to be used in a negative fashion, we decided that the most
appropriate way to discover what the concept entailed was to explore challenges to its
supposed dominance. Fortunately, a recent critique has appeared that fits the bill. Written by
the Europe correspondent of The Times, it constitutes a biting indictment of political
correctness which it sees as corrupting public debate in Britain.
Political correctness is identified as 'an ideology that classifies certain groups of people as
victims in need of protection from criticism, and which makes believers feel that no dissent
should be tolerated' (Browne, 2006: 4). For Anthony Browne political correctness does not
refer purely to beliefs about language use, but to an ideology of a radical movement that is
concerned 'to redistribute power from the powerful to the powerless' ibidd. xiii). 'Starting as a
reaction to the dominant ideology, it has become the dominant ideology' ibidd. xii). 'The PC
Left has now become the establishment' he argues ibidd. 33). And indeed, 'in 1997, Britain
began, in effect to be ruled by political correctness for the first time' ibidd. 34). For Browne, this
represents the culmination of the ideology's steady domination across society. As the blurb on
the cover points out, 'Political correctness started in academia, but it now dominates schools,
hospitals, local authorities, the civil service, the media, companies, the police and the army'. He
concludes that 'the long march of PC through every nook and cranny of national life leaving
nothing untouched, [has been] helped by the fact that there is little competing ideology:
although PC has been ridiculed, there has been virtually no counter-PC movement' ibidd. 34).
The consequences of this domination are for Browne disastrous since PC 'discourages people
from taking responsibility for their own lives, suppresses free speech, and distorts public
debate, leading to bad policies being adopted' ibidd. 42).
We do not have time here to provide a thorough critique of Browne's book. To us, many
of his claims, however, are nothing short of amazing. To contend that PC now comprises the
dominant ideology percolating all institutions of society seems extraordinarily peculiar. It
suggests that there is a massive disjuncture between the economic and political spheres of
society, on the one hand, and the cultural sphere, on the other hand. Whatever changes may
have occurred, it is incontrovertible that economic and political power still predominantly
remains in the hands of the usual suspects, White men (Pilkington, 2003). What Browne seems
to be suggesting, however, is that the dominant ideology no longer pictures the distribution of
power as legitimate, because it is deemed to be, say, meritocratic. Far from it. The dominant
ideology is deemed to be one that sympathises (albeit inappropriately and ultimately to the
disadvantage of all concerned) with minority ethnic groups, women and others who are
pictured as economically and politically vulnerable. What this suggests is that we are witnessing
a legitimationn crisis' (Habermas, 1975). For the distribution of power is seen as unfair. If there
is such a crisis, it is extraordinary that that there seems to be so much quiescence.
What is most remarkable about Browne's analysis is the power attributed to the posited
ideology that he describes. It is of course true that some social movements, including feminism
and civil rights, have put forward what can be characterized as a counter ideology. They have in
some cases argued 'that certain sorts of speech and the expression of certain opinions hurt
certain people and as a result should be curtailed' (Bruce, 2001:xvi). Whatever the merits or
otherwise of this argument, however, the suggestion that this view has spread its tentacles so
far and wide that resistance is rare and that the propagation of views critical of, say,
immigration, welfare dependency and rising crime is well nigh impossible, seems preposterous.
They are after all the bread and butter issues for the (right wing) tabloids. What is more, it was
not so long ago that a major report (Macpherson, 1999) suggested that the police and other
major public bodies in British society are characterized by institutional racism. It seems strange
in this context, to put it mildly, to suggest seven years later that the police and other institutions
are now completely committed to anti-racist ideas and other politically correct nonsense!
Your'e not Allowed to Say That...Poli'cal Comctness
Political correctness for Browne is not only dominant in Britain but 'has become the
dominant ideology of the West' (Browne, 2006:32). This ideology, however, is seen as 'bitterly
hostile to Western culture' (Weyrich quoted in Browne, 2006: 2). The legitimation crisis on this
view seems to be wider than originally envisaged. For it is a characteristic feature not only of
modem Britain but also the West. How it is possible to square such a characterisation with the
American led invasion of Iraq and the reproduction and dissemination of old binaries, the West
and the Rest (Hall, 1992), the Occident and the Orient (Said, 1978) is beyond us.
We have become steadily 'more aware of the impact of social location on knowledge
production, as a consequence, for example, of feminism and post-colonial theory'
(Holmwood, 2006). We are therefore less likely to take on board unproblematically 'the
universalism attributed to categories developed in the West' and be sceptical of writers who
purport to represent universal reason. Browne's book is interestingly entitled, The Retreat of
Reason. The book purports to defend rational argument in the face of the threat posed by
political correctness. And it purports to be plain speaking and in touch with commonsense in
the face of the inanities of political correctness. Its claims to universalism, however, are empty.
Neo-conservative assumptions hold sway; there is no genuine debate between competing
positions; and the voices of minority groups within Britain/the West as well as those depicted
as not belonging to the West are completely marginalised and are typically unheard. Indeed, the
emphasis throughout the book on the responsibility of individuals for their consequent
socio-economic position signals the presence of an ideology that legitimises current social
inequalities. In Marxist terms Browne's book is a much stronger candidate to be considered an
example of a dominant ideology than so called political correctness!
The hegemony of an anti-PC discourse
Browne's book constitutes an example of a particular discourse, an anti-PC discourse
that exemplifies distinct continuities with colonial discourses. It purports to be universal but is
partial. It depicts the voice of powerful White men but marginalises the voices of Others. This
discourse is a discourse in a Foucauldian sense. It comprises a particular way of talking about
and thinking about the world which in turn shapes how the world is understood and how things
are done in it. It does not merely reflect the world but represents it. It constructs political
correctness so that those subject to the discourse can see its pervasiveness and discover it all
around them. In this context, it is interesting to note how even those who believe that it is
vitally important what language we use and how we talk to each other are forced to address the
issue of political correctness.
While it is recognized that the term has negative connotations and was initially coined by
neo-conservatives in the US to discredit liberalism (Hutton, 2001), some writers try to reclaim
the concept and use it to refer positively to language use which, influenced by liberal ideals,
entails sensitivity and courtesy.
Two examples will suffice. Here are Will Hutton, former editor of The Observer and
Roy Hattersley, former Deputy Head of the Labour Party:
'It is sad that so few are prepared to speak up for the idea that it matters how we
talk and interact. A society built on respect and tolerance is rightly concerned
about the language it uses and the processes it celebrates. Political correctness,
understood in these terms, is a considerable achievement...Political
correctness is here to stay, because it reflects the kind of society most of us
want to live in' (Hutton, 2004).
'I defend political correctness from its multitude of detractors...Words matter.
It is howwe transmit, embed and develop our culture. Talk of blacks as niggers,
gays as queers, women as bitches, Jews as part of an international conspiracy,
and the words become part of our collective, reflex view' (Hutton, 2006).
The campaign for what has come, derisively, to be called political correctness is
essential to a civilised society...We think in words. If we use words that suggest
there is something reprehensible about gays, women or ethnic minorities, that
is how we come to think about them. What is more, our bad example can cause
prejudice in others (Hattersley, 2006).
These are brave attempts. And it has to be said that we are in fundamental agreement
with their overall position. However, the attempt to reclaim political correctness is not in our
view successful. The negative connotations of the word can't easily be shrugged off, and to
some extent the authors recognize this. 'You call it PC. I call it courtesy' is the headline of
Hutton's most recent article on the subject, a headline that itself hints at continuing nagging
doubts about embracing the concept of political correctness. What Hutton and Hattersley
demonstrate is just how powerful the anti-PC discourse is. They are aware that the anti-PC
discourse has some resonance with their readers and feel compelled to embrace the concept of
political correctness in order to combat the attacks made under that label on liberal ideals they
hold dear. It is important in our view, however, not to fall into the trap of giving credence to the
concept of political correctness in this way.
What is interesting in this context is that at the IDIERI conference in Jamaica where we
delivered one of the keynote presentations, which forms the basis of this paper, a number of
speakers routinely invoked the concept of political correctness. Two examples will suffice.
Brian Heap in his opening address criticised a performance for being so politically correct.
Here rigid adherence to the principle of colour blind casting had led to the unfortunate
consequence of a white actor playing Mary Secole. Later Peter O'Connor in his keynote
presentation pointed to the way many practitioners felt inhibited working across difference
because of political correctness. He urged us to throw off these shackles and take risks
intervening with the colonised.
Your'e not Allowed to Say That..Political Corrcness
We agree with Brian and Peter's central argument in the specific cases that they cite.
Mary Secole would have been more appropriately played by a black actor. And, yes White men
can develop and deliver effectively everyday theatre with Maori children. Where we part
company with Brian and Peter is their invocation of the concept of political correctness to
make their case. Unlike Hutton and Hattersley, they are not trying to reclaim the concept. They
take on board the pejorative connotations of the term and challenge the prevalence of PC.
The ready deployment of the term, however, gives credibility to the notion that there is
indeed such a phenomenon and unintentionally lends support to a neo-conservative discourse
for which the notion of PC is an integral component (see below). Accepting the hegemonic
terms of debate in this way is dangerous. For it implies that we can now breathe a sigh of relief
and no longer worry about language use or positionality in working across difference.
The anti-PC discourse espoused by Browne turns the world upside down in our view.
The problem is not racism but anti-racism; the problem is not (widening) inequality generated
by market forces but powerful groups in the public sector who misguidedly interfere with
market forces; the problem is not the stereotyping, stigmatising and marginalising of vulnerable
groups but PC zealots who threaten freedom of speech. In an extraordinary scenario, the real
victims of the hegemony of PC are in fact thought to be White heterosexual men. Such a set of
beliefs fly in the face of all the sociological evidence on social inequality and indeed indicate that
the measures introduced in the UK, EU and elsewhere are completely misplaced.
How do we account for such an absurd discourse being taken seriously? Here we shall
only have time to map out the broad contours of an answer:
Globalisation, in the sense of the compression of both time and space has accelerated
dramatically in the last two decades. It unsettles traditional/customary identities and, though it
provides opportunities for some to develop new hybrid identities, for many it creates anxiety.
A series of social movements since the 1960s, most notably civil rights, Black power,
feminism, the disability movement and gay pride have challenged the unequal position of
particular groups and the lack of respect they receive in the wider society. Black and other
minority ethnic communities, women, the disabled and gays have been at the forefront of such
movements. As part of their campaigns for equality and recognition, they have pinpointed the
oppressive nature of language and its insensitivities. We are not coloured but black; we should
not be addressed by our marital status but are individuals in our own right; we are not
handicapped but have special needs etc.
Many people, who already feel anxious as a result of globalisation, feel uncomfortable
about their taken for customary use of language being challenged. What is wrong with saying
coloured? Why can't I say what I want? etc. They may feel doubly irritated when lists are
produced indicating appropriate usage.
In the 1980s, a right wing backlash to these movements in the US emerged in the form of
neo-conservatism. Neo-conservatism is passionate about the need globally for market forces to
prevail in the economy and Western style democracy to characterise the polity. It is highly
critical of liberalism, which posits the need for the state to correct the inegalitarian
consequences of market forces and believes that the public sector should continue to play a
significant role in facilitating equality and diversity. It identifies as part of its general critique of
liberalism a PC discourse which is seen as threatening free speech and Western civilisation.
Images are conjured up of thought police preventing us from speaking plainly and doing what
we think is right.
This discourse crosses the Atlantic (Dunant, 1994). The tabloids in particular
disseminate this right wing discourse as they compete to find the most barmy examples of PC.
And examples where there has arguably been overzealousness are found. Banning the phrase
'nitty gritty' for example is a case in point of 'political correctness gone mad' (BBC, 2002).
This discourse resonates with people already unsettled and discomforted by having their
language challenged. Yes, why shouldn't I say what I want? Why should we bend over
backwards for them and excuse bad behaviour?
We have only had the time here to outline a few bullit points, but we hope that they go
some way towards providing a persuasive answer as to why an anti-PC discourse has proved
attractive to some people including participants at our workshops. We are not suggesting that
the wider neo-conservative discourse has significant adherents. Rather, we are claiming that
those elements of this discourse which identify political correctness as a problem resonate with
many people. No wonder, participants come to the workshop with negative expectations
which, in some case, entail clear resistance to what is perceived as the message.
If we are concerned to promote equality and respect diversity, we can't afford to ignore
language. It is important since it clearly can be used to stereotype, stigmatise, exclude,
marginalise etc. What is more, it can be used to incite hatred. Free speech is not therefore an
absolute. On the other hand, we have become increasingly confident in our position that a
lexicon is impossible (see below) and that the howlers the central character cringes over should
not be taken too seriously.
However, it became clear to us after the initial pilot that the person who had
commissioned the work did not share our view. She felt that each example of the howlers was
in fact inappropriate and that people should endeavour NOT to make those kind of mistakes.
This made us reconsider our position. Perhaps we had been too concerned to win over the
workshop participants whom we had assumed would be overwhelmingly White and able-
bodied? Perhaps we had been too complacent and carried vestiges of colonialism into our
Your'e not Allowed to Say That...Polihcal Cometness
The lurking residue of colonialism
This concern takes us neatly into the second issue that the project has raised for us.
Post-colonialism highlights the cultural and ideological impact of Western colonialism.
According to this perspective, the devastating consequences of colonialism continue to
reverberate and can be detected in both dominant discourses and languages. In the process of
making a DVD to be used in an equality and diversity training programme, we became aware of
how embedded we were in a particular discourse and how difficult it was to shrug off
stereotypes stemming from dominant 'regimes of truth' (Foucault, 1980).
The production of the DVD was a collective enterprise and inevitably the concerns of
different individuals prevailed at different moments. What is interesting is that the production
of a DVD designed to turn the gaze on US and highlight our role in reproducing disadvantage
was unable totally to shed 'colonial' meanings. The narrative structure is one whereby our white
male hero not only finds his woman but also rises to the challenge that she identifies. Dominant
representations of both gender and sexuality are thereby reproduced.
We spotted such residual meanings in an earlier cut and made some changes to prevent
dominant representations of disability and again gender being reproduced. One scene was
excised in which our hero takes off his woman's spectacles in order to kiss her before they run
off together to the equality and diversity workshop; and some retakes were undertaken to
prevent the canteen and meeting being completely dominated by men.
In relation to race and ethnicity, the team did discuss the appropriateness of one scene.
Here our heroine, Marion (herself from a visible minority) alludes to the black female
receptionist's 'different culture'.
Marion: Oh, and I've just heard from that girl who was at the front desk last
week, she says she won't be in any more. Shame really because she said she was
made to feel really uncomfortable, says she felt very isolated. No-one took her
under their wing, I suppose, but I wasn't sure if I should. I'm not sure if people
from there do that kind of thing.
Male protagonist: Where was she from?
Marion: Not sure. It's a culture thing, isn't it? Perhaps she didn't feel she could
say anything. Shame.
While one member of the team initially thought it odd that someone who was from a
visible minority would refer to someone also from a visible minority in this way, we soon
recognized that the inclusion of this scene served (and could be used) to challenge widely held
notions of ethnic absolutism and cultural essentialism. The limitations of racial dualism, could
thus be laid bare and the implications of an approach that paid due regard to difference could
thus be expedited.
While we were able to challenge some 'colonial' assumptions, there is no gainsaying the
fact that others inevitably seeped through. In the first section, the central character is
harangued by competing voices. They represent 'goodie' and 'baddie' figures in the mind of the
central character. While we deliberately did not use white and black clothes to symbolise the
two figures, we did use white and red. And clearly these colours operate as binary opposition
with one term privileged in virtue. We are also left with an alarming class distinction. The
received pronunciation of the middle class voice, the good adviser is juxtaposed with the
dropped consonants of the working class mischief-maker.
Getting the message across
Earlier we referred to two examples of applied theatre in which the message is concealed
in some way: the road safety Theatre in Education play and the Ogwa community plays. Both
assume that there is something to be taught and that what is being taught is right. While the first
might be considered less problematic than the second, the players in both instances are seeking
to elicit change in the audience.
O'Farrell writes of the conditions in drama in educational settings under which change
can and should happen: 'It must be under the control of the individual student with the teacher
serving not as governing authority but as facilitator, protector and guide' (1996:126). The role
of the workshop leader or teacher should not be one where she tightly holds the reins. This
sounds fine, but what if the drama moves in an insensitive direction? Does that guide then
adopt (to some extent) the guise of governing authority, or let it go? Language Alive ran a
programme in a Roman Catholic school in Birmingham to engender community cohesion.
When the class discussed in role different views about the use of a Mosque, one child declared,
'All Muslims are evil'. Those delivering the work believed that the remark was wrong and that
they should make clear what they felt. They moved from the facilitator to a more authoritative
We are often enjoined by contemporary theorists who are sympathetic to
postmodernism to devise performances that avoid definitive interpretations and indeed
facilitate diverse reading: 'I don't want to do something that has one answer...I would like to
do something that is completely open to many contradictory experiences all of which are
equally "correct" The way to try and do it is to build in contradictions and not tack everything
down, building openings where it can escape' (Kaye, 1994). This may sound fine in principle.
But, in relation to our training programme, are all terms that refer to minority groups 'equally
correct' in any contexts? Are there situations when we would feel obliged to intervene?
We did of course have a message to convey in our equality and diversity training
programme and this becomes evident later in the DVD. Equality and diversity issues are
serious and some people face discrimination, harassment and victimisation. As individuals, we
have responsibilities and so does the organisation. In the workshop activities, however, we
Your'e not Allowed to Say That...Poltical Correctness
were determined to respect the professionalism of the staff, and the ethical standards such as
respect for others, fairness, justice, etc. that are a prerequisite of delivering a professional
service. Our workshop activities were designed therefore not to elicit correct answers but to
facilitate reflection. This gives the participants some of the control that O'Farrell calls for and
the openings that Kaye wants in her postmodern performance work.
While we share with Hutton and Hattersley a belief that certain words are best avoided,
we do not believe that it is any longer possible to issue a proscribed list of'right on' words and
preferred alternatives (Thompson, 2003). There is too much change for that. Whether we like it
or not, the term 'gay', for example. has a range of current meanings which include among many
young people 'rubbish' (Lusher, 2006). What is more, meanings depend upon context so that
even the n-word is acceptable to some Black people in some contexts. While many would like
to fix meanings, this can't be done as words are reclaimed and their meanings challenged. Some
British Pakistanis, for example, have even tried to reclaim the word 'Paki'. The relation between
signifiers and signified is not only an arbitrary one but also a slippery one. Our key concepts, as
post-structuralists maintain, are often free floating signifiers. Their meanings cannot be fixed.
All that we can do is encourage reflection.
In a sense, however, this is a pretence since we do wish the training to make a difference
by encouraging greater sensitivity in the use of language, etc. In recognition of our belief that an
anti-PC discourse is pervasive, we decided, however, that it was crucial that at no stage did we
convey a sense that certain things could not be said or that there were any preferred answers.
We opted instead to trust both the dialogic skills of the staff and the activities surrounding the
DVD to deliver the message. And the message was not so much, Do this or Say that but Be
reflective and Ensure that you are providing (and receiving) a professional service. This may
sound manipulative, and in a sense it is, but this is in fact what we typically do as teachers when
we ask questions and probe further. As professionals we should be reflective practitioners. This
does not mean that we believe that it is only as individuals that we make a difference. We
believe that it is important to recognize that reflexivity also entails a recognition of the need on
occasions for collective action and organisational change.
We return in conclusion to Roy Hattersley (2006):
'[We] need [more than] simple courtesy... [We need] to create a world in which
[twelve year old boys] do not call their school mates Pakis because they do not
hear such expressions not descriptions but terms of abuse used by the
adults around them.
Ackroyd,J. & Pilkington, A. (2000) 'Childhood and the Construction of Ethnic Identities in a Global
Age: a Dramatic Encounter', Childhood Vol 6, No 4.
Barthes, R. (1972) Mythologies, London: Cape.
BBC (2002) http://ncws.bbc.co.uk/l /hi/talking point/1988952.stm
Browne, A. (2006) The Retreat of Reason, London: Civitas.
Bruce, T. (2001) The New Thought Poice, New York: Three Rivers Press.
Complicite, (2005) A Minute Too Late, London: Lyttleton Theatre.
Dunant, S. (1994) The War of the Words, london: Virago.
Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge, Brighton: Harvester.
Habermas,J. (1975) Lgitimation Crisis, Boston: Beacon Press.
Hall, S. (1992) The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power' in S. Hall and B. Gieben (eds) Forwatiof
ofModrnity, Cambridge: Polity.
Hattersley, R. (2006) 'Language and Liberty', The Guardian, April 17.
Holmwood, J. (2006) "Only Connect": The Challenge of Globalisation for the Social Sciences, C-SAP
Annual lecture delivered at the University of Birmingham.
Hutton, W. (2001) 'Words really are Important, Mr Blunkett', The Guardian, Dec.16.
Hutton, W. (2004) 'Politically Correct and Proud of it', The Guardian, Aug. 29.
Hutton, W. (2006) 'You Call it PC. I Call it Courtesy', The Guardan, Jan. 8.
Kaye, N. (1994) Postmodernism and Performance, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Lusher, T. (2006) 'Straight Talk?' The Guardian, 7 June.
Macpherson, W. (1999) The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry: Report of the Inquiry by Sir William
Macpherson of Cluny, London: HMSO.
Nasir, S. (2006) '"Well you would say that, wouldn't you?" Subject Positions and Relationships
between Knowledge and Commonsense' in S. Spencer and M.Todd (eds) Reflecking on Practice: Teaching
and Learing Issues in Race andEthniiy, Birmingham: C-SAP Monograph on Race and Ethnicity.
O'Farrell (1996) 'Creating our Cultural Identity' in J. OToole and K. Donelan (eds) Drama, Cultkr and
Empowerment: The IDEA Dialogues, Brisbane: IDEA publications.
Pilkington, A. (2003) Racial Disadvantage and Ethnic Diversiy in Britain, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Pilkington, A. (2004) 'Addressing Institutional Racism: Comparing the Responses of the Police and
University in Midshire to the Macpherson Report, Learning and Teaching in Social Sciences, Vol 1, No 2.
Pilkington, A. & Ackroyd, J. (2006) 'Sins of the Fathers: Using Drama to Teach the Sociology of Race
and Ethnicity' in S..Spencer and M.Todd (eds) Reflecting on Practice: Teaching and Leaning Issues in Race and
Ethnidy, Birmingham: C-SAP Monograph on Race and Ethnicity.
Said, E. (1978) Orientalism, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Thompson, N. (2003) Promoting Equaity, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Willis, E. & D'Arienzo, C. (1981) Writing Scrits for Tekvision, Radio and Film, New York: Holt, Rinehart
Mediatised performance and Theatre for Young
People: How TYP is responding to Digital Natives1
If you walk into the foyer of Contact Theatre Company in Manchester, instead of the
discipline of the formal architecture of traditional theatres, young people encounter a more
contemporary environment, one containing sights and sounds familiar to them. During the
performances audiences are involved, talking and interacting like an Elizabethan audience
might have done and in similar ways to audiences at football or a rock concert. The lights are
always a little bit higher than usual so audiences can see and be seen. In the performance
theatrical light and surround sound mix with projected images, movies, wireless, real time
cameras and technology that allows performers to control the performance effects. Innovative
companies such as Contact and Arena Theatre Company in Melbourne are inviting young
audiences to encounter a new form of theatrical experience that is transformed from traditional
theatre. This is new theatre for a new audience and it demands innovative and collaborative
approaches in the making and performing of the work. As always one of the central tensions is
how technology and the theatrical worlds create theatrical meaning for these audiences. For
John E. McGrath, Artistic Director of Contact Youth Theatre Company, using technology is a
mandatory feature of developing theatre for his young audiences. He argues that using
technology in drama-making is as natural as using other production effects such as lighting. He
sees technology as a fully integrated part of his devising process at Contact theatre2:
I am not at all interested in technology as an add-on but I am interested in how
technology, how the digital image, how music technology and sound could be
left out of the form and the content of the theatre.
Young people see technology as integral to their cultural landscape: this is evident in the
performances being created for and often by young people. Whilst traditional theatre may be
struggling with declining audience numbers and declining revenues to other media, there are
exciting innovations emerging in Theatre for Young People, which embrace technology and
use new forms. This paper begins with a discussion of some of the ways technology is being
integrated into performance: two performance companies who have used theatrical
innovation, including technology, to find new audiences for live performance are examined.
The work of Contact Youth Theatre in Manchester and Arena in Melbourne provide some
insights into how theatre can be reborn and revitalised through an understanding of how to
connect with their audiences.
Micbae Ande son
Performance and technology
It is simplistic to suggest that technology has always been part of theatre from the
machine and skena of the ancient greek theatre to the invention of theatrical lighting and more
modem descendants such as the projection of images. At the heart of this discussion is the
question of how technology is used to create meaning for young audiences. Before we look at
the companies working in these ways, some of the fallacies that relate to working with
technology and performance are challenged.
Debunking the myths
Myth 1 Technolo, and performance should fight each other
In the same way that teachers sometimes see technology and drama education in conflict
so too do theatre makers. Auslander (1999, p 1) argues that traditionally theatre makers and
critics have "valorised" live over mediatised forms of drama and theatre. He argues that:
All too often, such analyses take on the air of a melodrama in which virtuous
live performance is threatened, encroached upon, dominated, and
contaminated by its insidious Other, with which it is locked in a life and death
struggle. From this point of view, once live performance succumbs to
mediatisation, it loses its ontological integrity (Auslander, 1999, p 1).
Auslander argues that most performances with an audience and performers physically
present are mediated in some way, through microphones or sound augmentation for example.
They possess 'liveness' but are not unmediated and dividing performance into discrete boxes
live or mediated in this manner is unhelpful. A more useful approach is to understand and
control whatever element you are working with to create an engaging theatrical world for your
Myth 2 The use of video and other new media is new
As Noel Jordan (2002) suggests there is nothing particularly new about new media. He
describes projection being used in the work of Vsevold Meyerhold, Erwin Piscator and
Czechoslovakian set designer Joseph Svoboda as early as 1925. He argues that like modem
theatre makers the multi-media artists of the past were "...responding to the technological
advancements of the day and exploring them within the bounds of their theatrical work". Like
John E. McGrath, those who have worked with multi-media technology in the past saw the
technology as "...not a means in itself but a further resource available to an artist in their desire
to communicate a story, message or theme" (2002, p 73).
These companies, artists and practitioners using technology in this way, including those
who produce work for a young audience, are only doing what has always been done with new
technology, using the resources available to generate dramatic meaning and impetus and
Mediatisedperformance and Theatre for Young People:
aesthetic engagement with audiences. The difference between now and then is that the modem
theatre maker has more effective and cheaper technology to use. We should be less bedazzled
and mesmerised at the technology used and concentrate on critical analysis of how all the
performance elements, including the new technology, worked or didn't work in the
Myth 3 We should recreate new technologies (eg games and/or cinema) in the place of live performance
because that is whatyoung audiences know and want
There must be a temptation for theatre makers to reproduce a video game, television
programme or a cinematic experience on stage. The logic is simple: "kids like
games/video/movies, we need to engage kids in the theatre, let's make our play stylistically
mimic the aesthetics of these forms" Students beginning in drama do the same thing when
improvising, deriving and using the acting techniques and conventions of naturalistic
soap-operas. What drama teachers know is the main challenge is to provide a bridge between
what students consume on television and the different aesthetic of the live space. In both cases
they miss a fundamental feature of making art that has integrity. Differing art forms require
different processes, different approaches and their audiences have different expectations.
While Blast Theory's Uncle Roy AllAround You is influenced by gaming and theatre it does not
fit comfortably into either. There is an attempt to create a new form, not crudely lift one form
and slap it in the place of another. John E. McGrath argues that at the centre of theatre is the
unique live experience:
I don't think young people come into theatre wanting to watch cinema or
wanting to watch a video AT ALL. I think the worst work we can create
imitates those media. They can have it better online. I think we need to find
ways of viewing the world that can interact in live stage spaces. The theatrical
event is an incredibly valid thing to do with young audiences.
The companies profiled in this paper are developing theatre that invites all the artistic
workers in from the beginning, sometimes with a pretext and sometimes without, to create
work from the ground up that will use technology to serve the dramatic meaning, not as a
gratuitous add-on. Although this may be seen as chaotic to those used to some more
conventional theatrical approaches, it is attractive for many other artists who like to develop
work holistically and collaboratively.
McGrath argues that audiences do react differently to shows with technology as part of
the form and content of the production. Audiences' experiences of technology will inform
their understanding of live performances including digital and screen-based work. McGrath
thinks that "...inevitably we are going to bring our relationship to the virtual into a theatre
piece" There is however a qualitatively different experience for audiences in different
performances. McGrath says:
The challenge for an audience is dealing with their preconceptions when faced
with new modes of presentation. For young audiences, McGrath says this
challenge is not as great. "I think the exciting thing about working with a
younger audience is that there are less expectations of what theatre ought to be
and more experience often in working with those other ways of viewing"
Theatre (for Young People) for the 21st Century and beyond
I remember seeing a performance at a main stage in Sydney that attempted to integrate
what was then the exciting new world of the Internet. The play was an import, written by a
famous English playwright that attempted to grapple with technology and live performance.
The director decided that if the play was to be about technology he would use technology in its
presentation. As usually happens when technology is a production afterthought, the
projections and assorted other technical wizardry appeared tacked on at the end rather than
integrated effectively with an engaging live experience. This common theatrical experience
illustrates the importance of integrating and understanding the impact of technology. Phillip
Auslander suggests that all performance is now "mediatised" or influenced through our
understanding of technology and that "Whatever distinction we may have had supposed there
to be between live and mediatised events is collapsing because live events are becoming more
and more identical with mediatised ones" (1999, p 32).
In his analysis he looks mainly to the world of Broadway musicals and suggests the
development of the spectacular on stage is a reaction to the effects that audiences see on
television and film. While this may not apply across all theatre, it is logical that theatre
audiences who have grown up with television and cinema will have different expectations as
audiences. Whilst there may be an influence, this argument presupposes that audiences desire
the same thing in all places. It assumes that audiences who attend film expect the same features
of the theatre and on television. Video did not kill theatre and theatre is as dynamic as ever so
what is it that specifically attracts young people to the theatre?
Digital natives in the theatre
Assumptions about the present generation of theatre audiences may also prove
misleading. It is true that they have been raised like the generation before them on new
technologies but this does not necessarily mean that computer gaming will kill drama. On the
contrary it has spawned and nurtured new forms of dramatic expression like those of Blast
Theory from the United Kingdom. Theatre and drama are robust forms that instead of being
fatally wounded by emerging technologies have and are integrating them to reach new
audiences. Rose Myers, artistic director of Arena argues that young audiences are looking for
authentic and unique experiences in the theatre. She argues that young audiences are not
homogenous and provide unique challenges for theatre makers3.
Mediatised performance and Theatre for Young People:
Our audiences are very demanding. Their boredom factor is high and their
bullshit radar is really strong. Many of the audiences that see our shows have
never seen theatre before they have no interest in theatre and fewer
expectations. To excite them to the potential of performance is a great creative
challenge. The young artists we employ here are responding to the world that
they are living themselves. It's not that we are making work for young people
because we have to it's more that are working with these audiences because that
is what's exciting us artistically.
Again at the centre of the theatrical interaction is the commitment to the live event,
however it is mediated and supported by technology. In what seems to be a call for theatre to
welcome mediatisation and to embrace new technologies Blast Theory are looking to renew
theatre through using technology as form and content to understand how drama and theatre
might reach new audiences. They argue (Blast Theory, 2004) that theatre has changed little
since the 18th century but society has changed radically.
This is not to say that traditional theatre is finished. But in the same way that
painting was transformed forever by the arrival of photography it does have to
change. Especially if it seeks to reach a new, younger audience and to have
cultural impact (Blast Theory, p 15, 2004).
This renewed understanding of how theatre might be transformed has led to exciting
non-traditional forms of theatre being created for new audiences.
Beyond outmoded dichotomies: embracing the brave new worlds
In our mass media and through our community there is a widely held suspicion of the
new. Young people's pursuit of the Internet and gaming is often seen as frivolous or even
dangerous as television and film were once considered. There is justification for these
suspicions. The Internet offers in one place through blogging a democratic way for your views
to be published and sometimes heard. In other places it allows innocent people to be exploited
through child pornography. This is the nature of most technology. It can and will be used for
building up communities as well as threatening them. Educators have the responsibility to
support the criticism and analysis of the content and build the skills for our young people to be
able to experiment and produce things of value, including and especially art work on this stage.
This is the general principle that fires the work of Blast Theory. As artists who emerge from
mainstream theatre they simply see no choice but to engage in theatre that fully embraces and
experiments with new and old technologies and in the process create new audiences for a form
they call mixed reality.
Their work is a pioneering example of what could be the future of new theatrical forms.
They draw from the traditions of the performance art or live-art movement, theatre, film and
gaming. They defy categorisation because of their willingness to embrace new ideas and new
forms from across the artistic and media spectrums. They describe themselves as artists
that...explore interactivity and the relationship between real and virtual space with a particular
focus on the social and political aspects of technology. Their art works with and against the
media saturation of western societies "...using video, computers, performance, installation,
mobile and online technologies to ask questions about the ideologies present in the
information that envelops us" (Blast Theory, 2004).
Blast Theory's most recent work Uncle Roy AllAround You saw players search for Uncle
Roy in an online and a real city. The game used an online player to guide the player in the real
street through the city to find Uncle Roy's office. When the player found the office they were
asked a series of questions about trust. If the players indicated that they would trust one of their
fellow players they entered into an agreement to 'be contactable' for that person in a time of
crisis (for real).
There are several aspects of Blast Theory's work that are innovative, striking and relevant
to drama educators. The most obvious is the playing on multiple stages of a game that
encourages the taking on of roles as the player or as a feature of the game. Furthermore there is
at the centre of the game a pretext that could have been designed by a drama educator. The
players are given technology, maps, GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) and mobile phones, to
find Uncle Roy's office within a given time limit, this is the tension found in any good pretext.
When they find him their expectations of what the drama/game is about changes. It is not as
they had expected about Uncle Roy but rather about our relationships with strangers. Siobhan
Murphy from the London Newspaper Metro had this experience of the work:
It's gaming made real, a spy film where you're the star. It's exciting sometimes
hilarious (especially when puzzled policeman feel moved to ask you what
exactly you're up to) and other times quite unnerving when you realise
someone leaning against a wall has been watching you all along. There's also a
message to contemplate...you are asked to make a leap of faith, which may be
coloured by your experiences immediately previous to being asked this
question. So you leave feeling contemplative, thrilled and ever so slightly
paranoid. What more could you ask for in the theatre? (Metro, Friday, May 30,
2003, p 17).
At the core of Blast Theory's work is not a preoccupation with toys but rather an interest
in the use of technology to explore social and artistic questions. Another of their projects
Desert Rain examines issues related to modem warfare. It offers a:
...disconcerting engagement with understanding of warfare in today's
mediatised world. Its shifting exploration of the virtual and the real, of
Medasedperformance and Thea/t for Young People:
technology and nature, and of mass media and individual experience, are all
paralleled in the 'mixed reality' interface technologies (Wyver, 1999).
The artists in Blast Theory and in other companies like them are attempting to
democratise and civilise the technologies they are working with. Their intention is to use
technology as a response to the society around them (Blast Theory, 2004) but also as a way of
reappraising the arts and transforming whole communities.
While the demise of traditional theatre has been exaggerated, young people's lack of
interest and attendance in the theatre should give us some pause for reflection. Blast Theory's
readiness to embrace technology and their artistic and social aims provide teachers with a
glimpse of what the future might be in our classrooms and in our theatres. It is up to artists and
teachers to take our students into these worlds.
Technology and performances for young people
Theatre makers and educators who are in Prensky's (2001b) terms digital immigrants are
day by day seeing their classrooms and theatres filled by digital natives with an increasingly
sophisticated understanding of technology and new media. In the face of this young audiences
are demanding theatre that is relevant to their experiences. Several researchers (Kotler and
Scheff 1997, p 224, Kolb 1997, p 142, Brunton, 2004) in the area argue that young people's
attendance is linked closely to their engagement: in other words whether the experience will
sustain their interest. This is a challenge for theatre makers that includes their approach to
technology but that goes beyond it. Like any other audience young audiences are demanding a
theatrical experience that engages and is relevant to them. This usually includes relevant
themes, an engaging narrative and a piece of drama that captures the imagination. There is
obviously a role for well-designed, written and implemented technology in this context but the
challenge goes beyond technology and demands the invention or evolution of new, more
relevant theatrical productions for young people.
Contact Youth Theatre in Manchester and Arena Theatre Company in Melbourne have
a tradition of making relevant and dynamic theatre specifically for young audiences. These
companies are currently integrating technology into their performance works for a young
audience. Both theatre companies and their recent productions will be examined concluding
with a discussion of their joint production Skid 180 which is to be performed in Manchester,
Melbourne and Sydney in 2006 and 2007.
Arena Theatre, Melbourne
Melbourne's Arena Theatre Company is one example of a performance group working
with young people who have engaged with creating relevant, dynamic and technologically
savvy theatre. Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia with a population in Greater
Melbourne of 3.6 million. 8.5 per cent of Melbourne's residents are under the age of 15. Arena's
mission is to:
...create dynamic contemporary theatre that genuinely engages young
audiences. Arena sees young people as at the forefront of new cultural
expression, and believes that all young people are entitled to cultural
experiences (Arena, 2005).
Arena began in the 1960s as a Theatre for Young People group working mainly in
schools. According to Rose Myers the mission of this company has always been to create
performance that engages young people. The work has changed as the world has changed, even
though the core mission hasn't changed. Myers describes the way Arena think about their
Young people have not had to adapt to computers, they are fluent in the use of
computers. This has refined their capacity to be non-linear and to read a
diversity of things at once. As an audience they are more image-based and they
have a lot more visual literacy because the world has gone that way a lot more.
For instance we examine the interdisciplinary form or children's imagination or
do work about the formative time of adolescence, which is a very significant
time for making connections. We think of our audiences here as being at the
fore of new cultural expression and I think that is the artistically exciting aspect
of working here.
Their performances integrate technology to appeal to their young audiences. In their
recent production Play Dirty digital technologies formed an integral part of their production.
"Play Dirty" was technically awesome, fusing theatre, rapid image feedback, live and
pre-recorded sound and live freestyle motocross action" (Arena, 2005).
These performances are an attempt to connect with an audience that is increasingly
demanding technology as part of performance. It is also consistent with the manifesto of the
company that is to "...contribute to the repositioning of Australian culture as sophisticated and
technologically advanced" (Arena, nd). In drama curricula around the world students are
expected to devise their own drama and appreciate the work of other performers. The
implication is that young people will be influenced by what they see. More than appreciation,
however, young people are expected to be influenced by what they see in their own
theatre-making. The pressures of students' interest in technology, the integration of
technology in modem performance and school systems mandating studies in ICT are
providing significant pressure for changing pedagogical practices. This pressure provides
drama educators the opportunity to incorporate all kinds of technologies and allowing students
to use just as they have used the old technologies, such as light and sound, as tools for creation
Medatisedperformance and Theatre for Young People:
in the drama classroom. As students study such companies and their work they begin to see it
as a normal part of the drama aesthetic and will begin to integrate the work into their own
devised performances. This will bring significant pressure on teachers and theatre makers to
teach and produce work of relevance to these audiences. This is no small challenge as it will
require a reassessment of the curriculum and expectations in performance.
Contact Youth Theatre, Manchester: "what theatre can be"
Contact Youth Theatre is based, in Manchester a city of 2.5 million people. Manchester
is a young, diverse city with 41.9 per cent of Manchester residents aged 24 and under. Contact
Youth Theatre, which is situated in a purpose-built facility in Manchester city is one of the
major performing arts venues in Manchester. It employs around 20-30 full-time and
project-based staff. In financial year 2003-2004 Contact delivered 84 programmes productions
and events. These were a mix of touring events, events produced by Contact and other
programmes such as emerging artists' workshops. Contact is a vibrant, active and large theatre
company devoted solely to young audiences.
Contact's aim is to explore what theatre can be for the next generation. Their focus is on
13-30 year-olds as participants, as artists and audiences. The artists and participants are across
the age spectrum but the focus of the work is on those 13-30 age group. Contact describe
themselves in their annual report as 'a space that welcomes artists, participants, audiences and
visitors from many backgrounds' (Contact Youth Theatre, 2004, p. 5). Contact has been
conceived and seems to be in reality a crucible of ideas and forms. This exciting and chaotic mix
has at its centre the philosophy of participation in all areas of Contact's work. They describe the
In our participatory emerging and professional work we mix, drama, dance,
multimedia spoken word, comedy, slams, club nights, events, exhibitions,
showcases, poetry, physical theatre, hip-hop, film, live art and debates to
explore what theatre can be (Contact Youth Theatre, 2004, p 5).
Even a casual visitor to Contact Youth Theatre you can sense the uniqueness of what
this company is attempting and seems to be achieving. Beyond adapting traditional theatre and
repackaging it for younger audiences, they have started with the central question: what is the
potential of theatre for young people and how can we change it, using young people's interests
to engage our audiences? The answer is to allow young people to be active participants as well
as audiences. John E. McGrath explains the uniqueness of this approach: "So it's not the
traditional TYP model of professional company produces shows as audiences and then runs
work around that. Contact engages young people at every level".
John E. McGrath is a celebrated theatre director and author. His work focuses in part on
the uses of surveillance in art and theatre. His interest in technology, media and popular culture
have supported him in developing a new vision of what theatre might be in the lives of young
people. He initially trained in theatre in New York, working in interdisciplinary companies that
used technology in the development of their work. He says of his approach to the job at
Contact that it fulfilled a vision to:
...put young people and artists at the heart of its activity. So my goal was to
throw away any traditional models of how a repertory theatre might behave,
and to rebuild it as a creative community from the ground up, allowing the
artists to interact with the audiences, and creating an atmosphere that was
challenging, exciting, and constantly changing.12
He sees technology as an integrated part of his theatrical practice: and sees the central
question as not just about form but relating to the subject matter of everyday life the role of
the virtual and the digital. Skid 180 is a co-production between Arena and Contact that
attempts engagement with their young audiences through examining technology in form and
Skid 180: radical performance process
In 2006 and 2007 Arena and Contact will present on Skid 180 to audiences in
Manchester, Sydney and Melbourne. Skid's development is a useful example of how theatre is
being made by these companies. The production is a global collaboration that uses technology
and young artists to tell a story familiar to young audiences. It is a story about McStone a young
man in Manchester's BMX sub-culture.
...after leaving one world of his nightmares, wakes in another. In his previous
world he was in isolation, in this new one he encounters a new 4Real family in
the underpass. The 4Real mode of transport is revolutionary wheels, and in
their job as couriers, they have a unique view of the city... When the city tries to
get one over them, they bite back with style (Arena, 2005).
The beginning of Skid
Skid was a project that began as an arranged marriage between Contact and Arena.
Obviously others spotted the natural synergy between the approaches of the two companies.
While a global collaboration of this complexity has not always been easy it has begun an
exciting cross-cultural dialogue between artists in Manchester and Melbourne. Tamsin Drurys
was one of the artistic collaborators at the beginning of Skid's devising process.
It hatched as a small project where Arena, Digital Summer, Contact and a
group of young people came together to do a showing with as a work in
Mediaired pnformanc and Theatr for Young People:
progress on the mainstage. It was pretty high tech. Miraculously it was pretty
good although the development of it was pretty hellish. So we had some main
performers, some lads who John found hanging out in the foyer and a gang of
The early development of Skid recalled by Tamsin Drury highlights some significant
features of the creative processes these companies engage in. Young people who had an
interest in the BMX scene in Manchester were brought into the creative process. While this
may not have been a traditional approach to the making of work, having the potential audience
present during the development of the work adds a palpable authenticity to its development.
Rather than just mouthing the rhetoric of youth engagement in the arts, in Skid contact and
Arena have made it integral to the development of the work.
Evolving the production
In contrast to the development of a traditional scripted work, Skid brought audience,
visual artists and writers into the evolutionary development process from the beginning. This
allows the theatre-makers to make discoveries, sometimes serendipitously about the work.
Actors and directors have made these discoveries for centuries but in this emergent form the
artists are making discoveries beyond acting. John E. McGrath explains the writer's role in this
Skid has been workshopped from the earliest days so ideas about the digital and
the visual have been informing the script right from early on. Rose has felt that
she should and could with the visual artists, have a very strong input into where
the story should go. Recently Rose had a workshop with the digital artists and
Rose sent Louise (the writer) some quite "directed" and quite strong ideas. "We
would like the script to do this at this point, why don't you change this and
make this happen" Traditionally a writer in theatre would be pretty resistant
but a) Louise was up for that and b) I was able to be the person in Manchester
who could support her through that process. I have to say the outcome of that
input has been incredibly positive. That piece of input has got the script after
many years of development to the point where it feels like a finished product.
The creative team on Skid 180 are making discoveries about how all the elements
including writing, lighting and sound projection work together with the acting to create the
show. Rose Myers explains one of the discoveries the team made about the nature of video as
part of the development of Skid that puts people into a much more relaxed state. She says:
It feels quite dreamlike and the way you consume it is quite different. I think
that is what came out of the development, we didn't start out thinking 'video'
but rather we threw a whole lot of things together and then thought this is really
useful here and let's try and take that quality and push it more.
This process demands enormous time, patience and flexibility for all those involved.
Quite apart from the difficulties that technology brings to the process, the collaborative nature
of the development process means that there are several voices demanding attention. A
performance that integrates technology effectively may demand this kind of effort. This way of
making theatre responds to the changing audience and tools that are at the disposal of the
theatre makers. This renewed dynamism is a good sign for the ongoing health of theatre for
There is something significant happening in theatre at the moment. Rather than settling
for the status quo and doing what they have always done, there are several companies
attempting to change theatre. This change is vital as it has the potential to revitalise the way
theatre evolves, not just for young audiences but for all audiences. John E. McGrathsenses a
new dynamism and growth in audiences as well. At the centre of the experience for McGrath is
the live actor-audience interaction:
I think liveness is central. The exciting version of theatre is where you are
entering a new world that has only been created in that moment, partly with
technology, and there is a society of people who have been brought together
for that moment.
It is not possible or useful to unravel technology or media from the creative mix that is a
feature of this emergent theatre. What we can say is that technology is there in the form and
content of the work. It is not a gimmicky add-on but a central element used in the collaborative
development of performances. This new model of theatre has the potential to make an impact
because it respects its audience and listens to them in the devising process. Auslander (1999, p
162) suggests that we are seeing a growth of the live in a mediatised form:
Currently mediatised forms enjoy far more cultural presence and prestige and
profitability than live forms. In many instances, live performances are
produced either as replications of mediatised representations or as raw
materials for subsequent mediatisation ... any change in the near future is likely
to be toward a further diminution of the symbolic capital associated with live
While Auslander's pessimistic analysis may be true, there is great vitality in the mixed
media live event. The companies featured here, while influenced and excited by new media and
technologies, are driven by the possibility of live engagement with an audience. If theatre
continues to revitalise in these ways, traditional theatres and drama curricula, which have been
Meidatiedpeformance and Theatr for Young People:
mostly oblivious to this technological and media revolution, will need to change rapidly or see
their classrooms and theatres empty as young people look to other forms to engage, amuse and
1. Digital Natives is a term coined by Marc Prensky to describe young people's acuity with various
2. This quote is from an interview with John E. McGrath from 22nd September 2005. All quotes
from him refer to this interview unless otherwise stated.
3. This quote is from an interview with Rose Myers from 24th October 2005. All quotes from her
refer to this interview unless otherwise stated.
4. The image source is http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/press_ur.html
Figure 1: Players navigating the streets with wireless PDA and GPS devices
Figure 2: Online players assisted real players by observing their progress and providing assistance.
5. This quote is from an interview with Tamsin Drury from 9th September 2005. All quotes from
him refer to this interview.
Arena Theatre Company, (2005) Company Statement. Retrieved 10 November, 2005 from
Auslander, P (1999) Liveness: Performance in a Mediati.ed Culture, London: Routledge
Blast Theory, (2004) retrieved 26 September 2005, from
Brunton, C (2004) Youth Audience Research: Moivations and Barriers to Attendance Amongst 12-17
Year Olds, Melbourne: Arts Victoria
Contact Youth Theatre (2004) Annual Review 2003-2004. Contact Youth Theatre. Manchester
Jordan, N (2002) 'How New is New Media? The History of Multi-Media Usage in Theatrica
Productions', NJ: Drama Australa Journal 26(2) pp73-82
Kolb, B (1997) Tricing as the Key to Attracting Students to the Performing Arts', journalof Cultural
Emnomics, 21, pp139-146
Koder, P and Sheff, J (1996) Standing Room Onl: Strateies for Marketing the Performing Arts, Cambridge:
Harvard Business School Press
Murphy, S (2003) Metro, 30th May, p17
Prensky, M (2001a) DgitalGame-BasedLearning, New York: McGraw-Hill
Prensky, M (2001b) 'Digital natives, Digital immigrants', On the Horion, 9(5)
Wyver, J, (1999) Foreword in Desert Rain: A virtual Game /Installation. Blast Theory, London.
The Buffoon and Representation: the Case of 'Oliver' and
The proposed paper is an initial exploration into comedic theatre's role and/or
relationship to expressing and excavating a Jamaican identity. It is built on an analysis of the
character Oliver, portrayed by the actor Oliver Samuels. The paper explores the idea of
Samuels and by extension the character Oliver, as an icon of Jamaican theatre. It analyses the
role of the icon as both representing and impacting on the Jamaican identity while examining
the ramifications of the buffoon in representation given its historical use as a tool of
denigration. However, the paper also explores Oliver's subversive potential through language
and comedy as a descendant of Anansi.
In October 2005, Oliver Samuels celebrated 35 years of work in the theatre. This
celebration was dubbed 'Falla Backa Me', words taken from the popular sketch comedy series,
Oliver at Large, in which Samuels starred during the 1980s. The line also appeared in later
productions for the stage featuring the character Oliver. 'Falla Backa Me' celebrated Samuels'
status as an icon ofJamaican theatre. An icon is by its very nature representative, as illustrated
by the Concise Oxford Dictionary which includes in its definition of 'icon' the description "a
person or thing regarded as representative symbol or as worthy of veneration" Grounded on
this definition of'icon' this paper argues that in as much as Oliver Samuels can be deemed an
icon ofJamaican theatre, the character he most often plays, Oliver, can be deemed an icon, that
is as a representation, of a Jamaican identity. This paper marks an initial exploration into
comedy's role and/or relationship to expressing and/or excavating a Jamaican identity.
Indeed, excavating or exploring identity is often viewed as a fundamental role of cinema,
theatre and television in the Caribbean. In 'Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation'
Stuart Hall speaks to the need for Caribbean cinema to represent a Caribbean identity. He
points to identity's fluidity and argues that rather than taking identity as an "accomplished
historical fact" cinema should approach identity as "a production which is never complete,
always in process, always constituted within not outside representation" (220). If Hall's
argument is extended to cover both television and theatre the two realms that have provided
fecund ground upon which the character Oliver could be developed, it can be argued that
Oliver's acts do not merely represent a Jamaican cultural identity but also impact upon it.
Indeed, the title of the television show, Oliver at Large points to Oliver's status as an icon
of Jamaican identity. This comes through in the descriptive portion of the title 'at Large'. The
term is often applied to someone who is a cultural ambassador, one who is sent out to represent
the nation's culture across the nations of the world, thus becoming 'at large'. An interesting
Case of Oliver' and amaican Theatr
twist occurs, however, when the 'at Large' is further examined. The same description is used to
describe someone who has evaded the law. This aptly describes many of Oliver's dealings as he
attempts to operate outside the system. As such, Oliver is able to represent the experiences of
those peasant and working class Jamaicans whose everyday lived experience is an attempt to
circumvent both law and order in an attempt to eek out their own survival. Of course, the at
large concept can be extended further to describe Jamaican culture in the state of what Rex
Nettleford describes as the "Outward Reach" which occurs from the inward stretch of the
creative arts. Through characters like Oliver, Jamaican culture stretched out to command a
central place in theatre and a less liminal space on television.
The title of the 35th anniversary celebration actually points to the character's latter role. It
mark's Oliver's place in what Fiske calls the 'culture of everyday life' (154). Oliver struts into
the consciousness ofJamaicans, walking with them from either the television or the stage with
lines such as 'falla back me' which the audience takes to other areas of their lives. The
character has also entered the culture of the everyday through his numerous appearances in
advertising campaigns over the past two decades pushing, bun, cars, syrup or phone cards,
which encourages viewers to essentially 'falla back' him in what they consume. Indeed, his use
in advertising puts the character forward as an image, an icon, which the ordinary Jamaican will
identify with. Marketers (including the actor himself who doubles as marketing manager for
one of the products he represents) put their money on Jamaicans identifying with Oliver.
Yet, in as much as Oliver represents Jamaican identity under construction, he also
represents Jamaican culture as a set thing. Hall explains that cultural identity can also be
conceptualized as "shared culture" which reflects our "common historical experience and
shared cultural codes which provide us as 'one people' with stable, unchanging and continuous
frames of reference and meaning beneath the shifting divisions and viccissudes of our actual
history." (221) When seen in this light, Oliver becomes a representation of the experiences and
true self of the Jamaican working class. He becomes the essence ofJamaicaness. This is the
element of the character that the marketer banks on. In using Oliver to market a commodity,
the marketer counts on Oliver's potential as a marker of shared Jamaican experiences and
history. Additionally, Oliver's position as icon is also significant to the Jamaican Diaspora
which comprises a significant part of the audience for productions featuring Oliver, when the
plays leave the island's shores and play to Jamaican diaspora communities in the United States.
When exported he thus creates representation not only on the Jamaican home front but
provides an image through which Jamaicans abroad can reminisce, laugh at and remember their
'roots' while communing about what makes them Jamaicans.
Oliver makes a plausible icon because, though they are often exaggerated, his trials
reflect those of many in the society. Interestingly, many of his stories reflect the trials of
attempted migrations, as can be seen in the theatrical production OiverLargeAbroad Oliver is
often poor which seats him in the realm of the Jamaican masses, many of whom make up both
the television and theatre audiences. Oliver's numerous schemes are all attempts at negotiating
his survival. His attempts to make it past the immigration officer and exert his presence on the
global frontier where he can become economically viable are not merely jokes, they represent a
lived experience. Oliver's experience can reverberate with any Jamaican who has had their
humanity questioned during either an attempt to gain a visa or to gain entry to another country
while having to explain the presence of their "nigger sweat"
Oliver's multiple attempts at migration reflect the migratory yearnings of realJamaicans.
The play Oliver Large Abroad focuses on the character on five separate attempts to escape his
current circumstances and migrate to the United States. In 'Modem Blackness: What we are
and what we hope to be' Deborah Thomas explores the concept that rural Jamaicans have of
the United States. She points out that it is a Janus-headed one that offers a space for upward
mobility as well as oppression. According to Thomas, "America is perceived as the place "to
make a living" but Jamaica was where one would "make life" (40) Thomas refers to a "dream"
America which exists outside of the real migratory experience, as this dream space is "upwardly
mobile" and "phenotypically white" which is different from the America that migrants
experience. She argues, "As a result, the 'America' of immigrant dreams was bifurcated a
white America where they might work hard and earn enough money to "move forward in life"
and a black America where they might live." (41) Oliver too wants to experience this "dream"
America of which Thomas speaks. But the road to it is fraught with numerous obstacles. As
such he has attempted marriage, being a DJ, stowing away, and using fraudulent documents. By
the character's own admission, he attempted to gain entry to the United States 14 times and so
when he finally arrives there in Oliver Large Abroad, he is ecstatic. He declares, "Foreign!! I am
finally in foreign! Unno think a likkle bit a time me try reach ya?"
Several other traits connect Oliver to the working class and poorJamaican. Whether he is
acting as a king or a pauper, the character Oliver is consistently barely educated, but he is
imbued with a folk knowledge reflected through his command of proverbs. His attempts to
either buck the system or work around it celebrates the informal structure built on people like
informal commercial importers who support much of the Jamaican economy. Furthermore,
Oliver has a paradoxical relationship with language, and is at one time its victim and at another
its master. While he has a cantankerous relationship with English (wherein numerous
malapropisms make him the butt of several jokes) he also employs a keen ability to subvert
meanings through the use of puns and metaphors.
So in Oliver and Pinocchio, when Tiny (who is a very fat woman) reminds Oliver that
she and the constantly hungry Thunder (named so because of her stomach's constant
growling) are "apprentice erotic dancers,", Oliver sends the quick rejoinder, "Thunder might
be slightly erotic, but sweetheart, yu is more like erratic!" (Act I, 25)'.
Case of 'Oliver' and Jamaican Theatre
He exhibits the same trait in Oliverand the Genie once again using puns to cutting effect. In
this case Lisa, a house slave boasts that she gets "three square meals" each day, and Oliver turns
this assertion on its head. "Square meals"? Them dey meal dey nuh square, them circular! After
the food circle everybody 'round Backra table... you inherit the what-left" (Act I, scene i, 10).
However, Oliver's relationship with language is far more complex and presents Jamaican
Creole's battle for space and recognition. In these situations, Oliver becomes the victim of
language, ridiculed because of occasions of gross malapropism. This reflects how those
without a fluent command of English in Jamaican society may be maligned, laughed at,
considered sub-human because they cyann talk", and are therefore deemed incapable of a real
human language, that is, English. Not surprisingly, situations such as these often arise when
Oliver attempts to cross class borders. His first attempt to go America, taken from Oliver
Large Abroad, lands him in such a situation where he finds himself struggling against English
while contending for justice in a situation he does not understand:
Oliver What difference it make if I pay for the extra piece or the extra
weight? Don't I are still paying for the extra?!
Agent I don't make the rules here, sir. I just apply them.
Oliver You're a wicked woman! A wicked, fat woman! Me nuh know how
come you fat. For wicked people like'a yu fe suffer!
Agent Would you like a box, sir?
Oliver A that me want yu do! Box me, BullMumah. Come box me in yah
Agent Would you like a cardboard box to put the extra stuff in, sir?
Oliver What ah would like is somebody sensible to talk to. Ah want to talk to
the person in charge. Let me talk to the pilot. (Act I, 8)
Oliver's encounter with the agent is indeed exaggerated, but at the same time it marks
confrontations that are not quite foreign to the Jamaican landscape. Many Jamaicans who are
more comfortable with Jamaican Creole attempt to change registers when confronted with
figures of authority (who speak English) as an attempt to assert their own right for
representation. When Oliver does so, the effect is ludicrous, yet the audience may find some
ring of truth in it. Furthermore, these representations are pyrrhic. The rampant use ofJamaican
Creole in theatre, through characters like Oliver has helped to spearhead greater acceptance of
Jamaican Creole, which can be seen as it invades academia and the upper classes, normally the
purview of English. Interestingly, Oliver was also selected as the representative of the first
pre-paid calling card to include Jamaica Creole as a language alternative. This foregrounds the
notion, that not only is Oliver associated with what it means to be Jamaican, but he epitomises
Even so, to consider Oliver as representative of a Jamaican identity is to embrace an
identity fraught with possible pitfalls because Oliver combines those elements most celebrated
and decried by Jamaicans.
Oliver is at once a buffoon and Anansi. The buffoon aspect of his nature is the most
problematic especially when considered in light of its historical role as a way of deprecating
blacks. As such, amidst the laughter generated by Oliver's antics there may be acceptable levels
of unease in seeing a character which revels in buffoonery as representative of Jamaican
identity. LemuelJohnson argues that western consciousness converted blacks to the images of
the devil, the gargoyle and the buffoon in literature (19). Johnson's triad of denigration rests at
the heart of what problematizes Oliver's representation. Historically, the buffoon has been a
negative figure (dis)figuring blacks as stupid, lazy and greedy. Oliver is all of these things and
this aspect of his nature makes him a close relative of Sambo, the African American brand of
buffoonery. Joseph Boskin in Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester argues that the
figure Sambo was devised as an "extremely subtle, devious and encompassing" form of "social
control" which was employed to use laughter to strip the black man of his "masculinity, dignity,
and self-possession" (13-14). The character Oliver bears much in common with Sambo. As
such, Oliver is arguably a negative representation of black Jamaicans. Furthermore, despite his
multiple incarnations, like Sambo Oliver is essentially a stereotype a flat character motivated by
very basic needs. When one goes beyond this first glance at Oliver's nature it becomes clear
that there is more to the character. For example, in Oliver and the Genie many of his actions
are motivated by his love for the mulatto girl, Kay.
Additionally, the nature of comedy utilized in the creation of the Oliver character can be
further interrogated. The proliferation of comedy in Jamaican theatre has an economic thrust.
Theatre producers argue that it is the safest means by which they can guarantee that they will
generate a profit at the box office. In exploring the primacy of comedy in the modem era,
Robert Corrigan argues, "In a time when our next tomorrow must always be in question,
comedy's tenacious greed for life, its instinct for self-preservation, and its attempts to mediate
the pressures of our daily life seem to qualify it as the most appropriate mode for the drama of
the mid-2011 century" (2). Though Corrigan's assessment spoke to the modem Euro-American
world, his words can be applied to the Jamaican situation where a rising cost of living coupled
with a concurrently rising murder rate forces the masses into the position of "sufferer" where
accessing the very basic needs is constantly in question. So it is not surprising that comedy has
such prevalence in the Jamaican theatre landscape. Of course, Oliver is a part of a commercial
project and he cannot be separated from this commercialism. The need to make money is a part
of what keeps Oliver coming back. It is also part of what keeps him flat, one-dimensional -
Case of Oliver' and Jamaican Theatre
always laughing. Yet he is constantly refreshed by this same Jamaican spirit, as in the need to
keep the character relevant the writer pulls from Jamaican life, so that Oliver is always current
and thus he can continue to resonate with ordinary Jamaicans. But his commodification does
not allow him to escape criticism that the drive to make money has created a proliferation of
shallow theatre. According to Trevor Rhone in a 1983 interview with Mervyn Morris,Jamaican
theatre needs to combine making money with providing theatre properly reflective of the
Such criticisms rest easily on the shoulders of Oliver and his posse as the productions
involving the character usually aim for the easy belly laugh, often appealing to the lowest
common denominator. The use of comedy also reflects on Oliver's Buffoon nature, and once
again leaves him an easy victim to criticism which suggests that the character denigrates the
Jamaican identity. In examining the comic and the nature of jokes Freud argues that the process
of making a person into a comic figure may involve mimicry, disguise, caricature and parody.
He also notes that comedy can be used to "hostile" effect to render someone contemptible and
"deprive him of his claim to dignity and authority" (253-4). This hostile turn for comedy has
much impact in any discussion of blacks in theatre and harkens back to the role of the buffoon.
Freud further argues that we laugh at "expenditure that is too large" (254) Oliver, like the clown
Freud uses as an example, revels in this exaggerated motion. This exaggerated motion also
keeps the character from being real as his exaggerated motions keep him one dimensional.
Despite the numerous incarnations of Oliver he has rarely becomes a multi-dimensional man
motivated by anything other than his most basic needs. Furthermore, Freud argues that a
person is rendered comic when the audience perceives him to be mentally inferior to them
(255). Indeed, one can understand the ways in which an audience can view Oliver as stupid and
therefore funny, and it is this stupidity that makes it arguable that Oliver represents a negative
However, it must also be noted that the ramifications of comedy do not have to be
negative. Corrigan proposes that rather than merely providing an escape route from reality,
comedy reinforces the will to survive despite the odds. He argues that while tragedy is "a
celebration of man's capacity to aspire and suffer," it is comedy that "celebrates his capacity to
endure" (3). This image is also reflected in Oliver who, despite the failure of so many of his
schemes keeps returning again and yet again with a new scheme. Though he often complains
about his fate, he is never defeated. He exudes a willingness to laugh (or at least encourage the
audience to laugh) in the face of adversity secure in the knowledge that come what may he will
survive. He presents an indefatigable spirit of survival which echoes that 'certain kind of way'
that comes out of existing in "chaos and fury" (Benitez-Rojo 27). An audience laughing at
Oliver, and yet identifying with his trials recognizes he shares their fate, but as they laugh at his
exaggerations of their real plight, he encourages the willingness to use kin teeth a smile, or even a
belly laugh, to kibba heartbun.
Yet the character Oliver is a combination of both the use of exaggeration and the great
wit of the trickster. He represents the paradox of being laughed at and celebrated at the same
time. The character rises above mere buffoonery because of his ability and wit exposed through
the quick repartee. Oliver is a man of words which bears out the genetic proof of Anansi,
owner of all stories, in his ancestry. Furthermore, his strong spirit of survival is reflective of the
idea of the Jamaican as chaos bringer the perpetually subversive. It is this same kind of
chaotic, subversive power which is celebrated by jokes used by Jamaican comedians, sent in
forwards on the internet and spread by word-of-mouth that describe Jamaicans as able to
disrupt and corrupt hell itself.
The character Oliver often exudes a bravado that is echoed in the strut of a young man
who bounces down the street, his every step reasserting his masculinity. Oliver is by no means a
'rude-bwoy' but he is hewn from a similar cloth. Thus, the character Oliver becomes a
celebration of the subversive nature that admits that the legal route is fraught with too many
dangers and so one must understand how to undercut and subvert the system in order to
survive. Herein lies the Anansi in Oliver, a character who survives on wit, guile, perspicacity, all
features which Ifeona Fulani, in 'Caribbean Women Writers and the Politics of Style: A case of
Literary Anancyism' ascribes to the trickster figure. Fulani cites Pascal De Souza's definition of
the spider a "geographically liminal figure" Furthermore, Fulani argues, "the ability to
negotiate and compromise is central to Anancy's success." She notes that negotiation in this
sense means "identifying and circumventing material difficulties and the ability to engage in
dialogue with influential individuals." (78) Unfortunately, for Oliver, he is not always able to
negotiate these circumstances with authority figures.
Interestingly, the trickster in Oliver, is also an element of the comedic, or rather farcical,
nature of the tales, this is also brought out through the use of comedy. Eric Bentley purports
that the trickster is the equivalent of the villain in a farce (298). Oliver's nature, which
constantly involves attempting to outsmart and best the other characters plays into this idea.
Furthermore, as trickster Oliver can shape shift to become either a villain or hero of a story.
Laura Tanner in 'Anansi Jamaica's Trickster Hero' points to the international
recurrence of the Trickster figure, of which Anansi is. Now one strain of his genes can be
found in Oliver. Trickster figure can be either a "culture hero" or an "unmotivated,
undifferentiated amoral character" Tanner argues. She further highlights that not all tricksters
are the same. "Unlike Coyote [of the south western American Indians], Anansi is usually
cheerful in his dealings with others. He may trick but he is not malevolent." (p. 21) This lack of
true malevolence is evident in Oliver. Interestingly, the same traits that make Oliver identifiable
as a buffoon greed and laziness also help to mark him as an Anansi figure. Though Oliver
Case of Oiver' and Jamaican Theatre
can often be accused of being a buffoon, of being stupid, he is also often wise, especially when
it comes to folk wisdom. Additionally, much of his stupidity is imagined or affected, an attempt
at playing fool fi ketch wise. So as the trickster figure, Oliver is simultaneously a victim of the
system and a part of the system's problem.
Yet, despite this it must be recognized that the Oliver icon, presents a very shallow
representation of a Jamaican identity as he is crippled by his own commodification. Though it
explores elements that can be used as identifiable markers of what it means to be Jamaican
Oliver lacks psychological and emotional depth and that renders him somewhat ineffectual.
Even so, he is as Jamaican as reggae, and though he may be fraught with paradox he provides a
significant marker of theatre's attempt to explore a Jamaican identity, and with each step as we
"falla back him" we explore conceptions of what it means to be Jamaican as well as watch the
continued excavation of a Jamaican cultural identity.
All play texts are cited from unpublished scripts provided by the playwright, Patrick Brown.
Benetiz-Rojo, Antonio. The Repeating Island The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective, 2d Ed. Trans.
James E. Maraniss. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996.
Bentley, Eric. "Farce." Comedy: Meaning and Form. Ed. Robert Corrigan. San Francisco: Chandler
Publishing Company, 1965. 279-303.
Boskin, Joseph. Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester. New York: Oxford University Press,
Brown, Patrick. Over and the Genie. 2001.
Oler LargeAbroad. 2003.
__ Oliver and Pinocchio.
Corrigan, Robert W. "'Introduction': Comedy and the Comic Spirit." Comedy Meaning and Form. Ed.
Robert Corrigan. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company, 1965. 1-11.
Fiske, John. "Cultural Studies and the Culture of Everyday Life." CulturalStudies. Ed. Lawrence
Grossberg, Cary Nelson, Paula Treichler. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Freud, Sigmund. "Jokes and the Comic." Comedy: Meaning and Form. Ed. Robert Corrigan. San
Francisco: Chandler Publishing Company, 1965. 253-262.
Johnson, Lemuel A. The Devil, The Gargoyle, and The Buffoon: The Negro as Metaphor in Western Literature.
New York and London: Kennikat Press, 1971.
Morris, Mervyn. "Mervyn Morris Interviews Trevor Rhone." Jamaica journal 16.1 (1983): 3-13.
Stuart, Hall. "Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation." Ex-Isles: Essays of Caribbean Cinema. Ed.
Mbye Cham. New Jersey: Celebration of Africa Cinema, 1992. 220-236.
Tanna, Laura. "Anansi -Jamaica's Trickster Hero." Jamaica Journal 16.1 (1983): 20 30.
Processing Post-Colonialism: using Drama to
produce multifaceted art experiences from notionally
Pamela Bowell and Brian S. Heap
During the 8th century, Britain was home to a diverse, multi-cultural
community and was establishing a distinctive identity upon the international
stage. Out of this meeting of cultures emerged a vigorous new form of learning,
literature and art known as 'Insular' ('of the islands' of Britain and Ireland.) The
Lindisfare Gospels are one of its most beautiful creations....
Michelle P. Brown (Painted Labyrinth The World of the Lindisfame Gospels)
In this paper we offer for consideration as a case study, our work on Drama and
Integrated Arts with a Special Interest Group at the IDEA World Congress held in Ottawa in
2004. Using what might be perceived as mono-cultural material, namely the mediaeval
illuminated manuscript of the Lindisfame Gospels, we attempt to demonstrate how the
ensuing work, over a number of extended sessions, not only actively integrated different art
forms, but incorporated aspects of several different cultural influences as it was developed
within a culturally diverse group of participants.
That having been said, this case study also continues to build on our previous work and
writings published elsewhere, which explore both the interconnectivity and interplay between
context, role and frame in process drama a fundamental relationship which we have referred
to as the spectrum of circumstance. (Bowell and Heap, 2002) This term is used to posit the idea
that the opportunity exists for us to generate a whole range of dramatic contexts, roles and
points of view and apply them to a given learning area. The first challenge to the teacher faced
with the need to identify a suitable context for the drama is outlined in the following statement.
Starting from the premise that drama contextualises learning in fictional
circumstances...the fundamental nature of the dilemma for the teacher lies in
having to quickly envisage the broad range of human experience in order to
choose from it the particular circumstances or dramatic contexts which will
best serve the learning. (Bowell and Heap, 2002, pp 72-73)
In addition, there exist a number of factors, which complicate matters even further. As
teachers we are already both socially and culturally located and possess a distinct predisposition
to those aspects of human experience with which we are most familiar. Furthermore, the
curriculum brief with which we are likely to be presented by the prevailing educational
establishment may be negotiable only within very narrow limits, or possibly not at all. As we
have stated elsewhere,
Teachers are expected to engage pupils meaningfully with the subject matter -
yet there often exists a gulf between it and the pupils' interests, and teachers
face the challenge of finding a means by which to bridge the gulf and make a
connection between the two.(Ibid. p. 75)
Bridging that gulf, therefore, requires the teacher to open up the drama experience in
order to provide the pupils with a range of investigative, exploratory and expressive lenses,
each of which allows a unique view of the events and issues at hand. For us, this means opening
up the spectrum of possible circumstances and, by inference, meaningful outcomes. So that
The spectrum of circumstance offers the opportunity for a real change and for
meaningful learning to occur, no matter where or under what circumstances
we, and our pupils, have to work together. (Ibid. p. 80)
This spectrum of circumstance, we therefore contend, is not only liberating but opens the way
for the exploration of a learning area from a multiplicity of different perspectives social,
historical, moral, political, scientific, artistic and cultural.
The main focus of the workshops we conducted with the Special Interest Group at the
IDEA World Congress in Ottawa in 2004 was that of using drama to integrate the arts. The
process drama described here was developed over a series of sessions in order to explore this
The main activity for the Special Interest Group in question was prepared in advance as a
practical workshop with time allotted for participants both to reflect upon and evaluate their
experiences. The workshop used a process drama approach in which the already diverse and
international participants were framed as members of a newly formed integrated and inclusive
contemporary dance company that had received a commission from the National Library to
choreograph, at very short notice, a dance to mark the opening of a major exhibition of the
Lindisfame Gospels and other illuminated manuscripts. The company was asked to use a
richly illuminated page from the gospels known as the St. John Carpet Page as the inspiration
for the choreography and to be ready to perform during a visit from the Library's Director of
Pamela Bowll and Brian Heap
The first 90-minute session began with grouping and framing the participants into the
drama and taking them through a preliminary warm-up activity. The work proceeded in role,
with 'Brian and Pam' as animateur and artistic director taking the company through a
'technique class' using a recording of traditional folk music, by the Jamaican drumming group
Akwaaba. This was interrupted by a fictional phone call from the National Library offering the
dance company a challenging commission but one that could make our name and establish our
reputation. We agreed and shortly afterward the 'courier' arrived with more information. A
great deal of the rest of this first session was spent 'in role', studying the detail of the designated
carpet page, including bringing up high definition details on a laptop computer and choosing
sections of the carpet from which the five working groups could design their dances. Members
of each group developed floor patterns based on closely scrutinized design elements, which
were contained within the carpet page. The session closed with an animated discussion about
the process and progress of the afternoon's activities.
The second session was devoted to the development of choreography and, after the
initial warm-up exercise a piece of music was introduced, selected with great care and
forethought from New World Symphonies Baroque Music from Latin America' This was the
selection chosen to be the musical accompaniment to the dances. Most of the rest of this
session was taken up with devising detailed choreography, at the end of which each of the five
groups demonstrated their work in progress and spoke about their choreographic decisions in
relation to the respective sections of the carpet page. All of the groups, too, spent a great deal of
time timing their dances to the piece of music.
Because of an unexpected change in the conference venue and the fact that some of the
participants were leaving before the final day of the World Congress, the decision was made to
present the final dances in Session 3 rather than on the fourth and final day of the SIG. Much
of the first half of this session was devoted to costuming the dancers with found and recycled
materials (including some amazingly creative recycling of the conference's cardboard lunch
boxes!) and crepe paper streamers before the final presentation of the various dance sequences.
So, in this session the groups found themselves as dance company members, very much in
rehearsal and performance modes.
Session 4 was devoted entirely to the detailed evaluation of the SIG sessions, both orally
and in writing. By addressing the organising questions provided by the conference directors,
the participants were able to reflect on the overall effectiveness of the sessions in fulfilling the
brief of exploring how the arts might be integrated through drama.
The general consensus among the participants was highly favourable, particularly in
relation to the process drama approach taken. It was felt that using a process drama approach
introduced the idea of the all inclusive dance company in a non-threatening way and somewhat
beguiled people into the problem solving and action through the use of a visual stimulus.