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4:20pm on Wednesday, 24th May, 2023:

Non-Games for Actors


I've just finished reading Games for Actors and Non-Actors, by Augusto Boal.

I do on occasion like to pick up books about games from different perspectives, and thought this might be a good one. Well, it's probably good for actors (and possibly some non-actors), but the games it describes are really no such thing — they're exercises. Yes, most of them are playful, and there may be some mechanics in there, but on the whole they're not games.

Not to mind, anyway: I did benefit from the different viewpoint, particularly in its playing with physicality. There were also some very nice observations in it and some excellent explanations (I may present the one on symbolism to my students because its clarity is so good).

I also learned that if actors have to go through this stuff to learn their craft, I'm glad I never took up acting. Some of those exercises, I would not wish to participate in — and would not wish my preconceptions to be changed such I did want to participate in them, either. They seemed thoroughly oppressive to me. This is somewhat ironic, given that Boal invented and developed the "theatre of the oppressed", which many of these exercises concern.

As it happens, the theatre of the oppressed does seem to me to be a useful way of identifying and suggesting solutions to personal, social and (especially) political issues as experienced by individuals. It wouldn't overthrow any oppressors directly, but it can work to raise consciousness of oppression.

One of the other forms of performance, though, "invisible theatre", left me cold. It involves setting up initially-scripted, part-improvised performances that take place among members of the public who don't know it's a performance. This may be well-meaning and intended to give people reason to examine their own beliefs and prejudices, but it presses the same buttons for me as practical jokes do — it asserts a power imbalance and undermines the everyday trust that people are predisposed to show to strangers.

On the whole, then, I'm glad I read it but I won't be looking for more texts along the same lines.

Now to decide which of the four books that arrived while I was reading this one to read next (or which of the eight books I already had lined up before them).

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