Image Theatre is the use of still images (freeze-frames) to explore abstract concepts such as relationships and emotions, as well as realistic situations. The technique was developed by Augusto Boal and is described fully in his book The Rainbow of Desire. 

Participants rapidly sculpt their own or each others’ bodies to express attitudes and emotions. These images are then placed together and ‘dynamised’ or brought to life. The method is often used to explore internal or external oppression, unconscious thoughts and feelings.

Why use it?

Image theatre is a flexible tool for exploring issues, attitudes and emotions both with groups who are confident with drama and those with little or no experience.  No one has lines to learn or has to ‘act’ in front of others. Imaging can enable students to explore their own feelings and experiences in a less forbidding way than that offered by improvisational techniques.

How to do it

In a circle, students create physical images in response to a given theme, for example, bullying.  They should do this quickly, without pre-thought.  They are then invited to step into the centre of the circle and remake their image.  Other students can now add in their own still images.  This could lead to an abstract group image or a tableau that is “dynamised” or brought alive through thought tracking or by adding sound and movement.

Pairs or small groups can also create their own images, where they take it in turns to “sculpt” each other into a shape and then find a way to put these shapes together.  This is most effective if done without talking.

Introducing Augusto Boal

Three full-length practical sessions introducing the work of the Brazilian theatre maker who revolutionised theatre. The article introduces the concept of Image Theatre, Forum Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed and includes activities such as The Great Game of Power, Status Pictures, Flashbacks, Complete the Image and Rainbow of Desire as well as a handy glossary. Originally published in Teaching Drama magazine.

Click the button to download the full 5-page Augusto Boal Drama Unit (PDF) for just £5.49 with PayPal.

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