The rules of the game for an audience Forum Theatre is like a game, and, as with any game there are rules, which must be addressed for the game to be successful.
1. First, you will watch a performance, which shows a problem/ issue/ situation of oppression.
2. At the end of the performance, you are invited to applaud the efforts of the actors and then some time discussing amongst yourselves the situation and some possible solutions for changing the series of events.
3. The performance will then be repeated. At any time, any audience member can call out freeze, come up on stage and take the place of the central character (protagonist), in order to try to change the series of events. (In this way, the spectator becomes the ‘spect-actor’). You need never have experienced drama in your life to take part in this - what you need are ideas of how to change the events to effectively resolve the problem/oppression.
4. In terms of the rules of the game, you may only swap places with the characters that want to change the circumstances presented. Alternatively, you may introduce characters that may be able to support other characters that wish to change.
5. You may feel nervous about standing up in front of everyone - this is only natural. However, if no one gets up, the performance will continue as it did the first time and therefore the series of events will go unchanged.
6. The Joker is at hand at all times to guide and support anyone who is slightly nervous. If you have an idea for change but do not want to come up on stage, you may still call out freeze and offer your suggestion to the group of actors who will then perform this suggestion.
7. One final thing to say is that no one may offer violence as a suggestion for change. Forum Theatre does not accept this as a method of change.
Rules for the Joker:
1. Jokers must avoid all actions, which could manipulate or influence the audience. The audience should never be confronted with the joker’s own personal interpretation of events.
2. Jokers must personally decide nothing. They must keep relaying doubts back to the audience i.e. does this solution work or not? Is this right or wrong?
3. Watch out for ‘magic’ solutions. The joker may interrupt the spect-actor’s action if they consider an action to be magic. They must not make that decision but must ask the audience if they believe it to be.
4. The joker is the ‘midwife’, assisting in the birth of all ideas, of all actions!
5. It is more important to achieve a good debate than a good solution
6. The joker should not mingle with the audience or the actors but remain separate from them - physically alert and dynamic at all times. If the joker is tired or confused, she will transmit a tired and disorientated image to the audience.
7. Be flexible according to your audience e.g. An audience of Year 8 girls may have an agenda of simply wanting to get on stage with their friends, rather than progressing the action so you can afford to be strict with them
8. Decide with the performers during the rehearsal process whether there are to be ‘missing characters’ i.e. characters who do not appear in the performance but can be introduced during the forum. For example if the protagonist is living with his father, where is mum? Can she be brought into the action or is she too far away or even dead? The devising process can create an elaborate character network or simply be left for the spectators to create during the forum. This can however, sometimes lead to ‘magic’ solutions whereby wonderful grandparents appear to save the day!