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Banning Bullying through Theatre

Hidden resentment or anger and theatre can help combat stress and reduce tension and hence reduce anger.”  says Gouri Nilakantan, Creative Director of PACT.

Bullying can take place anywhere and at anytime.  Mostly we see that bullies use their superiority towards submission from their counterparts.  I am convinced that theatre can be one important tool that can reduce bullying.

Theatre is one tool that brings out the hidden emotion in any person be it a child or an adult.  I would suggest that banning bullying can be effectively done in all kinds of age groups.  Here I would like to focus on teenagers and young adults.  Intensive workshops can be taken to combat that aspect (Tension and Anger) of their emotion.  I was asked to do this for a group of 12 young students between the age group of 18.  The group was rather unusual as it had only one girl and 11 boys.  I noticed that the girl was rather shy and quiet and was not forthcoming.  I tried asking her many questions but she did not choose to answer them or she avoided them.  I felt that there was some kind of oppression hidden in her.   Here I would particularly suggest that many techniques of Augusto Boal can be effectively used to reduce the feeling of oppression.

In this technique the participant has to realize the oppressor and the oppression and how it can affect each individual’s psyche.  I first started by playing many games.  Many games like an imaginary tug of war, imaginary football, pushing each other without touching each other will make the participant feel like the victim or the oppressor.  The games can be then effectively facilitated by questions like how did you feel when being pushed, can you think of any situation when you were pushed, how did you combat that situation?  The girl particularly made comments that she did not like being pushed around by the opposite gender.   Through this the participant will be able to inwardly look at his own emotions and also analyze how others would feel.  The girl felt that she was also pushed around as she was the only girl in her class.

Another important stage in this technique can be the image theatre.  Here the participants should be asked out to carve out images from their own personal narrative.  These have to be taken from instances either given by the facilitator or by themselves.  The final image should be left undone.  After the images have been done and talked about the final image should be asked to be made that would give the whole situation a new meaning.  For example if two boys are shown fighting in the beginning and then they are shown as hugging towards the end the whole meaning would change.   Then the participants should also be asked to create new images according to the new ending which would give their narrative a totally different meaning.

In this I asked the girl to think of the situation.  She created images of her home.  The first image started with her mother serving food to her brother and father.  The second image showed her brother and father eating food and the third image showed her eating food alone.  She said that she often ate food alone at home and while her father and brother ate food together she was often left out.  I immediately could sense that she felt aggression at home through this act.  She tried to change the image by showing all of them eating together.  The entire context changed and she was no longer the victim!

The participants can also be asked to bring an item that can recount their own personal experience of happiness or sadness.  That item should reflect a strong emotion.  The facilitator then should ask questions accordingly, what happened that day that made you sad/ happy, what was the starting of the day like, how did the day end, did anything go as per your desire during the day.  These intensive interaction sessions will make the participant retrospect his own hidden desires and emotions.  In this particular exercise one participant bought out a gold pen.  He said that this pen reminded him of his golden hearted younger brother who died due to cancer.  He was very close to his brother like the ink in the pen and was deeply connected with him.  He felt that he could never use his life to the fullest extent again as he had lost something irreplaceable.

Banning bullies might seem daunting when asked to do but can be effectively done with practice.  It will flow naturally when put into practice and the outcomes are awe inspiring.  Many human emotions that are lying beneath our minds come into the forefront and it is possible to combat aggression and oppression through these techniques.

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