When Brazilian theatre guru AUGUSTO BOAL stopped off at Edinburgh’s Gateway Theatre, The List caught up with him for an exclusive interview. We asked him about his life, his work and why we should go to the Fringe. Words: Steve Cramer
‘ We just met Augusto Boal.‘ I tell l.u I Kemp. the up-and-coming director for T:\(}. 'l‘m recording you on the same tape.. This piece of namedropping seems unt‘orgiy'able. but to be honest. I'm still buning from the meeting. And it produces the desired effect on Kemp. the young director whose (i/mst Shirl will shortly open at (ilasgow‘s Tron. before going on to the lidinburgh I’ringe. Her response betrays astonishment and a hint of disbelief. ‘ly’t'ul/yf’~ she says. ‘1‘” try to “ye tip to that. but I think he got a long way to go.~ This isn’t undue modesty. In many a theatre thinker"s mind. Peter Brook has a little way to go before attaining the achievements ol‘ this man you‘ye possibly neyer heard of. Within the professional theatre his name is legend and his methods
Rembrandt’s Women at the National Gallery
are certainly used more widely than any other single practitioner. llaying deyeloped such ideas as ‘Theatre ()l‘ The ()ppressed'. 'lnyisiblc 'l’heatre' and 'l'orum 'l‘heatre'. his place. whcreyer community or t'ringe theatre is perl’ormed. is assured in theatrc's history.
But Boa] remains largely unheard ol‘ by the general public because his form of theatre insists upon a smaller scale. more intimate and participatory yision than some of the better-known public laces. Not for him the big. picture-box stages of liuropean theatre. \\'hilc l.epage‘s theatre touches many people in a few spaces. Boal‘s does quite the opposite. llis modesty is such that he insists he needn't be present at any giy'en eyent. that he is only the author of some methods that people can use it' they wish.
And they do. liyen giycn its mass commercialisation. the lidinburgh l-‘ringe still many of his principals. The insistence upon direct contact with an audience in a small space. on an intimacy which shatters the traditional t'ourth wall. is still at the heart of the liringe. and Boal‘s influence is iney'itable on many companies here. it‘ not on the bigger stages ol the International l-‘estiy'al.
For those who feel that art makes no difference to politics. Boal's life is a salutary lesson. llis political practices with the Theatre ()1’ The ()ppressed led to his arrest. detention and torture by the American—backed military junta which sci/ed power in Brazil in NH. His t'ate may have been worse but. as he awaited trial. a Vast outcry from the international arts community led to his being allowed to leaye the country. He comments: '\\'hen the policeman asked me to sign my document of release. he said. “We don‘t like to arrest people twice. so when you come back. we won‘t arrest you. we'll kill you.'" This led to his exile until 1980. after the junta was ﬁnally
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You won’t find Boal on the Fringe, but his influence is everywhere
replaced by an elected goy‘crnmcnt. In 1903. he was elected to Rio's city congress and held his position for three years. l‘acc to lace. the astonishing energy ot' this man in his 7t)s. whose deep-set eyes glitter beneath a Vast explosion of unruly grey hair. is what strikes me. So too. his modesty. a sense of neryous sclli-ellaccmcnt that perhaps comes with the territory of unchallenged genius. :\s I express my admiration for
his recently released
vi my; autobiography Hum/('1 .»lm/ ;J :1 , . . '. H ’ I/I(’ Baker s .Sun. he thanks 7‘ 42- me and looks away.
. ' , i; embarrassed. I reﬂect upon ' A H J his ebullient conyersation. alter it series oli workshops. The day before. he'd had me and (to—odd other people crawling abotit on Queen Margaret l’niyersity ('ollege's well-resourced (iateway stage in a workshop that had knackered me. yet here he was. t'ull oli self- deprecating humour and as liyely as eyer. Boal‘s theatre is still deeply political. but he has long since rejected preaching "messages' to his audience. as he did in the 50s and early (itls. 'Theatre ()t‘ The ()ppressed is not political theatre. it's theatre as politics] he explains. 'The old political theatre was about a clear-cut world. where we fought capitalism. 'I‘hese days. the inyader is globalisation. which reduces people to robots. abstractions. to consumers of the market.‘ Boal‘s technique in the light. is >
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