Theatre as politics: Augusto Boal on The Art of LegislationArchive image from inside the debating chamber
In London we did a Solemn Symbolic Session. Organised by Artangel, it was a condensed session of Legislative Theatre. Three subject groups – directed by Adrian Jackson (Transport), Paul Heritage (Homelessness) and Ali Campbell (Education) – presented short pieces in the Debating Chamber of the Greater London Council, which was closed down during Margaret Thatcher’s reign. I presided over the session, seated in the imposing Chairman’s Chair, so heavy as to be immovable, surrounded by well-known public figures and writers – Lisa Jardine, Tariq Ali and Paul Hallan – and a lawyer (Mark Stephens). Julián Boal and a young woman linked the table to the public, who were installed in the erstwhile seats of the legislators. At my side, Orlando Seale, and actor from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Tim Wheeler, director of Mind the Gap, an arts and disability organisation, dressed as my guardian angel. A band improvised the music.
The Solemn Session consisted, first, of the invocation of divine protection (I sought protection, as you can imagine, from the two excellent friendly gods, Apollo and Dionysus); this was followed by the presentation of each of the three scenes, with spectators intervening in search of legal solutions. At the end of each forum, spectators drafted the laws in their own manner, writers gave them a literary form, lawyers added the legal trappings; at the end of the evening I put these to the vote.
It was theatre, fiction. Even so, it showed possible paths: by means of theatre, law can be made. Theatre as politics, not just political theatre.
Excerpt from Augusto Boal, Hamlet and the baker’s son: my life in theatre and politics, Routledge, London/New York, 2001, pp. 335-336.