Monday, 4 May 2009

Have The Courage to be Happy!

Miserable news this evening that the wonderful theatre director Augusto Boal has died of respiratory failure at his Rio home, the morning after attending a rally organised by the Centre for Theatre of the Oppressed.

Augusto was the most inspirational of teachers. A fearless warrior in every fight for the poor, the dispossessed and the underprivileged, with an incredible optimism in the power of humanity to recognise and readjust itself before disaster strikes. At the heart of everything he did lay the clarion assertion that we should 'have the courage to be happy.' In this he didn't mean the Prozac happiness of an escapist Nirvana or ignorance - but a true happiness based on us all being the best we can be, the happiness of a full awareness and vitality to enable us to work, live, debate together. Whether the obstacle preventing us from achieving this equality of purpose lay in external societal forces (the army, the bureaucrat, the abusive authority) or a trap sprung from our own internal thoughts, his abiding focus was on freeing us all to live large lives, full of joy, beauty and laughter.

Marvellously nothing stopped his belief in us - not poverty, not torture, not exile. His work stands as a gesture of indefatigable generosity.

'I don't know about you, but if I can help somebody, I do!'

Augusto understood that theatre is the most persuasive force on earth, partly because we have the capability to believe in stories, but also partly because it is the most social of art forms, bringing people together and enabling them, for the duration of the event, and sometimes beyond, to 'run the same risks.' This for Augusto was what solidarity meant and simply what theatre is for. In a world flashing lights, grand spectactle and mass consumed entertainments he restored for many of us a faith in the basic humanistic and political nature of the relationship between actors and their audience.

In practical terms his great gift to us as practitioners is the idea that play can genuinely be a democratic rehearsal for revolution, both within ourselves and more importantly the communities we operate in. The idea that we can and should intervene and in so doing reveal our own true humanities, in the process changing thousands of lives for the better.

More than anything though Augusto was a hugely charming, roguish flirt, a twinkling subversive with a lion's mane and a bubbling sense of his own contradictions (he'd laugh himself stupid at this purple prose of tribute.) Often at the start of work he would look at the proposal for the rehearsal or workshop.

'The situation is impossible!' he would say '... so let's try!'

Well played Augusto and thank you!

1 comment:


Although it is very sad to hear of the death of Augusto,it is a cause for great celebration. His influence has spread throughout the world and he is probably the most important influence on drama in recent years. His work continues everywhere. At Saint Mary's, students will be privileged to visit Malawi and help with the important work using "Theatre of the Oppressed" principles. Long Live Augusto.