Boal - Image theatre

Students are introduced to Boal's notion of Theatre of the Oppressed and how image theatre can be used beyond the classroom to explore oppression.


1-2 weeks

Driving question

How can Image Theatre be used to explore oppression?


Students are introduced to Boal's notion of Theatre of the Oppressed and how image theatre can be used beyond the classroom to explore oppression. They will devise original scenes and create performances using 'bullying' as a stimulus. Through image theatre they will better understand the complex nature of socio-cultural and political issues.


Stage 4

A student:

  • 4.1.2 improvises and playbuilds through group-devised processes
  • 4.1.3 devises and enacts drama using scripted and unscripted material
  • 4.2.3 explores and uses aspects of dramatic forms, performance styles, theatrical conventions and technologies to create dramatic meaning
  • 4.3.2 recognises the function of drama and theatre in reflecting social and cultural aspects of human experience

Stage 5

A student:

  • 5.1.2 contributes, selects, develops and structures ideas in improvisation and playbuilding
  • 5.1.3 devises, interprets and enacts drama using scripted and unscripted material or text
  • 5.2.3 employs a variety of dramatic forms, performance styles, dramatic techniques, theatrical conventions and technologies to create dramatic meaning
  • 5.3.2 analyses the contemporary and historical contexts of drama

copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Walses, 2003


Born in Brazil to with Portuguese heritage, Augusto Boal qualified as a chemical engineer before studying drama. He began making theatre in factories and on the streets and making theatre more accessible. Following imprisonment and torture by the dictatorship in 1971, he was exiled to Argentina. Here and in Peru, he developed his concept of Theatre of the Oppressed.

Through a desire to bring about change, Boal created some of the most radical and accessible theatre techniques that challenged traditional notions of theatre. Central to the philosophy of Theatre of the Oppressed is the audience knowing as much as the performers, and have as much right to express their beliefs. Boal's theories and their highly practical applications are used every day by theatre companies, children, students, teachers and therapists to insight political and social change.

Image theatre, which is a technique used by Boal, allows participants to explore issues, attitudes and emotions in a more profound and more meaningful way. It involves participants sculpting their own or others' bodies to express feelings, beliefs and experiences. These frozen images are dynamised in the investigation of oppression, allowing participants to voice concerns and desires.

Cross-curriculum content and key competencies

  • Literacy
  • Civics and Citizenship

Embedded elements of drama

  • Role & Character
  • Focus
  • Tension
  • Movement
  • Situation
  • Audience Engagement


All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.

Teaching and learning activities

The following learning experiences are structured to provide students with a practical and theoretical understanding of image theatre.

Great game of power

  1. Create a naturalistic or abstract scene by arranging four chairs in which one appears to be a powerful object.
  2. Invite students to make changes to give other objects power, or alternatively give more power to the object already in focus.
  3. Repeat this process encouraging students to explore different methods of giving and taking away power.
  4. Invite students to enter the space and using their movement, steal the power from the objects or other people.
  5. Repeat this process so more students enter the space and fight for the status/power.
  6. Discuss and brainstorm as a class what gives and takes away power.


Students will:

Image theatre in practice

  1. Students will form a neutral circle and create a solo tableau for the theme 'bullying'.
  2. Invite students to enter the middle of the circle and present their tableau.
  3. Once four performers have entered the space, find stillness and form a large tableau.
  4. Discuss the relationships within the tableau and, if needed, adjust the positioning of the performers to create an image in which power is not evenly distributed.
  5. First dynamisation - for 30 seconds, each individual character is asked to speak aloud the thoughts of their character without moving.
  6. Second dynamisation - for a similar length of time, individual performers engage in dialogue with other characters within the image.
  7. Third dynamisation - members of the ensemble move in slow-motion to express the desires of their characters.


In groups, students will:

  • discuss what could have happened to any of the characters from the previous activity that may have led to the bullying
  • make one or more frozen images showing a scene or scenes that took place earlier related to the moment of bullying explored in the previous task
  • through improvisation, bring the pre-scene to life and connect it to the existing scene
  • rehearse and refine the scene
  • perform their scene to the class
  • reflect upon the performances.


Students will:

  • respond to the following reflection questions in their logbook
    • If any of these scenes had ended differently, would the final moment of bullying have taken place?
    • What have we learnt about bullying through the use of these techniques?
    • How could Image Theatre be used in other ways?
  • use examples from their performances or performances they have seen to support their response.



Students could:

  • write an inner-monologue detailing the point of view from one character
  • present their writing to the class
  • discuss how each character has different perspectives and interpretations of an event.

Life skills

Life skills outcomes

A student:

  • LS 1.1 explores characters, roles, situations and actions through drama activities
  • LS 1.3 participates in drama experiences in which role-taking is used to enhance their understanding of ideas and feelings.
  • LS 3.3 recognises that drama and theatre performances can communicate meaning and ideas.

copyright NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2003.

Students could:

  • review images of bullying and propose ideas regarding what the character is thinking or feeling
  • stage tableaux based on images they find or draw
  • perform short lines of dialogue that reflect what the character is thinking of feeling.


Feedback is formative during the lessons.

This sequence and accompanying worksheets are available as word documents below.

  1. Boal image theatre lesson sequence (DOCX 56.8KB)

Reference list and resources

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