Boal - Invisible theatre

Students are introduced to invisible theatre and discuss how it can highlight oppression and force audiences to question their values and desires.


1 week

Driving question

How can we use theatre to highlight socio-cultural and political issues?


Students are introduced to invisible theatre and discuss how it can highlight oppression and force audiences to question their values and desires. Using teacher-in-role, students will be an audience to a piece of invisible theatre and discuss how it felt to be witness to an act of oppression. They create invisible theatre performances that relate directly to their school context and consider how the audience responded.


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 Wales, 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.

Invisible Theatre involves the general public acting as both audience members and active participants in the dramatic action without their knowing it. Within this technique, performers present an act of oppression in a public space in which people can respond. The idea is that an issue can be raised without advertising that this is a piece of theatre, this allows for a more authentic response from the audience. It forces the viewer to question their motivation 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.

Columbian hypnosis

In pairs, students will:

  • select a person A and a person B
  • standing opposite each other in neutral position, A will raise their hand to be a few inches from B's face and will 'hypnotise' B with their hand. B must keep their face just a few inches from A's hand at all times
  • A should try to manipulate B into different positions and B should focus on maintaining a consistent distance from A's hand at all times
  • return to neutral and swap roles.

Teacher in role

Prior to this sequence, the teacher selects and briefs a student on invisible theatre. Explain to them during the previous task they are to behave poorly and engage in an argument with the teacher that results in them walking out of the classroom. Encourage them to make the argument as real as possible. After students have a solid grasp of the great game of power, begin to initiate the conflict with the students.

Students will:

Devising invisible theatre

After reviewing slide four of the Boal Invisible theatre PowerPoint (PPTX 2.83MB), students will:

  • find an issue that is of importance to the school
  • create a small scenario of the issue that may provoke debate
  • decide where and when this scene will be played out
  • present a piece of theatre at an agreed time to an audience.


Students will:

  • respond to the following reflection questions in their logbook
    • How did the audience respond to your piece of invisible theatre?
    • Did any audience members become active change makers? Why/why not?
    • How are people empowered to fight oppression?.



In groups or individually, students could:

  • extend on the first activity - A hypnotises B and C using two hands which may do entirely different movements.
  • form a circle around person A. Each person in the ensemble selects a part of person A to be hypnotised by. Person A begins to move slowly, and the whole circle must follow their chosen body part.
  • survey audience members after their invisible theatre performances to gain a further understanding of the socio-cultural barriers that prevent people from standing up and fighting oppression.

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 Walses, 2003

Students could:

  • define the word oppression
  • find an example of it and playbuild a short performance
  • discuss how the act of oppression makes them feel and how they respond to it in real life.


Feedback is formative during the lessons.

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

  1. Boal invisible theatre lesson sequence (DOCX 57.97KB)

Reference list and resources

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