- Theatre in Education in Britain: Origins, Development and Influence by Roger Wooster
Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2016
£21.99, pb., 290 pp., 15 b/w ill.
This book explores the origins, development and influence of Theatre in Education (tie) In Britain and how the traditional model has been challenged by economic constraints and updated for modern audiences. the ideas are effectively structured into three sections: "Roots", "Fruits" and "Shoots?". Leading scholars of Tie Warwick Dobson, Chris Vine and Anthony Jackson comment on and Interrogate Wooster's analysis at the end of each section. Significant TIE programmes including The Mysterious Wanderers, The Price of Coal and Raj appear in boxed-out examples to highlight them as examples of good practice.
The roots of TIE in Chapter One are set firmly in the political context of the post-war years and the way the class system remained largely impervious to educational reforms. the formative work by Drama in Education (DIE) and alternative-theatre practitioners in the 1960s is outlined, leading to the first tie company being established at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. in Chapter Two the journey from 1966 to 1976 to create participatory TIE is mapped against the growing political awareness of the country at large. Chapter three shows how TIE was increasingly underpinned with pedagogic theory from 1976 to 1990 and details the impact of the main influences of Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal, Dorothy Heathcote and Lev Vygotsky. the insight into the political machinations of SCYPT (Standing Conference of Young People's Theatre), captures the spirit of companies motivated by a radical socialist outlook and evokes a little piece of uncharted history. the way the education Reform Act (1998) introduced market forces to education is here viewed, not unreasonably as an open threat to TIE. Wooster explains that some TIE practitioners felt that they were the "direct target of government policy", but I agree with his analysis that TIE was simply the unintended victim of the changes and just "collateral damage" (183).
The fruits of TIE are highlighted through two in-depth case studies of [End Page 199] Careless Talk (Theatr Powys) and When Sleeping Dogs Awake (Geoff Gillham and Belgrade TIE). these are then used in Chapter Seven to illustrate the way aesthetic principles are integral to these projects' programmes and not subsumed into instrumental considerations. this section could provide a useful framework for university students studying TIE and Applied Theatre. The challenges and pitfalls of TIE companies working co-operatively are fascinatingly explored in Chapter Eight. However, the international perspectives explored in Chapter nine and the emergence of ASSITEJ (Association Internationale du Théâtre de l'Enfance et la Jeunesse) do not seem relevant to the development of TIE and are not well integrated into Wooster's central argument.
Wooster admits he has entitled Part Three "Shoots?" (note the question mark) with trepidation. He assesses the way that after 1990 TIE companies had to adapt to survive and many became more performance-based in order to cater for larger audiences and be economically viable. He distinguishes here between "classic" TIE and companies who diversified and took a more pragmatic approach. examples he gives from theatre in Health education show the dangers inherent in funders expecting measurable change and immediate outcomes. in some respects this section is the least satisfying partly because of Wooster's reservations about much of the new work being produced. Chapter Twelve gives only a brief glimpse into current international work and the recent achievements of the few remaining traditional TIE companies in Chapter thirteen begs further detail.
Wooster's conclusion is indeed pessimistic in suggesting that "classic" TIE is a historic (that is, lost) art form. Anthony Jackson challenges this position and gives examples of companies who have adapted to the new funding restraints in innovative ways. Wooster's perspective may be summarized in his view that TIE was valuable in providing the "benign politics of a child learning to understand the world and themselves within the world" (180) and its downfall was brought about by trying to swim against the tide of educational reform in Britain...