Acting Now is an applied theatre company and social enterprise based in Cambridge (UK). Our goal is to transform lives through theatre. We put social, political and civic causes at the forefront of our work and devise creative drama projects that breathe life into the important social challenges facing participants and audiences alike.
We are committed to bringing about change in communities and participants from all walks of life, especially those who experience disadvantage.
Our core work involves the use of drama in community, health and education settings as a catalyst for personal and social change. We work with refugees, youth groups, women, homeless people and adults with learning disabilities or mental health issues, among others, using theatre to reflect, explore and analyse the issues that affect them. Our theatre projects provide a space where participants can develop self-confidence, new skills and transform their own reality. With them, we also develop high quality plays that are performed in the local community.
To scale our impact we work alongside charities and local authorities and strong partnerships have been forged with a large number of community organisations (such as Rowan, Cambridge Cancer Help Centre and Wintercomfort) so as to support their service users in their future endeavours.
Alongside this, we run physical theatre courses and training programmes for councils, charities, schools, universities and cultural centres, in the UK and abroad, which bring together theatre practitioners, educators, community organizers, charity representatives, social workers, activists and many others who are interested in using theatre as a tool for communication, empowerment and debate.
At Acting Now we believe theatre is a platform to empower people and a great tool to help those at risk of social exclusion to unlock their potential and drive change in their lives.
Theatre of the oppressed. Created by Augusto Boal in 1971, it comprises a variety of games and techniques that allowed unskilled participants to act and transform their lives, overcoming socio-political oppressions.
The method is implemented in stages. At first, a number of techniques are used to help the participants become aware of their challenging situation. Secondly, the participants are encouraged to analyse the factors which have caused it. Finally, the group acts on what they believe to be a solution to their challenges.
Lecoq Theatre and Physical Theatre. This pedagogy created by Jaques Lecoq in 1956 works with a range of techniques to stimulate the body, imagination and creativity, including neutral mask, dramatic stories, melodrama, Greek chorus, comedia dell’arte, buffoon and clown.
This method encourages group work, since it is believed to improve emotions and feelings. The idea of Lecoq’s pedagogy “is to work in a common voice, is to be at one and at the same time grounded in the truth of a living character, and in touch with a dimension which transcends human reality”.
Community performance is theatre made by, with, and for a community. This approach highlights the process of the creation of a performance, rather than the final product itself. Petra Kuppers, a well-known culture activist, claims that by organising a performance the participants use their body, voice and experiences to develop a collective production. In turn, the performance becomes a close and direct reflection of real life and aims to raise awareness and generate change.
Group dynamics exercises. We use group dynamics exercises to create a safe space where the participants can share their feelings, show respect to others, give advice and contribute to the theatrical work. The aim of this technique is to give voice to everyone and increase group cohesion.
Our theatre practice aims to:
- Increase personal well being through participation: Through the creative process, the participants discover new ways of relating with others and of communicating ideas in general. This leads to improved self-awareness, empathy, self-esteem and therefore social equality.
- Decrease the negative perception of people at risk of social exclusion: Drama is a wonderful way of breaking down barriers and seeing things in a new light. A key aim of the Acting Now is to improve the perception of disadvantaged groups in society.
- Empower vulnerable people to feel more integrated in society. We manage this by improving the self-esteem and confidence of participants first, and by raising awareness of the issues they face in the local community in the second place.
- Overcome isolation. People feel more engaged in their local community and have a true sense of pride in the contribution they make to it.
- Bring different people together. We champion an inclusive practice in our drama workshops and help to build bridges between participants and audiences through the performances.