Digging up stories

Applied theatre, performance and war

By James Thompson

Digging up stories

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7315-1
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: February 2006
  • BIC Category: The arts / Theatre studies, Theatre Direction & Production, PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / Stagecraft, Theatre studies, Theatre: technical & background skills, Theatre Studies


In 'Digging up stories', James Thompson explores the problems of theatre practice in communities affected by war and exclusion. Each chapter or 'story' is written in a lively and accessible style and draws on a range of contemporary performance theories. The chapters discuss:

- participatory theatre in refugee camps

- theatre workshop and stories of a massacre

- traditional dance-dramas in an insurgent controlled


- 'Forum' theatre with the Mahabharata

- ethical issues

- the struggle to teach the author to dance

'Digging up stories' documents a range of theatre practice and includes project reports, ethnographic accounts, performance analysis and diary-style reflection. Taken from Thompson's research and practice in Sri Lanka, these diverse examples question the link between applied theatre, traditional performance and performances in everyday life. The book blurs lines between research and travel writing to create rich and provocative accounts of applying theatre in a troubled setting.


1. Words of introduction/words of caution
2. Going nowhere
3. Arriving in Sri Lanka
4. A previous workshop example: an archaeology of theatre in war
5. Hatton workshops
6. Batticaloa
7. Seeing is believing? Three more workshop examples
8. Finding Kooththu
9. Another aside on games
10. Burning the drums
11. Dance Class
12. Sitars
13. Memorials
14. Forum Kooththu
15. A public workshop
16. Malaria maps
17. Human rights/cultural rights
18. A theatre of attack: visit to Suriya
19. In the presence of the leader
20. Refugee camp theatre
21. On watching children's theatre
22. Memorials 2: wearing the poppy
23. Nowhere again
24. Finding Kolam
25. A final aside on games
26. Anti-diagnosis: theatre, not case-histories
27. Open ceremony: development performed
28. The Thin Strip
29. Arts projects and Christmas lights: a final turn in the theatre of war
30. Inconclusivity


James Thompson is Professor of Applied and Social Theatre at the University of Manchester

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