Finding a Concrete Utopia in the Dystopia of a 'Sub-City'

Busby, Selina (2017) Finding a Concrete Utopia in the Dystopia of a 'Sub-City'. Research in Drama Education, 22 (1). pp. 92-103. ISSN 1356-9783


This article examines a ten-year long series of annual short-term interventions with young people living in Dharavi (India) that has led to a number of public theatre events. The partnership offers a unique training experience to students from the UK in theatre facilitation, and a regular opportunity to participate in theatre for young people in Dharavi. It brings together students from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London), working collaboratively with an Indian theatre practitioner, an NGO based in Mumbai, and young people who live in Dharavi. In the article, I explore the role theatre plays in the precarious lives of those who live in Dharavi, and the potential of this on-going partnership to develop a theatre of change in a community and site affected by extreme poverty. Focusing on the longevity of this applied theatre project and drawing on the writing of Paul Ricoeur on utopia, I argue that this on-going exchange can be understood both as a form of cultural invasion and, at the same time, a utopian community theatre practice. Whilst the project continues to raise troubling questions about cultural colonisation and power, the integrated investment of partners and participants over time has generated a resilient sense of optimism as well as, to a more limited degree, evidence of long-term positive change.


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