A STORY OF THE BIRTH OF THE MICRO FORUM TECHNIQUEI arrived on the wing to experience a tension in the atmosphere. I had trained my instinct and wasand am now able to sense subtle and not so subtle changes in atmosphere. I was lead to the sittingroom where the Dramatherapy usually took place. A large group of men trailed in. There hadobviously been some disruption on the wing at the prison, and some of the men had noticeableinjuries. I made an assumption that there had been some kind of incident.I introduced myself and got the group to introduce themselves. There was much resistance at thispoint and I didn’t know if anything would work. All I knew was that I was going to look at issuesrelated to parole and the consequences of that. I had discovered through the prison work that themore flexible you are the better.You have to be a trickster to combat the trickster he does not respond well to rigidity. The trickster isa shape-shifter and needs to feel that he has the upper hand. In this respect I allow the group to leadme. I think this is a key point in facilitation.The group on this occasion was large about 9 or 10 it really was too big for the size of the room so Itook a chance and played a ridiculous game that I had made up in the moment for the group so thatI could see who would stay and who would go. I had often wondered what the tool bag was thatthey kept talking about on the Dramatherapy courses and I then realized in that moment that it wasall the life experience and knowledge that you bring to the situation in the now.The room was on the wing so they could leave the group if they wished. I didn’t know whether thewhole group would leave or not. We must be ready to take risks, to trust in the instinct, the eye,within ourselves and enable flow. Of course I didn’t want the group to leave but it was importantthat they themselves made the choice to stay.Sure enough about four or five men left mumbling under their breath that this was shit and theyweren’t going to do it. I got the rest of the men to move all the furniture to one end of the roomcommenting jokingly about packing vans and removals that they enjoyed.The energy in the room was still high and so once we were back in the circle I just sat down and thegroup followed, this grounded the energy and gave us a good place to begin. I have noticed overtime that I am, as a person, very susceptible to changes in atmosphere and it has helped meunderstand the impact that my life journey has had on me. As it has turned out this is a profoundskill.I said to the group that we were elders come together to have a discussion and so we eachintroduced ourselves as a particular elder which they liked and I liked. I initiated the game and thenpassed it on a good leader passes the power to the group. This removed them from the prisonerstatus role to an elder status role, which gave us a shift in consciousness into a more philosophicalstate as a group. We can initiate many levels of consciousness. The life force can be freelymanoeuvred we just have to be fluid and willing to accept and explore.There was a noticeable energy shift at this point as the men moved into a more free state of mind.From the confinement mind-set of the Prisoner. To the knowledge mind-set of the philosophicalelder.
When the game had finished I suggested that the group tell me about issues that prisoners have toface when they get out of jail. A discussion ensued and the topic for exploration became apparent.There was a lot of discussion that I did not join in with, I observed. Firstly I am not a man andsecondly I haven’t been a prisoner. So I had to remove myself from the discussion (The tricksterstudies the field. I had become quite proficient at using my internal trickster to help the processes.)They decided that although there was a likelihood of drug use it wasn’t a common denominator forall. The common denominator was how to get on with family and partners again. So this is what weworked with. Finding a common denominator for the group would be a universal commonality afixed point to build on. This would later be a key point of expansion. (How to pinpoint the area ofexploration, which is most valuable to the group at any given time), leading us to the protagonist inthe story.I stood up and the group followed, I said “OK” let’s find a name for the character in the story. So Istated that there was a story. I didn’t say, “Shall we make a story”. The use of language is veryimportant as it can bypass some non-essential discussions. In this environment time is really limited.I try to have a name for the character that is not the name of someone in the group. I feel this isimportant, as there could be underlying bullying.At this point I could sense that the minds of the men in the group were opening and so I seeded in(prepared the mind) that they the group were going to be participators in the play as well asobservers of the action of the play at the same time. These two points of analysis I had learnedthrough projecting my mind inwardly and outwardly early on in my journey and I now had found aplace for that knowledge back to my childhood in the now. Projecting myself out as well asprojecting in.So we started to play.Prisoners more often than not want to go to the pub, which was in fact where I knew they would gofirst. It is important to be ahead of the game whilst being in the game at the same time, it isimportant to have a foot in the past the present and the future in any given moment in time wemight call it the triad of thought. If we can achieve this then we have a grasp and a strong link.So I got them to build the pub out of the furniture in the room. Then I asked them what is happeningin this scene. This process happened spontaneously so the discussion changed from debate intoaction. I was keeping the thought process logical but allowing the creativity to grow naturally usingthe structure to contain the liminal-ity or I might call it the space for change.As we progressed I could sense expansion in the minds of the men in the group. They became willingwhich helped me to help them and enabled me to build the structure. Let’s describe it as waterbeing guided through opening tributaries. So thought process was becoming more pliable and opento suggestion. The brains relaxed.All the time asking the group what happens next and gently pushing the limits of the mind forward.We took Sean to the pub and the inevitable happened and Sean got drunk from all the free drinksand frivolity. I asked them to observe what was happening and a small discussion was had. I asked ifanything could be different here. So another man took the role of Sean and he tried in vain to limit
the amount of alcohol he had. As well as being very insightful it provided the humour so as todetract from the significance of it.By trying different roles we are expanding our role repertoire even if the roles being tried appear tobe quite subtle. Each character has a certain thought process and even if you touch those thoughtsfor a moment that is enough for expansion to happen the human mind is a very fast computer.Each role has a subtle impact on the nervous system that ultimately affects behaviour. We are alsocultivating an environment for the Mirror Neuron System to activate in a healthy way. Everyone inthe group at this point was beginning to take on multiple roles. So we are enabling the mind toexpand by activating neurons in the brain through experiencing roles. The expansion of roles is a keyfeature in the developmental of this system. The more characters we play the more we expand ourability to ‘act’ differently. Our behaviour changes through our new role repertoire as we begin toexplore a range of possibilities. Subtle changes in the nervous system begin to influence how webehave whilst we are mirroring behaviour changes.All the time asking the group what happens next. It appeared that Sean would go home to thegirlfriend’s house.So we built the scenes one by one using the structure of the participator and the observer. As thedrama developed so did the confidence of the group as a whole and the individuals within the group.They mastered the structure with ease, which enabled them to take control of the drama and moveforward through to its conclusion, which was a success as Sean had progressed through the drama,failing at every turn until he went back to the pub and asked someone to give him a job.This then lead him to be able to go to the appointment with the probation officer and tell the truthwhereas in the beginning he had lied. I could sense that the group felt a great sense of achievement.This is an addition I have made to the original format of Forum Theatre as in traditional form theoutcome of the protagonist is left as an on-going debate.In my adaption the protagonists’ journey is brought to a conclusion, thereby closing the group. This Ifeel is important because the thought process has to be contained for the structure to be containedas a whole.This is especially important for people with difficult behaviour patterns as their own formulation ofthe outcome may again be built on a difficult behaviour pattern. So what we are attempting is theformulation of a complete pattern that is finite and well adjusted. Everybody needs a well-adjustedplatform to work from. As I have found for myself in my own journey. And it is important to feel thesense of completion. Since I have been thinking and developing this work two more elements havebeen added. That of the storyteller and the supervisor functions. These will be explained later.So I had found my platform through this piece of work. My journey has been long and hard but itseems as if it is now moving to a different level of clarity, and of movement. And I am ready to facethe work I was born to do or the work I was born to give. I give thanks to those who have helped megather the tools I needed to achieve this work.Cc Alix Harrow 23rdApril 2013