The utilization of theatre as a medium for development communication : an examination of the Lesotho experience

Doctoral Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

This thesis undertakes to investigate the nature and function of theatre-for-development. The objectives are to place theatre-for-development in the context of development communication theory, and to examine how theatre functions as communication. In the process of this examination a new model of theatrical communication in theatre-for-development, and a new paradigm of intervention, are evolved. The thesis begins by exploring the reasons for the failure of existing media systems to serve the needs of development in Africa. The failures are mostly due to the fact that the majority of the people have minimal or no participation in information generation and dissemination. Theatre is identified as one medium that could be utilized towards the realization of democratizing communication systems, and of giving the periphery access to the production and distribution of messages. The thesis then proceeds to review crucial literature in theatre-for-development and on development communication. The literature that has been selected has particular relevance in that while it treats current perspectives in these disciplines, it gives an historical account of theatre in Africa, and an account of the various perspectives and orthodoxies in the history of mass communication in general, and development communication in particular. The major case study of the thesis is a theatre-for-development cooperative society in Lesotho called Marotholi Travelling Theatre. The thesis therefore discusses the problems of underdevelopment in Lesotho. Since this study deals with-development communication, and attempts a structural examination of the context of theatre-for-development, the reader is introduced to the conditions that engender the theatre that is analyzed in the study. An account of the communication environment is also given. Because the communication environment of the rural areas in Lesotho is characterized by the predominant use of oral and traditional methods, popular and traditional media in Lesotho are also examined. After setting a theoretical framework by examining theatrical communication in theatre-for-development, and the rules underlying it, the thesis proceeds to analyze five plays created by Marotholi Travelling Theatre. First, a brief history of each play is given, and this is followed by an analysis of how the play functions as a vehicle for conscientization, and as communication. The plays are discussed in the context of five different methodologies of theatre-for-development: agitprop, participatory agitprop, simultaneous dramaturgy, forum theatre, and comgen theatre. It is in the process of this analysis that a new model of theatrical communication in theatre-for-development is evolved. The new paradigm of intervention that is posited also emanates from the analysis of the plays. It illustrates the extent to which the various methodologies of theatre-for-development can be utilized either for development (and, therefore, liberation), or for dissemination. The thesis concludes by focussing on the salient points that have emerged in the analysis. Crucial points are summarized, and recommendations for an effective utilization of theatre as a medium for development communication are posited.

Includes bibliography.