For many delegates “role-play” is a dirty word when delivering training; they groan, roll their eyes and fidget in distinct discomfort. I’ve long being a proponent of “co-coaching” or “running through what I would say” activities with teams. They do usually cotton on that its role-play, but by then they’ve seen the benefit and feel more comfortable.


Drama based learning is something new to a lot of professionals and delegates alike. I’ve been privileged to be involved with two recent learning interventions using live actors as part of the development proposition. For the uninitiated, the fear of being pulled into a thespian luvvie world is as real as for role-play. However the experience is all played out in front of us and we get to comfortably direct from our delegate seating.

The powerful dynamic of seeing an objective yet familiar scenario played out in front of us with the possibility to pause, direct, rewind and apply learning is hugely valuable to see how subtle or not-so-subtle changes of language and approach can play out. It appeals to a sense of voyeurism, the familiarisation of fly on the wall documentaries and of being able to tinker with what we would like to have done. We can learn from others in stimulating debate during the time out of forum theatre and ‘coaching’ a character on what to do next. We can identify strong themes that resonate with us personally for our development, or those in our business, with the advantage that leaders might finally hear what we have been trying to tell them.

Steps Drama founding director Robbie Swales said it’s about “using drama to stimulate debate”. And stimulating it was!