Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Verbatim Theatre’

My relationship with verbatim theatre blows hot and cold. The toughest thing for me is the intrusiveness in the subjects’ lives, and sometimes the humour extracted at their expense. It was particularly acute at this because the subjects were minors, and the latter point was accentuated by some people a couple of rows in front who thought the whole thing was an uproarious comedy, their loud laughter jarring.

Alecky Blythe and her team interviewed twelve teenagers over five years from six schools, both state and public, in all four nations of the UK. Each of her ‘collectors’ followed just two subjects. The twelve represent a diversity of sex, race and class. The six hundred hours of recordings have been edited down to three, during which we watch them change and grow up. The actors who portray them also bring alive and populate the piece with their friends, families and teachers.

There are three parts, but its the third, short one, living through the pandemic, which is the most insightful and moving, as we see the impact on their lives, education & careers and mental health. It took a long time to overcome my concerns (not entirely until I read the programme on the way home to discover the subjects had read, and in some cases seen staged, all of their words being used, though not their portrayals) but in the end it proved to be an extraordinary insight into a generation I rarely engage with, and now feel much more empathy for.

It’s worth seeing just for the superb ensemble, who bring both the subjects and their relationships alive, mostly staying on the right side of caricature. Director Daniel Evans further animates this with music, movement and projections. At 3 hours 40 minutes it is too long, though its hard to see how it could be edited further without detriment to the characterisation and storytelling. That said, the part that packed the most punch was half as long as the other two.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but read the programme interview about the process first, and respect the subjects who have been generous enough to allow us into their lives at a formative stage.

Read Full Post »

We’ve had lots of verbatim theatre, plus those Tricycle tribunal plays, but never a hybrid of both based on a 415-year-old trial. Well, it could have been a trial for 400 years of deaths from tobacco or obesity through potatoes!

Actor Oliver Chris has gone back to accounts of the original trial, which took place exactly 415 years ago in the very same hall (because there was plague in London) and dramatised it. The Attorney General presided, with two other ‘judges’, but to my surprise there was a jury to make the judgement, here twelve audience members. The complex case for treason was presented by two lawyers representing King James I. Ralegh had no representation. The evidence presented was written; there were no witnesses.

It’s really a duologue between Ralegh and Coke, the King’s counsel, and the case hinges on whose account you believe – Ralegh or chief conspirator Lord Cobham, who has already been found guilty and sentenced to death for the treason of the Bye (a catholic sub-plot) and confessed but not yet sentenced for the treason of the Main (for which Ralegh is now being tried). It turns out to be dry material for drama, I’m afraid, though the politics of it all are fascinating.

They haven’t retained the dress and conventions of the period, with the Attorney General, both prosecutors and clerk to the court all played by women, and everyone in modern dress. The setting is extraordinarily atmospheric and knowing you’re in the very same room adds more than a frisson. Simon Paisley Day as Ralegh and Nathalie Armin as Coke are both excellent. I think I enjoyed what I learnt about Ralegh – favourite of Elizabeth I, explorer, colonist, military man, lawyer, MP, poet and wine merchant – by reading around it than I did the re-enactment of the trial itself. He was a colourful character who had a pretty dull trial so that James could give him his comeuppance.

As event theatre, well worth a day trip to the gorgeous city of Winchester, where there was even more to see. As drama, a bit of a disappointment, I’m afraid. A Shakespeare’s Globe production that’s coming to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next week.

Read Full Post »

Verbatim theatre specialist Alecky Blythe has a huge hit on her hands with her first verbatim musical, London Road, now extended at the National. Meanwhile, a project about the displaced peoples of northern Georgia, following the 2008 war with Russia, finds it’s way to the Riverside Studios. With a visit to the Caucases planned for the coming months, I felt a strong need to go.

The small Georgian cast speak the words of Blythe’s interviewees as they hear them though the earphones they wear throughout, as was her original way with verbatim theatre, to ensure the subject’s words and speech patters are faithfully produced without an actor’s individual spin.

Most of the dialogue is in Georgian and I was so spellbound by the actors that I found myself missing much of the words on the surtitles. I did however get enough to paint a vivid picture of these people’s lives and the impact of the invasion and consequential removal to a refugee camp, where I believe they still are.

It’s surprising how much of an impression you get from fifty minutes watching / listening to these five Georgian actors relaying these tales; I really did feel I was hearing their testimony first hand.

Much more than worthy.

Read Full Post »