Documentary theatre

Plays

audio Additional Dialogue: An Evening With Dalton Trumbo

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In 1947, witty, outspoken, irascible Dalton Trumbo - the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Roman Holiday and Spartacus - went to prison for defying the House Committee on Un-American Activities and became one of the framed Hollywood Ten. Through his wildly funny and thought-provoking correspondence, Trumbo’s son has created a touching portrait of an extraordinary man.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jeff Corey, Harry Groener, Christopher Trumbo and Paul Winfield.

Featuring: Jeff Corey, Harry Groener, Christopher Trumbo, Paul Winfield

audio Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In the mid-1950’s, the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating the communist influence in the entertainment industry. This searing docudrama from actual transcripts of the hearings reveals how decent people were persuaded to “name names,” and the steep price paid by those who refused.

An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring: René Auberjonois, Edward Asner, Bonnie Bedelia, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Hector Elizondo, Robert Foxworth, Harry Hamlin, James Earl Jones, Richard Masur, Franklyn Seales, Joe Spano, James Whitmore, Michael York, and Harris Yulin.

Featuring: Ryan Vincent Anderson, Michael Canavan, Jake Green, Harry Hamlin, Shannon Holt, Alan Mandell, James Morrison, David Selby, Kate Steele, Nick Toren, John Vickery

audio Betrayed

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Based on the journalist-playwright’s original article in The New Yorker, Betrayed is the story of three young Iraqi translators who risk everything for America's promise of freedom while their country collapses around them. “The clarity of the writing, the urgency of the story being told … give the play a sharp dramatic impact and a plain-spoken beauty. Painful human experience is presented here as just that. Nothing else is necessary to awaken sympathy, despair and awareness of a grave moral failure on the part of the American government.” - New York Post

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Jeremy Beck, Kevin Daniels, Andrea Gabriel, John Getz, Sevan Greene, Sam Kanater and Waleed F. Zuaiter.

Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Jeremy Beck, Kevin Daniels, Andrea Gabriel, John Getz, Sevan Greene, Sam Kanater, Waleed F. Zuaiter

Blackbirds

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Blackbirds is the play that emerged from the London Bubble Theatre's research and interviews of South Londoners who lived through the Blitz between 1940 and 1941. Using personal testimony, physical theatre and the combined skills of a cast of contemporary Londoners ranging in age from 7 to 78, the play explores the experiences and events that made London the city that we know today. For use in schools, colleges, community groups and youth theatres.

The Blue Ball

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Blue Ball is a strange and melodic play, an attempt to comprehend the experience of space travel.

Paul Godfrey used a travel grant from the National Theatre to visit centres of space travel in America and Russia to research The Blue Ball. His conversations with astronauts inspired the play and are partly replicated within it, as the play weaves his interviews into the story of a fictional first man in space.

It is an imaginative investigation of a culture in which the wondrous is rendered mundane, what seems commonplace is rendered absurd, and no-one ever stops asking, ‘What is it like?’ Godfrey explores the myths surrounding astronauts, and the impossibility of describing space, in scenes alive with irony and sharp comedy, creating a play which is both delicate and vastly ambitious.

The Blue Ball premiered at the Cottesloe Theatre in 1995.

Care Takers

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Ms Lawson, a new teacher at Newall South High School, believes Jamie Harrow is being bullied because he's gay. She wants to help but Mrs Rutter, the Deputy Head, thinks it will sort itself out. Is Mrs Rutter speaking from experience or is there something more unsavoury about her uncaring attitude? A battle royale occurs between youthful idealism and the system that evolves to choke it.

Most plays that deal with homophobia in schools look at the children in the playground, but what happens when the people in charge of our children are homophobic? Care Takers is an intense two-hander that follows a new teacher who tries to do something about one of her pupils who is being bullied for being gay.

Homophobia remains a fault-line in our society and especially in our multicultural, inner-city schools where original research undertaken by writer Billy Cowan showed these tensions are still very real. The play shows how complicated things have become for teachers in these schools when it comes to dealing with homophobic bullying, and how vulnerable young gay people still are in these environments – especially if the system gets in the way of their safety.

Includes Teachers' Resources to aid structured discussion and exploration of the themes raised in schools, colleges and beyond. Care Takers is part of an Edge Hill University (Birmingham, UK) research project on homophobia; and can be used as a source text for all those interested in the impact of creative practices in health, psychological well-being and enhancing social inclusion of people (hospitals, social and community centres, mental health centres, schools, and museums).

audio The Chicago Conspiracy Trial

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Reality is stranger than fiction when seven 1960’s radicals refuse to behave in Judge Julius Hoffman’s courtroom. Based on actual trial transcripts and starring a cast of top Chicago actors, this play centers on events following the protests and riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler and Andrew White.

Featuring: Tom Amandes, George Czarnecki, Christine Dunford, Richard Fire, Kevin Gudahl, Gary Houston, Tony Mockus, George Murdock, Mike Nussbaum, Peggy Roeder, David Schwimmer, Jeff Still, Ron West, Ed Wheeler, Andrew White

Crocodile Seeking Refuge

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

This play tells the stories of five individuals seeking asylum in the UK: Zakariya from Darfur; Destin from the Republic of Congo; Jalal from Iraq; Parvaneh from Iran and Marie-Elena from Colombia. Each has been forced to flee their homeland in the face of death, each is haunted in a different way by the past. Finding themselves in situations that veer between the comic and the tragic, they try to make sense of the British way of life. “Scars are like medals. They show we have taken part in the life.” Inspired by the real-life testimony of people who have sought refuge in the UK, Crocodile Seeking Refuge is an incisive look at the asylum stories behind the headlines.

In 1997 Sonja Linden set up the Write to Life Project at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, a creative and testimonial writing programme to enable survivors of torture and persecution to process their ‘heart of darkness’ experiences through the medium of writing. Real-life testimony therefore was the catalyst for Crocodile Seeking Refuge. Working with five individuals as part of the Write to Life project, the play was developed for three years. Pierre Junior N’Khiembet, a torture victim from the Republic of Congo, whose treatment in this country was a major, traumatising factor. Nasrin Parvaz from Iran, Doctor Qasim Albrisem from Iraq, Aziz Idris and later Sharif Barko from Sudan and Maritza Jubelly from Colombia. Many of the encounters in the final version of the play have been invented, but the back stories of what happened to each of the five characters and how they have been treated by the British asylum system are entirely accurate.

Frangipani

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

The powerless are given voice in this play by Chhon Sina (Cambodia), reminding us that poverty can easily lead to abuse and exploitation.

Frogman  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Your father has been charged with the murder of Ashleigh Richardson, back in 1995.

Summer 1995, the Great Barrier Reef. Police divers hover over the reef, looking for traces of Ashleigh by torchlight. Meera is eleven. It's her first sleepover with Lily and Shaun. Cassette recordings from the radio, Sega Mega Drive, and the 'coral club' descends into theories about Ashleigh.

Outside over the reef, the Frogman hovers, looking for traces of a missing child. As police search lights refract through the ocean, the annual coral bloom is due, creating an underwater snowstorm. Time is running out. Weaving dreamlike memories of that hot summer with a present day murder investigation, Meera is forced to excavate her past.

Frogman is a coming-of-age thriller exploring the fragility of the childhood imagination. A ground-breaking Virtual Reality and live theatre hybrid from the ever-questioning, boundary-pushing, curious directive. 

From Docks to Desktops

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

Created from dozens of personal testimonies, this is the story of the changing face of work today. Surrey Docks in South-East London was once a thriving commercial hub, hosting some of the UK's leading commercial brands, including Crosse & Blackwell, Sarson's, Peek Freans and Lipton's. These huge organisations created a myriad of jobs for local people, and the community prospered. But, with the decline of the docks in the 1970s, factories closed down or relocated, work patterns changed and redevelopment began. 'From Docks to Desktops' explores the fascinating story of how one community has survived the 21st-century challenges of urban change and renewal.

From the Mouths of Mothers

Aurora Metro Books
Type: Text

A powerful and distressing drama created from the real-life testimonies of seven mothers who have had to come to terms with the devastating reality of their children having been sexually abused. The women tell the often-harrowing stories of how they struggled to access social services for their families as well as justice from the courts

audio Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In three short months, Oscar Wilde, the most celebrated playwright and wit of Victorian England, was toppled from the apex of British society into humiliation and ruin. Drawing from trial documents, newspaper accounts, and writings of the key players, Moisés Kaufman ignites an incendiary mix of sex and censorship, with a cast of characters ranging from George Bernard Shaw to Queen Victoria herself.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring JB Blanc, Dakin Matthews, Ian Ogilvy, Peter Paige, Julian Sands, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Weston and Matthew Wolf.

Featuring: JB Blanc, Dakin Matthews, Ian Ogilvy, Peter Paige, Julian Sands, Simon Templeman, John Vickery, Douglas Weston, Matthew Wolf

audio I Love Lucy

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The onscreen pairing of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz is at the heart of one of the most popular TV shows in history. Who would have thought that to get on the air, they had to battle both a network and a sponsor who thought the show couldn't possibly succeed? Playwright Gregg Oppenheimer – son of I Love Lucy’s creator Jess Oppenheimer – spins the hilarious true story behind America’s beloved TV comedy. Directed by Michael Hackett. Includes an interview with playwright Gregg Oppenheimer. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production, starring (in alphabetical order): Ron Bottitta as William S. Paley, William Frawley, and others; Seamus Dever as Jess Oppenheimer; Sarah Drew as Lucille Ball; Abigail Marks as Vivian Vance, Betty Garrett, and others; Matthew Floyd Miller as Don Sharpe, Bob LeMond and others; Rob Nagle as Hubbell Robinson and others; Oscar Nunez as Desi Arnaz; And Nick Toren as Harry Ackerman Music performed by Doug Walter. The "I Love Lucy" theme song used with permission of MPL Music Publishing and Songwriters Guild of America. Original music by Doug Walter. Sound Effects Artist, Aaron Lyons. Production Manager, Rick V. Moreno. Script Supervisor, Nikki Hyde. Senior Radio Producer, Ronn Lipkin. Associate Artistic Director, Anna Lyse Erikson. Editor, Mitchell Lindskoog. Recording Engineer, Sound Designer, and Mixer, Mark Holden for The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood Recorded before an audience at UCLA's James Bridges Theater.

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

When Albie Sachs walks into his chambers one morning, he feels a hand on his shoulder and soon finds himself surrounded by men in suits. Arrested and imprisoned without trial for speaking out against apartheid law, the young lawyer is held in solitary confinement in a concrete cell without a bunk or a chair, and only the Bible to read. Albie’s refusal to answer the special officers’ questions ensures his continued detainment, as he struggles to retain his convictions, and his sanity, alone in jail.

Based on the real-life figure of Albie Sachs, a South African lawyer, and drawing heavily on his diaries which detail his experience of apartheid in South Africa in the 1960s, this adaptation by David Edgar explores the endurance of the individual against loneliness, oppression and a justice system that is threatened by a growing movement towards emancipation.

The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs was first presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Warehouse Theatre, London, in June 1978.

Katrina

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Katrina uses survivor testimonies and the rich cultural tradition of New Orleans to tell the story of the eponymous hurricane and its immediate aftermath, charting the infamous devastation that will live long in the American psyche.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina narrowly missed New Orleans. The resulting storms breached rotting levees and emptied Lake Pontchartrain into the city. Marooned by floodwater that swamped over 80% of their homes, the inhabitants had to wait a week without food or clean water before their own government came to their aid.

Shedding light on some of the more extraordinary and under-reported aspects of the tragedy, the play is an odyssey through a drowned space, a series of encounters with individuals displaced and abandoned within their own city. The plot follows from the death of Virgil, a decadent old New Orleanian, who has been killed by Hurricane Katrina. Trapped by the rising floodwater his partner Beatrice determines to take his body to safety at the City Hall. During her journey she encounters a number of other survivors and hears their stories.

Katrina was first performed in 2009 at The Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf.

Layla's Room

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

For Layla, every day is a battleground. The pay gap, the thigh gap, over-sexed pop and selfies that are photoshopped – they’re just part of the world she lives in.

But that world is about to change. While breaking out of her bedroom – and with drama, comedy, poetry and music as her weapons – Layla breaks down and makes sense of the realities, difficulties and absurdities of teenage life in the UK today.

Collected from a bespoke national survey, the voices of a thousand UK teens are brought to life in Layla. Their ambitions, concerns, role-models and regrets are woven together by award-winning Sabrina Mahfouz and theatre company Theatre Centre, offering a hard-hitting, yet hopeful, story.

The Majority  

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Is morality just what the majority say? Is that all it is? If I don't vote, I'm not part of that discussion.

Rob Drummond returns to the National with a new show about democracy. The Majoritycharts Rob's journey as he navigates the Scottish Independence Referendum, Brexit, Trump... and whatever today brings.

So take your seat and push the button. Yes or No. Can you change the show with your votes? Every night will be different, depending on the majority. 

Mary Barnes

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In 1965, Mary Barnes arrives at Kingsley Hall, the first resident of an alternative treatment centre for mental illness founded by the controversial psychotherapist, R. D. Laing. Having undergone shock therapy and insulin injections for her schizophrenia with little result, it seems unlikely that Mary will ever leave institutional care.

But her life changes when she meets Joseph Berke, her therapist. Encouraged to regress to a childlike state, Mary discovers a way through her madness with the paints and crayons given to her by Berke, creating the fantastic canvasses and drawings which would later bring her fame as an artist.

David Edgar’s play is adapted from Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness, written by Mary Barnes and Joseph Berke. Edgar worked closely with both authors during the writing of this uniquely personal piece which challenges traditional assumptions about the reality of living with and treating mental illness.

Mary Barnes received its world premiere in August 1978 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Studio, before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Once in a While the Odd Thing Happens

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Once in a While the Odd Thing Happens is drawn from the life of Benjamin Britten and informed by many personal interviews with the composer's friends and especially his sister Beth. The play has an austere beauty which serves to reveal the humanity of the composer and affords a glance at the ambition of the man. It explores the conflict between his association with W. H. Auden and his partnership with Peter Pears cuminating in the triumphant première of Peter Grimes in 1945. This is neither 'faction' nor drama documentary but a play which resonates beyond its specific characters.

Once in a While the Odd Thing Happens premièred at the Cottesloe in September 1990, in a production directed by Paul Godfrey.

audio Spill

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

In April of 2010, British Petroleum gave orders to speed up production on its colossal drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon. Despite the objections of many on the rig, safety measures were ignored or overlooked. On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Eleven men paid the ultimate price and countless thousands who call the Gulf Coast home found their lives irrevocably altered. Spill is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast recording, starring Elisa Bocanegra, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Nicholas Hormann, Travis Johns, Jane Kaczmarek, James Morrison, Darren Richardson, Kate Steele, and Mark Jude Sullivan. Production Manager, Niki Hyde. Music Supervisor, Ronn Lipkin. Associate Artistic Director, Anna Lyse Erikson. Editor, Mitchell Lindskoog. Recording Engineer, Sound Designer and Mixer, Mark Holden for The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood.

Terms using ‘documentary’ and ‘drama’ in combination (most of which relate more to the world of television than to the stage) can be confusing. ‘Documentary drama’, describing plays with a close relationship to their factual base, is a twentieth-century extension of historical drama or the pièce à thèse where the factual basis gives the action its credibility. In ‘documentary theatre’, documents themselves are projected into text and performance. Documentary theatre has a declared purpose and an evident factual base. It follows the model pioneered in the 1920s by Erwin Piscator. Non-naturalistic epic theatre techniques are used in documentary theatre to present oppositional critiques of dominant ideologies. Its four major functions are to reassess national/ local histories; to celebrate communities/ marginalized groups and their histories; to investigate important events and issues past and present; and to be openly didactic in its use of information. In documentary theatre, photographs and/ or film project actualities; placards and/ or slides project quotations from source documents; actors and/ or loudspeakers address the audience directly with facts and information; voices of participants in historical events are used on tape/ film. In addition, authentic music and song can add a critique of events, and acting techniques like Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (Alienation Effect) can enable representation (rather than impersonation) of historical figures to take place. Information becomes the protagonist through a rhetoric of fact (printed documents, statistics, graphs, maps, actuality tape, film and photograph, song), as it did in the Federal Theater’s Living Newspaper. Such theatricalization is the opposite of naturalistic drama, which seeks to mask performance techniques in favour of surface realisms, especially of character. Documentary theatre was sometimes called Theatre of Fact in the 1960s, following Piscator’s Berlin productions of Rolf Hochhuth’s The Representative (1963), Heinar Kipphardt’s The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964) and Peter Weiss’s The Investigation (1965). Theatre Workshop’s Oh, What a Lovely War! (1963) and Peter Brook’s US (1966) were landmark productions in Britain, where the methodology derived from these plays became briefly a staple in repertory theatre, having been pioneered by Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. The ‘verbatim play’ was a 1980s variant of the local documentary. Britain’s 7:84 and America’s San Francisco Mime Troupe were notable alternative theatre exponents of documentary theatre, and the British Theatre in Education movement used it extensively as does radical theatre in the Third World.

from Derek Paget, The Continuum Companion to Twentieth-Century Theatre, ed. Colin Chambers (London, 2002).