Documentary theatre

Plays

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.

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).