Verbatim theatre


audio 8

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Martin Sheen lead an all-star cast in a powerful portrait of an American civil rights struggle, written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar) and directed by Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men).

In November 2008, California’s Proposition 8 stripped the freedom to marry away from gay and lesbian couples. Now, two of the nation’s most renowned attorneys, under the auspices of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, have joined forces to challenge Proposition 8 under the United States Constitution. “8” faithfully recreates the progression of the historic 2010 federal trial through original court transcripts and interviews conducted with the plaintiffs, as their stories are brought to life before a live audience. Exclusive interviews include: - Dustin Lance Black and Rob Reiner, playwright and director of “8” - David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs challenging Proposition 8 - Backstage interview montage with actors George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Jamie Lee Curtis, John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and James Pickens, Jr. A full-cast performance featuring: Brad Pitt as Chief Judge Vaughn Walker George Clooney as David Boies Martin Sheen as Theodore B. Olson Kevin Bacon as Charles Cooper Jamie Lee Curtis as Sandy Stier Christine Lahti as Kris Perry John C. Reilly as David Blankenhorn Jane Lynch as Maggie Gallagher Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Dr. Ilan Meyer Matthew Morrison as Paul Katami Chris Colfer as Ryan Kendall Yeardley Smith as Dr. Nancy Cott Matt Bomer as Jeff Zarrillo George Takei as Dr. William Tam Rory O’Malley as Dr. Gregory Herek Cleve Jones as Evan Wolfson James Pickens, Jr. as Dr. Gary Segura Jansen Panettiere as Elliott Perry Bridger Zadina as Spencer Perry Vanessa Garcia as Clerk Campbell Brown as Broadcast Journalist Directed by Rob Reiner. Recorded before a live audience at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, Los Angeles on March 3, 2012.

Featuring: Kevin Bacon, Matt Bomer, Campbell Brown, George Clooney, Chris Colfer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Vanessa Garcia, Cleve Jones, Christine Lahti, Jane Lynch, Matthew Morrison, Rory O'Malley, Jansen Panettiere, James Pickens Jr., Brad Pitt, John C. Reilly, Martin Sheen, Yeardley Smith, George Takei, Bridger Zadina

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 Bordertown

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Culture Clash brashly explores the San Diego-Tijuana region through satire and humor. Bordertown is based upon interviews the trio conducted with more than 100 people from both sides of the border and from every walk of life. Interviewees include right wing talk show host and former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock, Sheriff Bill Kollender, Filipino and Ugandan immigrants, Navy personnel, a high school counselor, a border guard, punk rockers, homeless children, transvestites, and factory workers.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Culture Clash: Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza.

Featuring: Culture Clash: Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Siguenza


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's Cruising is a verbatim-theatre comedy about pensioners going in search of love. It was first performed at the Bush Theatre, London, in a co-production between the theatre and Recorded Delivery on 7 June 2006.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery, and first seen in her previous fringe show, Come Out Eli (Arcola Theatre, 2003). The play is composed entirely from recorded interviews, edited and replicated on stage with meticulous verisimilitude.

Maureen is a pensioner in search of passion. After 33 blind dates, 12 cruises and one broken heart, she is still determined to find Mr Right. On the other hand, her best friend Margaret has had no shortage of suitors. Jim, Jack and Geoff were all in the running, but it’s Geoff from Shrewsbury who gets her to the altar. But Maureen has her doubts. Is Margaret just on the rebound and, more importantly, what will happen to her pension?

The Bush Theatre premiere was directed by Matthew Dunster and designed by Anna Bliss Scully. The cast was Jason Barnett, Alecky Blythe, Ian Dunn, Miranda Hart (playing Maureen) and Claire Lichie.

The Girlfriend Experience

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Alecky Blythe's The Girlfriend Experience is a verbatim-theatre play about a seaside brothel that specialises in services to an older clientele. It was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 18 September 2008.

The play was created and performed using the verbatim-theatre techniques developed by Blythe with her company Recorded Delivery, and previously seen in her plays Come Out Eli (Arcola Theatre, 2003) and Cruising (Bush Theatre, 2006). The play is composed entirely from conversations recorded inside an actual brothel, edited and replicated on stage with meticulous verisimilitude. (Some names and place names in the script were changed.)

Tessa has set up a business: a brothel where mature women specialise in offering the ‘Girlfriend Experience’, a surprisingly caring and sympathetic service for their clientele. As the women (Amber, Poppy and Suzie) stoically strive to make a living in a competitive market, their personal lives start to crumble. The quartet reveal their thwarted desires, including a chance at a real monogamous relationship and their feelings about being ‘girlfriends’ themselves. There is a short introductory voice-over spoken by a character called Alecky, which serves to explain the verbatim-theatre technique used in the play.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and designed by Lizzie Clachan, with Debbie Chazen as Tessa, Esther Coles as Amber, Lu Corfield as Poppy, Beatie Edney as Suzie and Alex Lowe as Man (playing various punters).

The production transferred to the Young Vic, London, on 29 July 2009 (previews from 24 July).

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

Home (Fall)

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Nadia Fall's Home is a verbatim drama that combines real testimonials with music and song to explore the issue of homelessness amongst young people in London. It was first performed in The Shed, a temporary studio venue at the National Theatre, London, on 9 August 2013 (previews from 7 August).

The play's action is set in an inner-city high-rise hostel for the homeless, Target East. We encounter the hostel's residents and workers, each speaking to an unseen interviewer. Amongst them are: Bullet, who doesn’t want to call a hostel home; Eritrean Girl, who was smuggled into the country in a lorry; Singing Boy, who dreams of seeing his name in lights; and Garden Boy, who just wants to feel safe.

In an introduction to the published script (Nick Hern Books, 2013), Nadia Fall writes: 'I carried out interviews with the residents and some staff at [one of the largest hostels in East London] between autumn 2012 and spring 2013, collecting over thirty hours of interviews that have formed this play. ... I hope this play and the accompanying research and writing carried out by Esta [Orchard, Fall's friend and collaborator, and an active campaigner for young people] will give a voice to the all-too-often silenced young people of our capital'.

The National Theatre premiere was directed by Nadia Fall and designed by Ruth Sutcliffe, with music by Tom Green and Shakka. It was performed by Michaela Coel, Jonathan Coote, Trevor Michael Georges, Kadiff Kirwan, Ashley McGuire, Grace Savage, Shakka, Antonia Thomas and Toby Wharton.

audio In the Name of Security

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

The Trial of Alger Hiss, The Trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer. At the height of the cold War, American democracy was challenged by the anti-Communist atmosphere of the McCarthy era. In the Name of Security re-opens three famous spy cases that rocked America between 1948 and 1954: Alger Hiss, Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. Each hour-long program combines dramatic re-enactments based on original trial transcripts, archival material, new evidence, the latest assessments of American historians and scientists, and the commentaries of relatives and friends of the accused.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring John de Lancie, William Frankfather, Arthur Hanket, Ella Joyce, Richard Hoyt Miller, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Pietz, Tom Virtue and Alan Wilder,

Featuring: John de Lancie, William Frankfather, Arthur Hanket, Ella Joyce, Richard Hoyt Miller, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Pietz, Tom Virtue, Alan Wilder

Into Thy Hands

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In 1611 John Donne was living in a restless, changing world, in which a new Bible, a new science, and a decadent court tore at longstanding loyalties and deeply-held convictions.

Unceasingly protean himself, Donne lived several lives at once, writing political tracts as well as popular songs, translating the Song of Solomon at the same time as translating Galileo, and finding his rise in theological circles impeded by his colourful rakish past.

At various times a politician, soldier, poet, musician, lawyer, courtier, theologian and cleric; a man born into one of England's most distinguished Catholic families who would die as one of its most renowned Protestants; Donne was always becoming something new. Into Thy Hands is a portrait of this fascinating, eloquent and brilliant man, and his struggle to be faithful to all parts of his body and soul.

First presented in 2011 at Wilton’s Music Hall as part of Jericho House’s 1611 Utopia season, Into Thy Hands is a play about faith, sex and the translation of the Bible.

‘I Told My Mum I Was Going on an R.E. Trip …’

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

What do you know about abortion? What do you think about it? Why can we debate it as an idea, but not talk about it as an experience?
With one in three women in the UK having had an abortion I Told My Mum I Was Going on an R.E. Trip . . . explores what seems to be one of society’s last taboos. A play written for a young, multi-talented female ensemble, I Told My Mum I Was Going on an R.E. Trip . . . uses verbatim text, live music, beats and rhyme to portray the stories of real women who’ve experienced pregnancy and abortion. This funny, frank, and moving play is about as far from a run-of-the-mill sexual health lecture as is imaginable.

Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre which is based on the spoken words of real people. In its strictest form, verbatim theatre-makers use real people’s words exclusively, and take this testimony from recorded interviews. However, the form is more malleable than this, and writers have frequently combined interview material with invented scenes, or used reported and remembered speech rather than recorded testimony. There is an overlap between verbatim theatre and documentary theatre, and other kinds of fact-based drama, such as testimonial theatre (in which an individual works with a writer to tell their own story) and tribunal theatre (edited from court transcripts). In the United Kingdom, the term ‘verbatim’ specifically relates to the use of spoken testimony, whereas ‘documentary’ encompasses other found sources, such as newspaper articles, diaries and letters. However, in America ‘verbatim’ is not used, with ‘documentary’ being the preferred term. When looking for verbatim playtexts, the reader will often find them conflated with other documentary forms.

Documentary theatre has a rich heritage in comparison to the relative infancy of verbatim theatre. Erwin Piscator’s Trotz alledem! (In Spite of Everything! Berlin, 1925) is widely acknowledged as the first stage documentary. The play was a revue about the Communist Party and Piscator utilised new technologies which included creating montages using projected newsreel footage. Trotz alledem! also featured recorded speeches, news-extracts, photographs and film sequences from the First World War. Piscator went on to direct some of the most respected German documentary plays such as Rolf Hochhuth’s Der Stellvertreter (The Representative, known in America as The Deputy), which premiered in West Berlin in 1963, Heinar Kipphardt’s In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964), and Peter Weiss’s The Investigation (1965). These German documentary productions had a great influence on British documentary theatre, particularly the work of Joan Littlewood. Her production, Oh What a Lovely War! chronicled the First World War through songs and documents of the period. Its importance was immediately recognised, with the production hailed by the Observer as ‘The most important theatrical event of the decade’.

The development of verbatim theatre, rather like Piscator’s use of new film projection technologies, is closely linked to a simple technological development – the invention of the portable cassette recorder. This enabled the voices of individuals to be recorded in their own environment. Mobile interviews could take place which extended the dramatic possibilities of verbatim theatre. The first verbatim productions were directed by Peter Cheeseman who was artistic director of the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent from 1962 – 1984. Cheeseman’s verbatim work at Stoke was not only influenced by the left-wing documentary theatre of Joan Littlewood, but also by the radio documentary tradition, particularly the radio ballads of Charles Parker. Central to Parker’s work was the prominence of working class voices in the broadcasts. One of Cheeseman’s most notable productions, which can be regarded the first verbatim play, was Fight for Shelton Bar (1974), which was part of a campaign fighting against the closure of a major steelworks in the heart of Stoke, and was performed in the city to an audience of many of the ex-workers.

Over the past two decades verbatim theatre has come to occupy a central place on the British stage, and is seen as one of the most incisive forms of political theatre. It has moved from the fringes to the mainstream, with some of the highest profile theatres staging verbatim plays. Particularly noteworthy exponents of the form include David Hare, whose verbatim (or at least part-verbatim) plays The Permanent Way (2003), Stuff Happens (2004) and The Power of Yes (2009) were all performed at the National Theatre; director Max Stafford-Clark and writer Robin Soans, who have collaborated on A State Affair (2000), Talking to Terrorists (2005) and Mixed Up North (2009); and in particular the campaigning work of director Nicholas Kent and the Guardian journalist Richard Norton Taylor at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, North London. Kent and Norton-Taylor’s work has included a series of tribunal plays, including Nuremberg (1996), Bloody Sunday (2005), and perhaps their most successful production: The Colour of Justice: The Stephen Lawrence Enquiry (1999). All these were edited scenes from court cases. Kent has also collaborated with Gillian Slovo on Guantanamo: ‘Honour Bound to Defend Freedom’ (with Victoria Brittain, 2004) and most recently on The Riots (2011), which was the first theatrical response to the riots in the summer of 2011.

Verbatim theatre has arisen as the medium chosen to depict major societal issues. For example, army deaths in Philip Ralph’s Deep Cut (2008) and Fiona Evans’s Geoff Dead: Disco for Sale (2008); prostitution in Esther Wilson’s Unprotected (2006), Alecky Blythe’s The Girlfriend Experience (2008); murder in Tanika Gupta’s Gladiator Games (2005) and London Road (2012) and perhaps most predominantly, a surge of work on the continuing issue of the war in Iraq: Norton-Taylor’s Justifying War (2003), Called to Account (2007) and Tactical Questioning (2011), Gregory Burke’s Black Watch (2007) and Steve Gilroy’s The Motherland (2008).

Verbatim theatre has also proliferated internationally. Interested readers should explore American plays such as Moises Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde (1997) and in particular The Laramie Project (2000) and The Laramie Project Ten Years Later (2009). Anna Deavere Smith is also one of the most high profile documentary makers. Her work includes Building Bridges, Not Walls (1985) and Fires in the Mirror (1992). Similarly important is Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s celebrated play The Exonerated (2002), composed of interviews with individuals who have been released from death row. Australia has also experienced a boom in verbatim productions. The first verbatim production was Paul Brown’s Aftershocks (1993), featuring interviews in the aftermath of the devastating Newcastle earthquake. Works by Alana Valentine including Run Rabbit Run (2004) and Parramatta Girls (2007) have also raised the profile of Australian verbatim theatre.

In addition to the plays themselves, over recent years there have been a number of useful publications on verbatim theatre. These include Alison Forsyth and Chris Megson’s Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present (2009) which is an edited collection of chapters on many different aspects of documentary and verbatim theatre; Will Hammond and Dan Steward’s Verbatim, Verbatim: Contemporary Documentary Theatre (2009) which includes interviews with verbatim writers and directors, Tom Cantrell’s Acting in Documentary Theatre (2013) explores how actors approach playing real people in verbatim productions, and Paul Brown’s Verbatim Theatre: The Art of Authenticity (2010), which focuses on Australian verbatim theatre.

courtesy of Dr Tom Cantrell, Lecturer in Drama, University of York, 2012.