Verbatim theatre has become fashionable lately with Alecky Blythe’s National Theatre hit London Road having been turned into a film. I first encountered it when some of our A-level Theatre Studies students chose David Hare’s The Permanent Way as the script for their exam performance piece, although it has been a theatre form since the 1940s and some would argue that its origins go back even further that.
The term ‘verbatim’ refers to the origins of the play; the words of real people are recorded or transcribed during an interview or research process. These are then edited to create a performance where the actors take on the roles of the real individuals and use only their words.
When I’ve explored this with students, their response is enthusiastic and extremely positive. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the pressure to create dialogue that sounds realistic and meaningful is removed as someone else has done this work; all the students have to do is to bring to bear on the words their theatrical skills. Secondly, the students are capable of taking great responsibility for the real words of real people. They acknowledge and understand the fact that this is the testimony of real people in real situations and that feels significant and special to them.
Please note I have divided the scheme into sessions, not lessons. Most of these ‘sessions’ (after Session 1) will probably take a week of lessons to complete but you should use your own judgement on that, of course.
Number of lessons: 5