Mariana Bennett, 25 January 2015

Mariana Bennett: I have an idea for making a piece of theatre that deals with the

torture of political prisoners in Portugal during Salazar's Estado Novo. How to go about

it? What questions should I be asking myself throughout the creation process?

People present: Mariana Bennett, Amy Clare Tasker, Lizzie Crarer, Eve Leigh and

Tassos Stevens, among others.

Here are some questions/advice/ideas given.

Being sensitive about the events, people they involve. Important to keep asking

questions throughout the process.

Don't start off making the point you want to make - the beauty lies in exploring it, of not

knowing exactly what you want to do with it do. Start with just an idea/subject matter,

don't start to immediately manipulate it.

Important to think about what is meant by justice in this case. Do people want to talk

about it? Not want to talk about it? Do people want to know about it? Or not?

Key to understand why one wants to make a piece of theatre based on real events.

Who do you want the audience to be? Who do you want to tell this story to? For what

purpose? Why do I want to share this particular story?

Key to keep asking: why am I making this piece?

How do you want the audience to engage with the work? Directly? Before or


Community workshops can be a good way to discuss material presented on stage.

Using technology as a support? Have a webseries? Direct engagement in some way?

A forum?

Investigate & research before deciding on a theatrical shape or form - letting the raw

material guide you.

Important to acknowledge/think about how much distance to put between yourself and

the sensitive material, both as an artist and individual. Subjective/objective question.

Would be interesting to look at the psychology of who did the torturing and why. What

makes people withstand torture? Mind over body connection - interesting angle to


Important to find people to bounce ideas off of, find someone to work with who is as

passionate about the subject as you.

Lizzie Crarer talked of her Heroism project & Dorothy Lawrence - how to write with

archival material? How to represent voices of history in live performance? Important to

think about how to honor the facts & being open about acknowledging where the line

between facts & artistic license is.

Important to think about how to deal with abuse in rehearsal, how to keep the

performer mentally and physically safe throughout the process.

The audience:

What is the goal?

Think about the journey & how people might deal with it and/or what stops people from

dealing with the topic?

Making a list of things that could go wrong and of things that you are scared might


Emotional detachment & checking of self when dealing with sensitive material -

honesty is key.

Important to be aware of your own personal connection/relation to the material

throughout the process.

Process of translation - source material language - how does this change the

material/piece in anyway?

The challenge with political theatre is: as an audience member, how am I supposed to

respond to this?

Important to think of the impact of sharing a story like this might have.

Think about building remove into the play - as the danger is for the piece to be

superficial and not bring about any sort of reflection/discussion.

Think about whether to bring out the universal aspect of the topic or whether to keep it

within a very specific context.

What are the potential connections that an audience can make? Think about active

steps that one can make to open up the audience to facilitate discussion, not forcing

them into it.

Highlight the differences with staging? Using distancing techniques. Humor. Breaking

the immersion in literal representation - offering a way for an audience to connect to

the material. Acknowledge that the audience is in the room & part of the process.

V. useful discussion that's given me the impetus to move forward with this idea so

thank you to all who contributed!


real events, abuse, political theatre, Audience, Portugal, torture, audience, verbatim,

Political theatre, historical