Theatre Collaboration with Members of the Public

Convener(s): Michelle Read

Participants: Jessica Manley, Beccy Owen, Martin McLeon, Sara, Mark Trezone + 12 or so

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Starting Points: ‘Real People’, Stories, Themes, ‘Left-turns’, Degrees of Collaboration, Artist and Participant (as artist).

Many problems with verbatim theatre – Truth claims, issue of authenticity, didactic, manipulate audience into one particular POV.

ref Talking to Terrorists (Robin Soans),

The Laramie Project (Moises Kaufman), Tribunal plays.

What about people involved more in the process of making work; involved in workshops not just as source of stories / research? Even as possible performers ref: Rimini Protokoll in Berlin and Quarantine in Manchester.

Qu: Who is the audience? Who is the piece for?

For general audience.

Ethics: people’s ownership of their stories.

Clarity needed from outset.

Audience as participants: examples Jonathan Kay fooling work involves audience, Nic Greene Trilogy show. Coney Theatre – participatory and interactive work.

Comment that Trilogy uses its three hour length to engage the audience to participate. It was pointed out that the piece started out as a 40 min scratch piece and people still participated. “I joined in because I agreed with the show”. Idea of agreement.

Coney use game formats but also draw on dramaturgical ideas, objectives etc.

With audience participants it’s about helping them to ‘opt in’, getting them to ‘buy in’. 

All process involves planning on how to collaborate – about making participants comfortable. What is the invitation that is being extended? Trust. Clarifying expectation? Safe environment rather than vacuum, ‘in the moment permission-giving’. Roles and titles can be barriers.

Comment on outreach work as an example of talking to members of public. ‘you’re supposed to know what you’re aiming for before you go in, but does this mean that you try to fit people to your schema, or if you don’t have an aim are you just collecting stories looking for ideas ‘and then I’m off’?

Participation can be a transformative experience for people.

How do you evaluate?

Not just looking for ‘stories’, may be philosophy of life, experience, area of expertise.

Participant has growing responsibility as their involvement deepens.

Do participants need emotional back-up?

Authorship? Down to degree of collaboration. Flexibility of collaboration.

Apologies to all involved, this was a more varied debate than represented here. I called the meeting and then tried to take notes, which didn’t work so well.