Amy golding, 25 January 2015

People: Beatie, Doug, Ben, Amy, Fio (there were more I forgot to get names sorry!)

This session was looking at ethics related to the use of other people's stories/testimonies in making theatre. We also ended up discussing verbatim techniques.

There were two people (myself - Amy Golding and Ben) making verbatim shows with care leavers. One around politics and one around mental health and immigration. We discussed the importance of anonymity of the people sharing their stories with us due to safeguarding and potential repercussions amongst peers or with service providers. Names being changed at transcript stage.

Transparency of process was discussed, the importance of an ongoing conversation about this throughout the making of the show. We discussed working with people who had not seen or experienced verbatim theatre before and how it can be a difficult concept to grasp what it will be like seeing/hearing your own story on stage. People may or may not want to see the show, and some may have extreme reactions to it. It is important to remember there is no blanket rule for dealing with people during a verbatim process, each individual will respond differently. We discussed the importance of a long term relationship with people who share their stories, not ‘in and out’ interviews but a sustained relationship that is trusting and respectful. Respecting the wishes of people sharing stories is of utmost importance, if they explicitly say they

don't want something included, don't include it. People may want things taken out that could affect their safety. Sometimes it's about whose watching - I discussed Mamela, a verbatim production I made with Curious Monkey in South Africa, where there were certain things one of the women didn't want to say in front of her parents and people who knew her but was happy to put the cut sections back in when it toured the UK as no one knew her over here.

We discussed the ethics of recording interviews with participants and service providers, we decided it may be possible (legally) to record but probably not to use in a show without consent. (any legal advice on this from anyone?)

We talked about different processes and thinking about who are you making the piece for. Is the most important thing in a process sometimes that it is a cathartic, healing process for those who have a need to tell their story?

We discussed the ethics of who can tell these stories. Examples of shows were discussed where adults played children's words (Monkey Bars), all male cast playing the testimonies of women (Some loved, some hated this experience of watching). It can be provocative and risky and allowing an audience to see stories from a different perspective can be really interesting. But is it ethical? Is it truthful to the stories told?

A conversation about verbatim techniques. Learning lines vs recorded delivery method (actors with headphones mimicking voices exactly) The in the moment, realness of recorded delivery takes away any objectifying of the words that study of a script and character may result in. Beatie shared experiences of working with Alecke Blythe using different verbatim techniques, recorded delivery was her favourite because of this immediacy, in the moment performance.

We discussed the role of the writer in verbatim and examples when the writer is present as a character to frame the process within the piece. There were questions around whether this presents a bias or agenda. Should a process be driven by the stories that happen to emerge from the interviews/collecting of testimonies or a writers angle? both?

There was a suggestion to talk to Jen Harvie (either at exeter or Queen Mary's) who did a session with a company on their verbatim process specifically around ethics.

A very interesting and inspiring session.. if anyone else wants to talk to me about verbatim theatre I am keen to continue the conversation.

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ethics, Theatre, THEATRE, real, delivery, testimonies, record, stories, verbatim, theatre