As skilled communicators, actors understand the potency of language and the powerful and damaging role it has played in shaping existing popular opinion.
As public figures, actors have a potentially larger and more diverse audience than other lobby groups. Often the curious and undecided will approach a performance such as ours more readily than a lecture or newspaper article. The plays arevnot only be performed at typical theatre spaces but also in schools, youth centres, churches, city halls or community centres which are highly accessible to everyone.
Photo: Sophia Keil
In much the same way that a documentary film weaves together fragments of cinematic evidence to create a non-fiction story, the documentary play locates its dramatic text in language recorded from real life.
Interview and court trial transcripts, print media articles and broadcast transcripts, recordings of live speeches and public hearings - all these sources of the contemporary spoken word can be used to create a script about actual rather than imaginary, events.
The rough material gathered during an initial research phase is eventually edited and sculpted by a playwright. Applying dramatic conventions to language that is unconventional for the stage, the playwright shapes the amorphous footage into a theatrical form.
People who are interviewed during the research phase become characters in the play. They are represented by actors. The world from which the documentary Ianguage is plucked becomes a set upon a stage.
The loose association of ideas, events and voices are sewn together with a narrative lining so that ultimately the audience experiences fragments of documentary material as a story, or, at the very least, as a well developed exposure of an issue or a social problem.
A theatre performance in this form "addresses the spectator directly as an accomplice and a watcher-hearer" (Patrice Pavis: Dictionary of Theatre). Through stripping away dramatic illusion, this theatre form is "essential" storytelling. The official name for this kind of work is ‘verbatim theatre’ and is perfectly suited to allowing the hidden members of a ‘multicultural’ society to speak. Or to use the words of Bertolt Brecht: "Anger and discontent only are not sufficient, there must be practical consequences."