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Documentary Theatre

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Michael Balfour

on 6 May 2014

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Transcript of Documentary Theatre

Documentary Theatre
Comprehensive examples of documentary-based work throughout the history of theatre

For example Phrynichus factual drama, The Capture of Miletus, based on interviews with soldiers in the Persian War and created a scandal in 472 BC. Playwright was fined and the play was banned.

Medieval Mystery Plays

Shakespeare's historical plays
20th Century history

Realistic theatre of actuality -

1920s Russian Agit Prop, Piscator (who used direct address, photos, film, newspapers in performance), Brecht didactic plays

1930s Living Newspapers (Russia/Federal Arts Project, US)

1960s Peter Cheesman (Victoria Theatre, Stroke on Trent)

1970s Boal's Newspaper Theatre (counter narratives)

Vagina Monologue

1. Excess of fiction, marginalising of truth
2. Critique justice
3. Recreate historical events
4. To add additional accounts to traditional views of events
5. To explore/investigate notions of fiction and truth

Representing the 'real'
Factual, vernacular
Interviews, documents, reports and newspapers as source material for play.
Play consists of edited extracts not based on fiction.
Acting style is a form of reportage, presenting a story rather than 'enacting' it.
Genre intersects with journalism, theatre and political activism

Accurate representation of the facts; trustworthy; reliable; an authentic account; from Greek authentēs one who acts independently.
Post 9-11; War on Terror

Dramatic turn to documentary/verbatim theatre in years following 9/11
Guantanamo Bay: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom; Stuff Happens; Justifying War (about Hutton enquiry); The Private Room.
Growing interest in integrating verbatim with bolder aesthetic visions - Blackwatch

3 things like to explore:

1. Introduce what documentary theatre is and why it has persisted throughout theatre history.
2. Explore different examples (forms and styles) of documentary theatre in contemporary practice.
3. Consider the question: Does documentary theatre get closer to respresenting reality than drama/fiction?
Alexander Gardiner (1865)
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