In order to create an authentic piece of varbatim theatre, sometimes referred to as documentary theatre,
it is vital to build a strong connection to the world of the play. In this practical workshop, I will share my personal practice and process of creating verbatim theatre, based on my personal experience with
my verbatim plays, The Countess (UK) and In The Tall Grass (USA).
The verbatim technique is a form of documentary theatre in which plays are constructed from the precise words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic. This technique allows you to deliver rich authentic writing by capturing the natural rhythm of a contributor's speech, absorbing all the textures, sounds and fabric of real life.
adverb & adjective
in exactly the same words as were used originally.
In this practical masterclass, I will share my experiences, tips, and techniques, with the purpose of inspiring an immersive approach to playwriting through synergy with the world around us. Participants will gain an understanding of the verbatim technique, including the ethics, practicalities, and logistics of creating a verbatim play.
I will share my own process, from identifying a good story, the intensive research period, how to build relationships with potential contributors, how to conduct a great interview, and finally on to transcribing, editing, and shaping the text to form a dramatic piece of theatre.
I will discuss, specifically, the different practices I employed on both The Countess and In The Tall Grass, sharing raw interview recordings and footage, as well as clips from performances of both pieces. We will also explore and discuss well-known verbatim works, as well as screening scenes from popular plays, such as London Road and The Laramie Project.
I am passionate about this organic method of theatre-making and storytelling and am excited to be able to share my experiences with other writers. Verbatim plays attract high-profile criticism and spark impassioned debate - it’s this ability to cut to the core of a story and resonate with an audience that makes it a powerful way to engage with people and tell true stories on stage.
Delivered as a full-day session this workshop begins with an introduction to verbatim theatre, followed by a detailed presentation of the practical and technical process of creating a piece of verbatim theatre. Famous works are screened and discussed and participants will experiment with some of the practical techniques employed by verbatim playwrights. Handouts and visual aids are provided.
In addition to the content provided in my one-day masterclass, on this extended workshop participants will benefit from practical exercises outside of the classroom, including a period of observational research and immersive writing. Participants will also begin the process of creating their own piece of verbatim theatre.
CASE STUDY / Office of Cultural Affairs, Dallas, Texas, USA
In May 2016 I delivered this workshop for the City of Dallas at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. 100% of participants surveyed said that the workshop covered useful material, was well organised and included useful visual aids and handouts. Overall, 100% of participants surveyed rated the workshop as 'Excellent'.
"It was so well planned and executed; a variety of tools were offered to help me continue working on my writing skills, specifically for verbatim theatre."
"Interesting content. Paul was very knowledgeable on the subject. I really enjoyed it."
Nick Hern Books
National Theatre, London