By Finley Anderson, James Beckinsale and Hannah Richardson (Year 11)
verbatim | vəːˈbeɪtɪm |
late 15c., from Medieval Latin verbatim “word for word,” from Latin verbum “word”. As an adjective from 1737.
adverb: in exactly the same words as were used originally: subjects were instructed to recall the passage verbatim.
adjective: copied, quoted, or translated in exactly the same words as were used originally: a verbatim account | your quotations must be verbatim.
Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre. It presents events and themes to an audience through the telling of true stories; using the words of people who have experienced them.
Verbatim theatre is often used to present an issue, raise questions, and bring to light important human experiences and personal testimonies which would otherwise go unnoticed, lost in history or simply forgotten. This form of theatre places emphasis on the seemingly ordinary, preserving stories in a way that reveals their significance and allows them to be shared with the world.
Year 10 began their verbatim unit by studying scenes from ‘Minefields and Miniskirts’, a verbatim play by Terence O’Connell, adapted from the book by Siobhan McHugh, which reveals the extraordinary experiences of ordinary women during the Vietnam War. This play records various accounts of women who held roles in the war effort – everything from entertainers to nurses – presenting a collage of true stories in the women’s own words. This play gave the Year 10 class insight into the structure, process, and brutal honesty of verbatim theatre.
The class then had the opportunity to create their own group verbatim performances; telling the stories of their parents at fifteen years old. This was a four-step process, beginning with a filmed interview of the subject. Each group would have formulated a list of questions as a guide to ask in the interview, focussing on the parent’s life as a fifteen-year-old and how it contrasts with their own.
The next step required the students to transcribe the interview – writing down their parent’s answers word for word, as well as their mannerisms and temperament. The students in each group then compiled and edited their parent’s stories into one cohesive script. It was challenging for the students to choose which words to use in their script, whilst staying true to their parents’ telling of the stories.
Then came the research stage, where the groups looked into the time in which their parents lived, in order to incorporate costumes, music, and pop-culture references into the performances. The final stage of the process was the performance itself, which came with the opportunity for the students to present their creations to their parents.
As we presented our performances back to parents, lots of nostalgia was brought upon them. Provided we played an accurate representation, our parents felt like they were re-watching small snippets of their childhood. As I played my mum, I had to change my mannerisms and even the way I walked to be more feminine. The reaction was one of astonishment and embarrassment as my mother watched her childhood and relived those memories.
– Jim Beckinsale
My personal take-away from this creative process was how fun it was – researching the 80’s, writing the scripts, then finally performing for our eager parents! The whole process was full of laugher and connections we get from performing and creating. I not only feel closer to Hannah and Jim, but closer to my father, and more connected with myself. This task has boosted my confidence and has led me to participate in the school musical this year (Matilda). It was a huge pleasure being able to work with the wonderful people in my group, and amazing to see how much confidence the others in our class gained after the night. Of course, it couldn’t have happened without the amazing Ms. Seymour making the whole experience one worthwhile of remembrance.
– Finley Anderson
Our class hadn’t had the opportunity to perform for an audience until now, so these experiences were new, exciting and special for everyone involved. I loved the whole process of creating this performance because we had so much creative freedom. We were able to be directors, scriptwriters, designers, and actors – free to manage everything; lighting and costumes, staging scenes, mastering our parent’s mannerisms and capturing their personality and story within our characters. During the live performance, I thoroughly enjoyed the reactions of laughter and surprise whilst acting as my dad and telling his stories. It was rewarding to see his astonishment and enjoyment and to allow him to reminisce while watching his words, from an interview, come to life on stage. I had so much fun expanding my abilities in all areas of creating theatre and am so thankful for the opportunity we had to share our parents’ stories with them in such a unique way.
– Hannah Richardson
Word etymology via Online Etymology Dictionary (2021 Douglas Harper) https://www.etymonline.com/
Dictionary definition via Oxford Dictionary of English