The genealogy of contemporary verbatim theatre
Shifting dramaturgies and performances of truthfulness
in Performing the testimonial
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Through the construction of a genealogical account of the verbatim play, this chapter offers a new reading of some of the key historical developments in the evolution of this form of theatre, drawing on some of the most influential verbatim plays that emerged between the early 1990s and the early 2000s in the UK, United States and Australia. Focusing on the changing use and meaning of character and direct address in these plays, the chapter considers how different verbatim dramaturgies engage with the promissory act of truth telling and how these plays have adopted different modes of enactment and characterisation in order to produce certain forms of audience spectatorship. By examining the ways in which truth telling and testimony appear in verbatim theatre, the chapter moves on to examine what the concept of authenticity comes to signify when applied to various verbatim practices and how the promise of authenticity is performed through certain dramaturgical choices and modes of acting. The chapter concludes by offering an analysis of My Name Is Rachel Corrie (Rickman and Viner, 2005). Like many other examples of verbatim theatre, the use of reiterated personal correspondence and fact in this play does not, it is argued, ultimately produce a form of witnessing. Rather, the play becomes something of a hybrid form that sits somewhat uneasily between the real and the fictive, the authentic ‘reality’ of the event and the dramaturgical choices of the writers.

Performing the testimonial

Rethinking verbatim dramaturgies

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