Speaking about Reality: Verbatim techniques in contemporary Finnish documentary theatre

  • Laura Gröndahl Helsinki University
Keywords: Documentary, verbatim, political theatre, postdramatic, performative, autheticity

Abstract

During the past years, different modes of documentary theatre have gained popularity. A distinctive feature there is the use of verbatim texts, borrowed directly from authentic documents like recorded interviews or minutes, including sometimes even coincidental stuttering of the original speaker. In this article I analyse the verbatim-technique as part of the post-dramatic performance strategies. It makes it possible to focus on the materiality of language as a texture as well as an instrument for meaning making and communicating contents. It also gives a more active role to the audience. When texts are explicitly framed as authentic, and reiterated with exaggerated precision, the attention is drawn to the performative repetition of the speech acts. Thus, the verbatim performances do not so much refer to reality “as it is”, but rather stage acts of making claims about something we call reality. Borrowing Carol Martin, the contemporary generation of documentary theatre makers aspire to make relevant claims about social reality even if they use postmodern strategies and admit that truth and reality are not within their reach. I will discuss different strategies of using the verbatim techniques in documentary performances. I theorize the subject using well-known international examples, move on to a short overview of recent documentary theatre in Finland, and examine closer four cases: Parliament III in Ryhmäteatteri in 2015, Towards Work at Kouvolan Teatteri in 2014, Ruusula Street 10 at Q-teatteri in 2014, and My Palestine at Teatteri Takomo in 2015.

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Performances and videos

Dadu, Noora 2015. Minun Palestiinani (My Palestine) Teatteri Takomo, premiere 28 March 2015. Performance seen 9 April 2015.

Haapala Laura - Linnapuomi Satu 2014. Työtä päin (Towards Work). Kouvolan teatteri, premiere 8 November 2014. Performance seen 13 November 2014, and a video recording at disposal.

Kuparinen, Susanna and team 2015. Eduskunta III (Parliament III). Ryhmäteatteri, Helsinginkatu stage, premiere 26 September 2015. Performance seen 24 September 2015.

Eduskunta III, tervetulosanat” ("Parliament III, Welcome Words") TV-program on YLE Teema, 6 August 2016, 20.00—20.15.

Kuparinen, Susanna and team 2015. Eduskunta III (Parliament III). Yle Teema, 6 August 2016, 20.15—22.15.

Smith, Anna Deavere. Fires in the Mirror, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnkrUJny0CE accessed 22 November 2016

Smith, Anna Deavere. Let Me Down Easy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ1OyKy9FwM, accessed 4 October 2016.

Wikström, Jonna 2014. Ruusulankatu 10 (Ruusula Street 10) Q-teatteri, stage Puolikuu, premiere 11 September 2014. Performance seen 17 September 2014 in Q-teatteri, and a video recording at disposal.

Wikström, Jonna 2014. Ruusulankatu 10 (Ruusula Street 10). Trailer https://vimeo.com/67797956, accessed 4 october 2016.

Published
2017-12-29
How to Cite
Gröndahl, L. (2017). Speaking about Reality: Verbatim techniques in contemporary Finnish documentary theatre. Nordic Theatre Studies, 28(2), 71-96. https://doi.org/10.7146/nts.v28i2.25601
Section
Articles thematic section