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Imitations of authenticity: the uses of verbatim

Kinghorn, Shane (2017) Imitations of authenticity: the uses of verbatim. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This submission interrogates recent and current verbatim theatre practice, spanning the period of its resurgence in the late 1990s to 2016. The seven written pieces, comprising six articles and one book chapter, that make up this PhD feature five examples of UK-based, and one example of eastern European verbatim theatre practice, produced between 1999 (The Colour of Justice, Richard Norton-Taylor) and 2016 (5 Guys Chillin’, Peter Darney). My research, taken together, highlights the distinctions in verbatim practice shown in various productions in order to extend knowledge and understanding within comparative discourse. The examples chosen exhibit welcome degrees of aesthetic flair in a field of practice that, in its engagement with urgent, real-world issues and debates, and adherence to the veracity of verbatim testimonies, is typically self-effacing about its theatricality. The title of this PhD expresses the paradox that ‘authenticity’ can be constructed through theatrical apparatus, and indicates the premise that verbatim material is a fundamentally transportable substance, adaptable to disparate contexts and conditions of practice. The majority of publications evaluate live performances of the featured work, and incorporate interviews with verbatim practitioners, ranging from established artists Alecky Blythe and DV8 to Dah Theatre, disseminating their contradistinctive methodologies. This submission thus exposes innovative approaches to writing, rehearsal, performance and reception, in order to identify, examine and challenge the debates concerned with ‘authenticity’ and ‘truth’ central to extant critical discourse. The insights I have drawn from practitioners’ first-hand accounts of their practice evidence unique dramaturgical strategies that destabilise established verbatim conventions, contributing alternative methodologies to the field. I have drawn attention to examples of verbatim theatre that have pushed the form from familiar treatments of verbatim material towards the formulation of promiscuous dramaturgies, in order to interrogate and expand applications and definitions of ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ in verbatim practice and criticism. This contribution to knowledge will be to international theatre scholarship and practice, particularly those scholars and practitioners operating in the domain of political, testimonial and verbatim theatre.

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