iceandfire celebrated the UN International Human Rights Day 2009 at LSE with a rehearsed reading of Broke. This bought the audience into connection with real-life experiences of people living in poverty in the UK – homelessness, unemployment, overwhelming debt and how the British system fails the most disadvantaged of its citizens viagra pfizer ohne rezept. The verbatim style of this, and the entire catalogue of iceandfire’s monologue series, have all come to life through the editing of interviews held with people; transforming life experiences into scripts that can be shared in order to raise awareness.
I have often felt inclined to question the authenticity of this mediated form of storytelling which reputedly has the power to give a voice to the voiceless: those whose stories might otherwise not be heard and exist only as mere statistics in an analysed world. It would seem that playwrights are afforded certain artistic liberties as they edit words, sentences and structures of dialogue shared in interviews into plays for audiences. But it is very possible to influence the interpretation of words through their arrangement and so what implications does this have on the supposed truth of a verbatim script?
And what of this voice; is an individual given a voice or is their voice taken, adapted and used for some great political ambition? Perhaps we should consider for a moment how it might feel to tell, and then have your own story performed before you. I know I would be apprehensive. What if I’d said something by accident? What if it didn’t do me justice or was misinterpreted by the writer, actor, audience? Do I lose ownership of my own story? This surely could have repercussions on the mental health of those who share their experiences and who may have already suffered a great deal. And what, if in the name of humanity, is more important?
My small involvement with the creation of Broke has allowed me to consider these questions in a more specific context. I transcribed an interview which was included in the final script; this man’s experiences had clearly been traumatizing and unveiled a shocking reality of a world so close to my own, yet of which I was quite unaware. iceandfire are challenging this lack of awareness through delivering such stories to the public, but what about the questions I have raised above? If the stories are being claimed as truthful should the audience be presented with an exact re-creation of the interview given? The raw narrative recalled by this particular interviewee was entirely haphazard, delivered with repetition, confusion and an unclear order of events. I doubt that an audience would have the time or patience to listen to such a disjointed, fragmented story.
Neurologist Sigmund Freud suggested that the telling of stories is central to our understanding of each other as we communicate through the sharing of narratives. In the face of trauma however, this narrative is disrupted so that the individual is only able to recollect his experiences in fragmented memory. If not coherent in the individuals own mind then when shared as a story it will be similarly distorted. This seemed to be evident here and it is clear that the editing of the interview material was entirely necessary if an audience were to understand this man’s experiences.
As I listened to the final reading of Broke I found it was entirely reminiscent of the man’s original story, but clear and fathomable whilst being a just representation of his own account. In practice it seems that the artist’s skill to edit, yet still stay true to the spirit of a testimony is the vital key to success. It may not have been verbatim in the most literal sense yet the voice I heard most definitely remained true to that of the man whom I had listened to. Yes, his voice was being used for a purpose but it had been clear from the interview that this man was enthusiastic to share his story and bring public attention to it. Of course, this should always be dealt with subjectively and I am in no doubt that iceandfire pay attention to the individuality of the people they come into contact with. Similarly I feel that all interrogations of verbatim theatre should be made individually, but from this example I would conclude that where the integrity of the playwright sits well, so will the end product.
Elly White, student at Central School of Speech and Drama