Speaking about Reality: Verbatim techniques in contemporary Finnish documentary theatre

Laura Gröndahl

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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 Ryhmateatteri 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-96
Number of pages26
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Documentary
  • verbatim
  • political theatre
  • postdramatic
  • performative
  • autheticity

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