Ever since I began working on this piece about growing up LGBT during The Troubles in NI, I’ve grappled with the best form to present the theatrical experience in. It seems to be a mix of all sorts: quasi-historical archive that’s part verbatim theatre. My concern has always been how to honor the interviewees, their stories, and their trust; making a piece of theatre that is innovative, exciting, and moving is the best (and only) way to do that.
After doing the first round of interviews (courtesy of a 2010 Arts Council NI Support of Individual Artist Award), I felt stuck. How do I shape this plethora of stories? What is the best FORM to hold them? I needed feedback. I needed input. I needed a test, a look, a think.
During a week in early July, Theatreofpluck, with Anna Newell, took some of what I had written, exploded it to its essences, and presented it back to me and a small group of invited guests. The audience was a composed of some interviewees, their guests, and local theatre professionals. This is some of what they (anonymously) said about the ‘experiment’:
“I was unsure what to expect, before arriving to the MAC I thought, ‘This could be so boring!’ However, I could have never been so wrong! The show was of such elegance and intimacy. It brought emotions of solitude and loneliness, bringing together how the so-called ‘Troubles’ affected people. It was something I would expect to see in Barcelona, not a small place like Belfast.”
“Very interesting, something verbatim can be boring but the presentation and juxtaposition of spoken/written word worked excellently against the background of the music.”
“Very invigorating. Innovative, exciting, insightful. Loved the whole set-up from the 1st stage through to the end.”
“This was something very different for Belfast and the queer community…parts were very over stimulating but at the same time powerful. I would hope this will be completed and finished—did we hear everyone’s story? Well done, beautifully done.”
“…challenging and boundary-pushing theatre. A very experimental piece where traditional and the untested were together.”
“Enjoyed the whole experience-the creativity of the pieces—of actually feeling like I was in the work.”
“I think that this is a very interesting approach to a potentially overwrought subject.”
“I think there is a lacking of stories told by women within different kinds of researches, and I think this ‘experiment’ could be a great opportunity to ‘voice’ more and more women’s experiences…The experience of the Troubles told by gay people is likely to be different from many others and I think it would be important to raise awareness towards them. Academic works have presented gay people’s lives in Northern Ireland to a certain extent, but I believe a work like this could perhaps reach a different and broader public…”
“Very different from anything I have ever attended.”
“I think you have done an amazing job in telling and honouring our stories. When I first heard your proposal to do this work I remember thinking—why is someone from outside that time doing this? But then I figured—no one else is doing it. I respect Shannon and I’ll trust her and go along with it. Having experienced this I realize you are the only one who could have done this. You have absolutely honoured the trust so many people have placed in you. Thank you. I look forward to further versions.”
I think we’re on the right track!