So, what exactly is gig-theatre?
And what’s a theatre-maker?
Are you storytellers?
Tell me more about verbatim theatre
How do you make new shows and projects?
Our theatre shows are often referred to as ‘gig theatre’. This is a style of theatre that borrows from music and comedy gig culture. In a nutshell, it’s a play that’s enhanced by incorporating live music into it. It’s a place where theatre and music come together to tell a story and where the audience is a part of the action, much like you might find at a pop concert when a popstar talks to the crowd between songs. You’ll often see musical instruments or mics and mic stands as part of our stage set up. Unlike more traditional theatre we like to break down the barrier between what’s on stage and what’s off stage. We never pretend that the audience isn’t there. We are fully aware that you are there with us and that you have an important part to play on how the action unfolds and is received. This is a social live experience where the audience is just as important, if not more so, than the performers. It’s likely that we’ll play ourselves on stage and dip in and out of various characters during the performance. We might also stop the action to comment on what is happening and speak directly to you.
The Six Twenty are theatre-makers. What’s a theatre-maker?
Theatre makers are people who are involved in the creation of theatre. They frequently multirole and have lots of different skills. For example, they might be a performer as well as a musician and technician. They bring these different skills into the creation process. Theatre-making is a term that’s frequently used interchangeably with the term devisor or devising. A devisor (or theatre-maker) is someone that specialises in creating theatre through a process of creative collection. A devised performance can literally start with anything: a road sign, a painting, a real-life event, a novel to adapt… Anything you can think of can be the beginning of a devising process!At The Six Twenty we frequently mix verbatim, devising and new writing together to make theatre that’s playful, unexpected and full of fun.
What is story-telling or story-sharing theatre?
Story-sharing is an oral and visual way of telling tales from memory, using cultural references and opportunities for you (the audience) to participate in the action – but only if you want to!
We frequently use props and visual aids to help bring our stories and theatre shows to life. These are often household items and / or symbolic e.g. feathers to represent a pigeon or a toaster to represent a person.
We’ll also incorporate recorded audio and film into our performances. This might include real people’s voices interwoven into the narrative (see more on how we use Verbatim Theatre below).
Rather than simply telling stories we bring our stories to vivid life through a mix of theatrical elements including magical props, playful tech, music and dance. Rather than tell a story to a silent and observing audience, we encourage our audiences to react and get involved in the action.
Unlike traditional storytelling we don’t just narrate. Our performers take on multiple roles and become an active part of the story. It’s about showing, not telling the audience what to think and feel. We leave our stories open for interpretation so that you, the people encountering them, can make up your minds and opinions on what you’ve experienced. Our audience is just as important as the people on stage. Each live performance is unique to that audience and that night. This is what makes live theatre so special.
What is verbatim theatre?
Think of verbatim theatre as similar to a documentary film. It’s theatre that’s made up of the words of real people who are often responding to a specific theme, topic or event. These could include interviews, workshop chats or news footage. It’s also sometimes called docu-theatre.
Our work often incorporates verbatim elements and our research process tends to stem from real interviews and chats with local people. Our performers may speak the actual words of people we’ve met and they will often play multiple roles during a performance. This includes quickly jumping between different real-life characters and being able to share different people’s opinions and experiences.
For shows where we use verbatim, we mix transcribed and headphone verbatim elements:
This is when performers read and perform transcripts of recordings e.g. audio or filmed interviews or workshop sessions. For us, this often includes fictionalised dialogue that’s inspired by the footage recorded and can also be an amalgamation of several voices and stories.
This is when performers are fed recordings via headphones and repeat what they hear in the way it was spoken. This is also called recorded delivery. For most of our projects we chat with local people and interview them about their experiences and what effects and excites them. For Fandom, the theme is hidden passions and hobbies that bring people joy. These experiences will become the central through-line for the performance(s) we are creating.
We respect and try our best to honour the people we meet and the stories that they have shared. Whilst we often begin our devising process by meeting and interviewing people, we don’t always label our show as verbatim if its only ‘based’ or ‘loosely inspired’ on chats, interviews or verbatim research. An example of this is our show gig-theatre show Fans, which has some verbatim content, but we felt it would be misleading to sell the show as a verbatim play when the characters and script were an amalgamation of the various people we had met. Fans was ultimately written by a playwright, called Nina Berry, who used the verbatim stories and research we collected as a springboard for creating a more traditional play script.
When we do use and label our work as verbatim theatre we collect this material in a variety of different ways. In the past this has included, interviewing people in groups and individually, setting up online surveys and a telephone hotline for people to leave anonymous voicemails. Depending on the format of the interviews and chats we will stage the words and people in different ways.
We like to ‘signpost’ which parts of the material are verbatim and which parts are not. We do this because we believe it makes the verbatim even more powerful. We believe that being reminded of the fact that what you are seeing are real issues happening now in your community is what gives verbatim theatre its power and voice.
We are not a naturalistic theatre company and we do not make naturalistic shows. We don’t naturalistically represent the people who have shared their words with us. Instead we take on a more playful approach. We want to make sure that the audience is aware of the editing process that the verbatim and real words have undergone. We like to throw our hands up and admit that we are performers and that what you are watching is a crafted performance. The words you hear and the actions you see have been selected, edited and interpreted. We often do this process in collaboration with project participants.
How we make new theatre shows and creative projects
Prior to creating a new show and the start of rehearsals, we spend a lot of time researching material and co-developing ideas with community groups and individuals. These ideas and research will inform and fuel what the project will become. This process can take quite a while – anything from 6 months to multiple years!
Setting fire to what theatre can be, we fuse new writing, live music and devised theatre together to make shows that are relevant and responsive to the modern world. Beginning well before the curtain rises and long after it drops, this isn’t sit down shut up theatre; it’s theatre for a great night out.