Making theatre from recorded data

Feedback from our trial run.

The main task for this weeks rehearsals was to edit the phrasing of our audio. During the trial run one of the main comments that were given was that we had over scripted the audio and needed to be more suggestive with instructions rather than formal. The audio also apparently sounded quite patronising, which when listening back I can understand. We understood that we would have to guide the audience around with clear instructions, however I think we underestimated how free thinking they would be. We structured the audio far too much and it therefore the piece lost a lot of its freedom. Our whole concept was for the audience to feel as if they are in control and that whatever they believe it right. However due to the over-structred questions and instructions, it lost the essence of our original intentions.

How we built on the constructive criticism.

That night (after the trial run) we all sat around, deflated and feeling a little lost for ideas. We decided that because we were overthinking the audio, we shouldn’t overthink the rehearsal process either. So we started our evening with a casual chat and a gossip to lighten the mood and subsequently ideas for our audio began to flow. We tried writing down a mini scrip but we quickly found that we fell back into what I call ‘sat-nav mode’, where suggestions turned to instructions and we found ourselves back in the same position. We found that comments that we often said flippently and without much thought, ended up being helpful, yet we could never remember them to put in the audio. I then remembered a moment in a completely unrelated film that I had recently watched, Saving Mr Banks (Hancock, 2013). It tells the story of the making of Mary Poppins and I remembered that during the creation process of the film, all conversations during meetings were recorded so they could refer to them at a later date for inspiration. I then suggested the idea to record all of our meetings on my phone so no comments were lost, and that our thought process wasn’t broken when we stopped to write ideas down. This seemed to work brilliantly and was very beneficial. Below is a short snippet of audio from one of our meeting. You can hear the groups thought processes developing:

We then divided the audio into seven separate audios, and each took one or two home to transcript, and put a new script together. Below is the most recent audio:

After another trial run with the new audio, the comments we received back were much better. We also got a friend (who had nothing to do with our site performance) to trail run it for us as well. We followed a few steps behind him and took note of which directions he looked, where he seemed to get confused, if he went off track (which he didn’t thankfully) etc. This was really helpful as it brought a fresh perspective to the piece and highlighted any issues that an actual audience member would encounter.

Relevant research 

I was reminded of verbatim theatre during our tasks this week. Recording live, ‘real life’ conversations and creating a transcript for a theatre piece linked with the ideas and practices of verbatim theatre. Will Hammond and Dan Steward defined verbatim:

‘The words of real people are recorded or transcribed by a dramatist during an interview or research project’ (Hammond et al, 2008)

Despite the fact that we aren’t transcribing the recordings word for word, the creative process is extremely similar. Dramatists use verbatim because it portrays a sense of honesty and truth in the dialogue. This was also our intention as we found that we spoke in a more casual manner when talking between friends, and this friendship/companionship was something we really wanted to get across.


Hammond, W. Steward, D. (eds.) (2008) Introduction in Verbatim Verbatim: Contemporary Documentary Theatre. London: London Oberon Books.  

Hancock, J.L. (dir.) (2013) Saving Mr Banks. [film] Walt Disney Pictures.

On Lunch Break

We decided to rehearse another one of our five stations today and we decided on our “Lunch” station. Just eating and drinking for an hour was actually more difficult than we thought as concentrating on saving enough soup and water to last for an hour turned out to be quite hard. However, we have managed to get all the materials we needed for this station and are using hold-up camping tables for portability so it’ll be easier to get it to our site and set up when we’re there.

Our general thoughts consisted of our potential problems consisted of making sure it lasted an hour as well as packing it up to transition to the next station. We got around this by using the washing the plates bowl and putting the glasses and plates in there and that way we also set up for the next station potentially without going back to the alcove at out site.

We got around the problem of it lasting by decided that it would be our “break” in the performance and decided to act more naturistically than the repetition of other stations and this would get around this problem, whilst also varying our stations and making the performance more interesting to watch.

Rehearsing Lunch Station Rehearsing Lunch Station

17. Small Changes

Once we had recorded the new audio that was conversational (an example below is of the first audio piece), we again chose to test out the newest working version of the performance within the site.

Not only did Rachel listen to the new tour, but we also asked a fellow student studying the module to walk around the site, enabling us to have someone with no experience or prior-knowledge of our performance be an audience member. Both of these reviews and comments after the practice performance were postivie and helpful, and I feel we can now record the audio professionally and work towards the run through for our dress rehearsal. There are a few adjustments and changes that were suggested we make, such as using bird noises at the end of the last audio to fade out, perfecting the pauses within the direction and reworking some of the words we use. We also informed Rachel of our plan to scatter scallops around the performance area, which Rachel suggested we keep contained to a smaller encapsulated area. These are minor details that can be easily worked on, and overall I feel confident that our performance is nearly ready. As Paul Allain and Jen Harvie say, site specific performance is “to alter the conventional spatial practices of performance to enhance both the relationship between performers and audience and the performance’s engagement with its space and site of production” (Allain and Harvie, 2005, 148), a statement which I feel reflects what we hope our performance achieves.

For our dress rehearsal, we need to include and show Rachel:

  • the introductory speech that begins our tour
  • the final recording of the audio in its completion
  • all of the subtle moments of coincidence
  • where and what we as the performance will be doing in the tour

Alain, P and Harvie, J. (2005) The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance. London: Routledge.

Hanging About

Testing out performances is clearly important for any piece of theatre but for our site specific piece, I don’t think we realised just how crucial it would be until we actually tried it in the site. We decided to have a trial run of one of our five stations (as the five stations would represent what we use water for and our reliance on structures such as the water tower), and the station we chose was washing clothes. For our performance we are doing a piece of repetitive, performative theatre so for this station, Jamie will be washing the clothes in a particular way and I will be getting them dirty again in a series of repetitive actions i.e. putting the shirt on right arm first each time then running to the hill, getting into the lying down position before rolling down the hill and repeating this three times before taking the shirt off and starting again and this will last an hour. After

“No repetition is exactly the same as the action as it copies – if only by the fact of it being a repetition rather than an initial act, or of being the third repetition rather than the second.” (Howell, 1999)

The human element of repetition and incosistancies is something I find particularly interesting and will be inevitably apparant in my performance. Even the repetitive actions we do every day (dirtying clothes and then cleaning them again) has a ritualistic element towards it. The inconcistancies occur each time we perform the action but the basic action remains the same. With our theme of water, we will explore and perform a repetitive, performative piece that hopefully an audience will find interesting to watch.

Rehearsing Site Specific

Howell, A. 1999. The Analysis of Performance Art: A Guide to Its Theory and Practice. Routledge. p.79

Crowe, S. 2015. Rehearsing Site Specific Performance. Wickham Gardens. Lincoln. England.


16. Conversations

Using the advice from Rachel after our first run-through, we decided to re-write the audio script to have a conversational tone. Whilst we had previously written what we planned to say on paper and read it out for recording, this time we did not want it to sound too scripted. Thus, we recorded our entire conversation of our meeting as we went through every part of the audio saying ideas for what should be said. This naturally allowed for the words to sound friendly and relaxed, and helped us to experience what our audience would hear from our idea suggestions. After recording our conversation, we each went away and wrote up sections of the audio we now had. An example of the transcript I made is here:

“Why don’t we move on from this space to the next part of our journey, and press play on audio 2. (Audio 2) Lets turn around to face the picnic blanket where we started off our journey. If you look to your left there’s a black railing, why don’t we follow it around the corner of the Cathedral and see where it takes us? Keep an eye out for portals to Narnia and little pixie huts. Have you found what you were looking for? I’ve come this way before, if I remember right there’s a statue on the left of a man with his dog. Why don’t we go and find it? Why don’t you have a break from me for a while, and press pause whilst you make your way over to the statue.”

Once we have the entirety of the new audio script, we plan to record it again and do another run-through with the new audio, the planned moments and “guinea-pig” audience members.

In thinking of how to make our audio conversational, we all thought of the “Every day moments” podcasts that we had listened to in class. The podcasts were created by individual artists as audio pieces to listen to in particular moments and settings in the day. I went away and listened to two of them, one by Adrian Howels and one by Lemm Sissay, for inspiration. The first podcast, found here by Adrian Howels, is “designed to be listened to in the early hours of the morning, in bed with a hot drink”. (Howell, 2011) One aspect I found similar to what we wanted to use in our audio was the use of background noise, whether it be the noise of static, the television, a slurp of drink or a yawn. We also want to use sounds in our audio, such as the sound of birds or wedding bells, and hearing our idea used likewise has shown how effective they can be in enhancing an emotion or thought for the audience. The second podcast, Late Night Rain, found here by Lemm Sissay, is “designed to be listened to exactly then – late at night”. (Sissay, 2011) The tone of the voice in this audio is how I think we should aim to sound in our piece: talkative and fouced on the listener. The language used was simple and yet effective in portraying what they wanted to to the listener, which is what we also want to do. Listening to these podcasts was an effective way of understanding and hearing how our audience can experience our audio, by making myself an audience member to a different audio piece.

Howels, A. (2011) Everyday Moments 11: audio drama for private performance. The Guardian. [online] Available from [Accessed 24 April 2015].

Sissay, L. (2011) Everyday Moments 10: audio drama for private performance. The Guardian. [online] Available from [Accessed 24 April 2015].