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Verbatim and political theatre: taking reality to the stage

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM (BST)

Verbatim and political theatre: taking reality to the...

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Event Details


Gone are the days when theatre could be regarded as stuffy, bogged down by tradition and out of touch. These days some of the most politically engaged, up-to-date and thorough examinations of current affairs happen in the theatre. Though this approach often produces electrifying drama, it also raises concerns and challenges. How can the complexity of real world events be distilled into theatre without compromising accuracy or oversimplifying? What's the best way to balance the need to present the facts with the need to provide entertainment and sell tickets? And how can journalists to adapt to the very different world of theatre?

This evening course aims to tackle these questions and establish the best way forward for political and verbatim theatre.

Course description

Over the course of an evening, this course will cover...

  • The craft of editing and distilling long public inquiries, tribunals, court cases, or any other public event, and extract their essence.
  • The aim is to explain often complex and prolix material into an intelligible play both enlightening and entertaining a theatre audience.
  • How the theatre can be an extension of journalism.
  • The relationship between news and real-life events and the theatre.
  • The contrasting views of a journalist and a theatre director.
  • The advantages, or added value, that verbatim theatre can bring.
  • The contrast between reading, listening to, or watching, news and being a part of a theatre audience.
  • Verbatim theatre and political theatre, eg David Hare's plays.


Attendees will also be provided with a case study of an inquiry to look at in advance, and will be invited to join a discussion of how it might be adapted for theatre as part of the evening.

This course is for you if...

You're a playwright who wants to use a real world event as the basis of your play, or you're interested in the crossover between journalism and entertainment and want to learn more about how the news can be condensed into drama.

Tutor profiles

Richard Norton-Taylor wrote for the Washington Post, Newsweek, Financial Times, and Economist before joining the Guardian in 1973 as the newspaper's first European correspondent based in Brussels. He returned to Britain in 1975 and has been writing ever since on defence and security issues. He won the Freedom of Information Campaign Award in 1986 and 1994 and Liberty's Human Rights Award for journalism in 2010.

He wrote Half the Picture, an adaption of the Scott arms-to-Iraq inquiry which was presented at the Tricyle Theatre. This was the first in a series of verbatim plays for the Tricycle, most of which were broadcast by the BBC, include Nuremberg (1996), The Colour of Justice (1999), Justifying War (2004), Bloody Sunday (2005) which received an Olivier award, Called to Account (2007), a hearing on the circumstances and lawfulness of Tony Blair's action in leading Britain into the Iraq war, and Tactical Questioning (2011) based on the inquiry into the killing of Baha Mousa in British custody in Iraq.

Nicolas Kent started his career at Liverpool Playhouse in 1967 as an ABC TV trainee regional theatre director. In 1970 he became Artistic Director of the Watermill Theatre, from 1970-72 Associate Director of the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh and from 1976-81 Administrative Director of The Oxford Playhouse Company. From 1984-2012 he was Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre in London.
He has directed productions in over 100 theatres around the world including the West End and New York; as well as for notable companies in Great Britain including The National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal Court, The Donmar Warehouse, The Hampstead Theatre, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith and the Young Vic. He was Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre from 1984 to 2012. He is probably best known for the political work he did with Richard Norton-Taylor at Tricycle Theatre, directing all of the Tribunal plays.

He has also directed many plays in the USA both regionally and in New York, on television for the BBC and for BBC radio.


Date: Wednesday July 17 2013
Times: 6.30pm-9.30pm
Location: The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Price: £39 (includes VAT, booking fee and refreshments)
Event capacity: 80
Dress code: There is no dress code for Masterclasses. Please dress however you feel comfortable.

Have questions about Verbatim and political theatre: taking reality to the stage? Contact the organizer

When & Where

The Guardian
Kings Place
90 York Way
N1 9GU London
United Kingdom

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM (BST)

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