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Michael’s blog response to Gwilym

April 18th, 2013

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I can confirm that Gwilym was speaking for the both of us when he said ‘I am currently sharing and nurturing a rare and exciting thing’; the exciting thing of course being our collaborative work on the play Under Us All.

Seizing the opportunity of communicating my research in a different way to a different audience, one that is more accessible to my research participants is what, from my perspective, has driven this project. This piece of theatre takes the stories back to the community they arose from and in ‘returning performance’ the play recognises the emotional investment which my participants made during the fieldwork stages of my PhD research.

Spotting the theatrical and performative potential of my interview transcripts was where my ideas began but it has only been through the lens of Gwilym’s dramaturgical eye that the words have come to life. Telling the story of three men’s lives through a single actor’s performance is no mean feat. Factor in that these same three men are related, and further still that they range in age from early 20s to early 50s to early 80s, and the stage is set for a compelling and intimate theatrical performance. So the three man show is in fact a one man show and one my participants and I are immensely looking forward to.

Through this production I have learned skills and techniques from the artistic world that have enhanced my social science approach to research. I will give you an example. Through being invited along to rehearsals I have participated in the ‘facts and questions’ task. This involved a thorough deconstruction of the text where both ‘facts’ (or in other words, definite truths that have been stated within the text) are noted down along with any ‘questions’ (or points raised that would need further clarification); ensuring audience understanding and an actor’s character development. Interestingly, a role I played during this stage was in response to any ‘further research questions’. This process in particular encouraged me to revisit my participants’ material and the benefits were twofold. My academic thesis is greatly improved as a result of further clarifying previously taken for granted aspects of the research whilst the play is enriched with deep insight into aspects of the characters lives from my research observations.

Rehearsals are ongoing with the next significant step being a read through of the play with the research participants. We look forward to receiving their input.

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