Finding the right words is tricky. Words can be loaded with double meanings and personal associations, making it hard to know how they’ll be interpreted. These layers are what make working with text so exciting, but also quite daunting. What is it we want to say? How should we say it? Will people hear it in the same way as us?
I’m currently exploring these questions with director Rebecca Hanbury in a new music theatre work called Sister. We’re making the piece from interviews we conducted with women of all ages about their relationships with their sisters. We normally begin with very little text when devising our shows, but this time we’ve got over 7 hours of interviews to play with and playing is exactly what we’re doing.
We’re experimenting with ways to use this verbatim text which bring out the subtle nuances and characters in each interview. How can the music bring out the reflective tone of one and the fast-paced glee of another? At times, we’re taking the exact speech rhythms, complete with um’s and ah’s, to create an uncanny level of realism and, at others, we’re handpicking phrases to give a more poetic response to the text.
By taking the words verbatim from our interviewees, there’s a strange sense of liberation – the words have already been chosen, they’ve already been coloured with a real voice, a real person who’s decided to use that particular word for that particular moment. It gives the piece a very human quality and, we hope, will make the work resonate with our audiences on a truly personal level.