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Headphone Verbatim Theatre: Methods, Histories, Genres, Theories

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2013


Created in an American rehearsal room, exported to an English workshop, and developed in Australia, among other places, ‘headphone verbatim theatre’ – also called ‘recorded delivery’ – is a truly global genre. In this article Caroline Wake focuses on the work of two pioneering practitioners, Briton Alecky Blythe and Australian Roslyn Oades, in order to trace the form's history as well as its methods, genres, and theories. In doing so, she considers how audio technology has evolved over the past decade and how the display or disguise of headphones has affected both the production and reception of the form. She identifies three dominant genres of headphone verbatim theatre (the social crisis play, the social justice play, and the social portrait play, as well as three main performance modes – the epic, the naturalistic, and the mixed. The epic has been the most successful thus far, but the naturalistic and mixed modes are, in turn, begetting new ones. Finally, she suggests that in the same way that headphones have rejuvenated verbatim theatre, they might also reinvigorate the discourse on it by offering the opportunity to go beyond the politics of voice and visibility and to turn, instead, to listening. Caroline Wake is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her research examines cultural responses to and representations of refugees and asylum-seekers as well as the role of testimony in law, performance, and visual culture. Her work has previously appeared in journals such as Text & Performance Quarterly, Modern Drama, and History & Memory. She is the co-editor, with Bryoni Trezise, of Visions and Revisions: Performance, Memory, Trauma (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2013).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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