auralia.space is the digital home of Aural/Oral Dramaturgies: Post-Verbatim, Amplified Storytelling and Gig Theatre in the Digital Age, an AHRC Leadership Fellowship held by Duška Radosavljević at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.
This 18-month research project, conducted between January 2020 and July 2021, engages with an increasingly apparent prominence of speech and sound in 21st century theatre and performance. Proposing that the aural aspects of speech, sound, voice and sound design emerge to replace the late 20th century dominance of literary textuality (new writing) and/or corporeality (physical theatre) as the primary dramaturgical motors in live performance, the project argues that this renewed interest should be viewed paradigmatically.
The internationally discernible paradigm includes works specifically designated here as ‘post-verbatim’ (Nic Green’s Cock and Bull, Valentijn Dhaenens’ BigMouth and SmallWar), works using mics and headphones and therefore referred to as ‘amplified storytelling’ (Rotozaza’s Etiquette, Kieran Hurley’s Beats, Chris Brett Bailey’s Are You Deaf Yet), and works known in the UK as ‘gig theatre’ (Middle Child’s All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Arinzé Kene’s Misty, Lola Arias’ Minefield).
The research presented here is driven by the following questions:
- What compositional strategies underpin the performance-making which foregrounds orality/aurality in the 21st century?
- How do we adequately scope and theoretically frame aural/oral dramaturgy as an emerging interdisciplinary field of enquiry?
- What potential correlation can be discerned between: a) technological developments, b) increasing cognitive bias towards the oral/aural in our daily life, and c) contemporary performance-making practices; and how can this understanding help improve the effectiveness of our aural/oral composition and presentation skills?
Methodology and Project Design
A significant aspect of this research project in its conception was the idea of methodological innovation. In order to investigate strategies of aural/oral dramaturgies, a new, maker-focused research methodology for analysing selected works is proposed, using a combination of oral history, contextual research and rehearsal ethnography. Given that RQ 1 entails an investigation into compositional processes rather than an interpretation of selected case studies, the conventional critical format did not suffice. One of the intrinsic epistemic outcomes of this developing methodological approach has been an insistence on understanding each theatre-making process within the context of its author’s existing body of work, their discernible ‘performance idiom’ (Radosavljevic 2013) and their network of influence. In some ways, this is an
augmentation of a cultural materialist approach but it also forms a venture beyond the concerns of critical theory by seeking to legitimise a return of critical focus on the artist(s) /processes of authorship in theatre and performance. An oral history approach acquires additional significance in the case of a project concerned with orality and aurality. As opposed to the more conventional academic output of a book of transcripts, in this instance a podcast series/ website collection is a central outcome.
This interdisciplinary research project has been conceived and developed in partnership with London-based Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Digital Theatre Plus (DT+). In partnership with BAC, new work was commissioned from relevant artists selected through an open call in December 2019, to form part of the primary empirical research and project documentation. Click here for more information about the participating artists and collaborators on the project
As a result of the Covid-19 lockdown our research plan and methodology has had to be adjusted to focus on more viable forms of process documentation in the context of social distancing. The furloughing of staff in our partner institutions and the uncertainty around future planning has also meant that we have redirected our communications towards individuals.
The originally planned podcast, Lend Me Your Ears, has grown from a 12-episode series to a multi-faceted collection of resources. We have expanded our database of artists being interviewed as part of the project, convened a series of digital academic conversations and envisaged the need for this website to temporarily host the creative work of selected artists. Improvisation has become an integral part of our research methodology rather than being just an object of our research.
This project has benefited from consultations with members of the Steering and Advisory Boards as well as members of the Ethics Committee and the Disability Service and the Deputy Dean at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama to consider all ethical implications of various aspects of this research.
All contributors were given multiple opportunities to review and approve the recorded and edited materials prior to publication. Contributions that required extensive preparation (such as those for the Laboratory and Salon strands) were offered remuneration for their time.
Extra care has been given to ensuring the materials are fully accessible – we have particularly taken into consideration visual and hearing impairments. All videos have YouTube generated captions as well as transcripts on the website and downloadable pdfs which also feature basic descriptions of visual materials. The PI has taken personal responsibility to ensure all transcripts are accurate, consistent and accessible.
In consultation with members of our Advisory Board and colleagues at Central, and in view of recent political developments, we have taken the decision modelled on Associated Press style guide, to capitalise Black when referring to racial identity (though not brown and white, as these designators cannot be assumed to refer to shared experiences). Also, we capitalise West/ Western when referring to cultural but not geographic orientation. Deaf (with a ‘D’) refers to the Deaf community as a linguistic minority with a specific culture and language—ASL. The use of deaf (with a ‘d’) refers to individuals who have the audiological condition of not hearing. We use ‘D/deaf’ when referring to respective groups of people.
AHRC ref: AH/S010750/1