A NOTE FROM WRITER FINN O’BRANAGÁIN
Verbatim theatre normally takes place some time after the fact of the action. It is often compiled with extensive research and interviews and then pieced together, thread by thread – the writer becoming part detective, part storyteller, part compelling barrister for the subjects. It’s then handed over to a director and actors to make it come alive – a representation of other people, another time – illuminating a case for the audience. Sometimes the subjects can be surprised by how they ‘sound’, their representation folded in amongst other storylines, facts and threads of interest creating a documentary of a self that they might not quite recognise.
Some of the magic of You Know We Belong Together – sorry, the magic of Julia Hales - is that I have been able to do all this with her – researching and conversing and piecing it together, with Julia as both subject and performer. Having Julia as the lead artist has meant that at all times she’s in control of the documentation and presentation of her own story. Together with Clare Watson we’ve pressed forward with research lines of enquiry that interested us all, that strengthened Julia’s arguments. Together we’ve poured over our transcribed conversations, piecing together, thread by thread, illuminating a portrait of a remarkable woman, a celebration of a community, a case for the audience towards love and belonging. A documentary of a life still unfolding, dreams being lived, a person that the audience can recognise as someone in control of her own self and own story. Watching Clare and Julia shaping it on stage, seeing it come alive with a room of professional artists with and without Down syndrome. It’s been an honour to work with Clare and Julia in service of amplifying and articulating Julia’s story and passions and introducing audiences to her and the cast of magnificent people in the production and in the Down syndrome community.
Image: Julia Hales, Lauren Marchbank (You Know We Belong Together, 2018). By Toni Wilkinson.