09/09/2023 - 16/09/2023
By William Brandt and Miranda Harcourt
Directed by Amelia Reid-Meredith
“If. That’s a very big word.”
Verbatim premiered in 1993 and broke new and important ground. William Brandt and Miranda Harcourt presented an uncensored insight, with first hand accounts, into the impact of violent crime in Aotearoa. This work still strongly resonates today. We might ask what has changed? Verbatim is an opportunity to interrogate the lack of social change.
With the expert skill of actor Renee Lyons we meet those interviewees. Lyons revisits her powerful solo performance from ten years ago.
“The subtle power of Lyons’ less-is-more embodiment of each person brings us to the heart of their experiences, compelling us to interrogate the whys and wherefores and ask ourselves at what point in the causal chain an intervention might have made a positive difference.” — Theatreview
‘a punchy piece of theatre’ — NZ Herald
9–16 Sep 2023
Preview 8 Sep
Tues – Thurs 8.30pm, Fri – Sat 6pm, Sun 2pm
$30 – $55
Audience Care: Contains references to violence.
DOUBLE PASS ALSO AVAILABLE! Spend the night at the theatre and save! Book now to see both Verbatim and I Want To Be Happy at Circa on the same night to receive concession priced tickets. Book here
Performed by Renee Lyons
Theatre , Solo , Verbatim ,
Confronting recreation of true experiences expertly rendered
Review by Mitchell Manuel 13th Sep 2023
I had the liberty of being free to watch the play Verbatim at Circa in downtown Wellington, along the swanky waterfront where our capital’s museum Te Papa Tongarewa, the Events Centre, Café Wharewaka and a plethora of other great attractions skirting the idyllic shores of Whanganui-a-Tara, where life appears pristine, picturesque and idealistic.
But after watching a show derived by those recounting a murder – an offender, victims, family members, sometime girlfriend – in their actual words, mannerisms, colloquialisms and nuances, you get a virtual ‘slap in the face’. Verbatim is a confronting rerecreation of what transpired and life doesn’t feel so rosy in 2023, thirty years after this play was first conceived by William Brandt and Miranda Harcourt (now Dame Miranda).
Expertly rendered by actor Renee Lyons, her mercurial feat of transitioning through six characters effortlessly and courageously gives voice to those who were affected by the events that lead to a murder and its consequences. The audience gets a sense of the tragedy, remorse and despair these six characters experience.
Verbatim takes us on a journey with minimalistic staging – a stepped rostrum – dry ice created fog, incidental music, strategic lighting (by Niamh Campbell-Ward) producing silhouettes, shadows and a sometimes blinding hot light on the actor’s face as if in a police station interrogation.
Amelia Reid-Meredith, as Verbatim’s Director, facilitates a performance and production values that give the audience a complete experience which they – mostly middle-class Pākehā, dare I say –would not particularly envisage such characters in their everyday lives.
Of course that’s a generalisation but perhaps the only time the audience would be wearing the grey hoodie and white sneakers Renee wears as she skulks and weaves through the 40 minute play, would be during their yoga, gymnasium or Pilates sessions, before quickly changing back into their work attire. Whereas Aaron, convicted of the murder and languishing in prison, having previously been to Holdsworth and Kohitere boy’s homes – he lives in his Hoody, sleeps in it, steals in it, drives dangerously in it, gets beaten by his Dad in it, murders in it!
Renee Lyons reprises this role from ten years ago. The play has changed lives. It has allowed people who might have ended up like Aaron to turn their lives around and instead lead healthy and productive lives. I have no doubt the play will continue to allow the Aarons of this world to feel validated, to experience empathy and humanity because – as I think during and after – if a verbatim of one’s life be dictated in some unknown future, I would prefer it to be of love and light.
I urge people to see Verbatim, because the words are true, it’s performed with passion and skill, and it’s a rare insight into a world that many of those who’d see such a performance in a conventional theatre would not possibly conceive or imagine as part of their real lives. Go!
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Fascinating, heartbreaking, yet entirely ordinary stories reflecting reality
Review by Gin Mabey 10th Sep 2023
Verbatim by William Brandt and Miranda Harcourt premiered in 1993, exploring the real-life experiences of crime in Aotearoa. True to the verbatim theatre form, the script is made entirely of the real words spoken by real people during candid interviews.
We meet Aaron, a young man sent to prison for murder. We meet his mother, sister, partner. We meet the husband of his victim, and we meet our own biases, judgements, and that ever-present “what if”?
Verbatim is an excellent reminder that gripping theatre can be made with scarcely more than an actor, some space and human experience. Renee Lyons is sharp as tacks in her seamless switching between characters. It isn’t just her physicality and vocal qualities that transform each time, it is the vibrating internal life of each character emanating from her.
The verbatim form and solo nature of the show is powerful on many levels. There is no buffer. There is no imaginary playwright in the ether to cushion any blow.
Verbatim tests the depths – or, at times, lack of – my own empathy and judgements. I find myself loving Aaron, wanting to sit down and chat deeper into his thoughts. Then I find myself bristling against him, struggling to understand. I find myself thinking about the futility of the prison system, the cycle of crime, the kids who never had a chance. I think about what it would have taken for me to live a life of crime. I think about what family means, what fun means, what power means, what success means. For Aaron, he felt connected and needed when his brother got him helping with burglaries at 4 years old. That was family to him.
Speaking to a friend after the show, we discussed how Verbatim makes us think about what we are all capable of. Do those of us who stay ‘out of trouble’ so to speak, manage this because we are ‘good’? Or because we were born into a situation that directed us away from such paths? What does ‘good’ even mean?
Everyone should go and see Verbatim, especially people who might have never attended the theatre or think it might not be for them. It’s accessible yet incredibly rich. It’s simple yet slick. It’s funny yet gutting. And most importantly, it reflects the reality of so many people in our community. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy – or at least be compelled – by sitting for 40 minutes and watching these people tell their stories. Their fascinating, heartbreaking, yet entirely ordinary stories.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer