God Verbatim: Crafted from the words of 600 young adults, the cast and your txts in real time. Join the evolving investigation.
Should you see it?
What is your connection with the spiritual world? What is your place in our world? Is there meaning? Is there destiny? Is there after? These are just some of the questions God Verbatim will bring to mind if you take the time to get out and see it before the end of Ottawa Fringe.
It started as a community project, interviewing people and getting from them their questions and their stories of the divine, whatever that meant to them. From there it was parsed down to put together a presentation that would remain their own words and stories. While the scenes and stories have been dramatized, that’s what you’ll get from this verbatim piece of theatre, a collection of interesting sketches and monologues, interspersed with fun humour and even a bit of song, intended to raise more questions than it answers. It’s intended to be the beginning of a dialogue, whether just between you and what’s out there, or between you and them, as every performance ends with an invitation to talk with the cast of (I believe) sixteen.
Yep, that’s sixteen amateur performers, putting on even some of their own personal stories, in creative, interesting ways, as co-directed by Eleanor Crowder and Anna Lewis. Crowder’s particular gift for smooth staging and blended scene transitions is particularly effective here, putting actors just about in place for the next sequence while still in the preceding one. This helps quite a bit to keep things from ever feeling slow.
The problem with verbatim theatre is that people aren’t always articulate in expressing their thoughts, particularly when it comes to big questions like that of spirituality. I found some of the initial scenes awkward: either too quickly delivered, or a little out of sync with what I expected. But as the play progressed, momentum built and I left captivated, wanting more. As Allan points out, Crowder’s gift for smooth staging and blended scene transitions is really effective here and, in my opinion, elevates this from amateur performers in a church basement to a real piece of communal art. I enjoyed the sincerity and conviction with which all the actors played; it was a real treat to see these kind of messages delivered from the heart, with no agenda. As someone without a formal religion and with an ever questionable sense of spirituality, I felt welcomed and intrigued by what was before me – other than the “Questions to God” routine which I felt required improvisational chops that these actors just haven’t developed yet. Involving the audience live via Twitter feedback is a great idea but one that requires a little more finesse. Otherwise, given time, I think this could evolve into something really important for Ottawa even if it doesn’t have the same polish as other Fringe offerings.
What did you think? What resonated with you in God Verbatim? What are your experiences? Join the discussion in the comments below.