'I'm surprised how much of a community spirit there is in the area'
As part of the project, Menagerie Theatre Company interviewed 58 Trumpington residents, aged 12 to 86, who live in all parts of Trumpington, old and new. The interviews happened mainly in the interviewees’ homes and took place between November 2017 and April 2018. The interviewees ranged from a family who had moved in at the beginning of 2018, to a woman who had lived there for over 70 years. Without being a scientific sample, the aim was to interview as diverse a cross-section of the population as possible.
Likewise, all of the volunteers who conducted the interviews lived in Trumpington themselves and were a mixture of long-term residents and recent arrivals. Some lived in the new developments, others in ‘old’ Trumpington.
Once we had completed the interviews, we handed over notes and recordings to a local playwright, Craig Baxter, for the challenging task of distilling them down to create a 1-hour verbatim play.
Interviewees do not come forward and announce themselves! We had to find all sorts of ways to reach people, particularly those who might not ordinarily take part in something like this. We advertised through the local monthly newsletter, The Trumpet, through community websites, word-of-mouth, meeting residents at local events or community meetings and making contact with residents' associations and schools.
We inducted our volunteers during two training days with a professional journalist and Trumpington resident, Vicky Anning. She gave them guidance on interview technique, use of recorders and note-taking during interviews. The volunteers in turn influenced the course of the project by helping to frame and adapt the interview questions.
During the interview process, the community interviewers had regular catch-up sessions with Patrick and Vicky, where each interviewer could report back on challenges, successes and any changes they found useful within the interview format.
In general, people were very willing to be interviewed. Some thought they did not have anything to say. However, the opposite turned out to be true. Everyone had something unique to say about their experience of living in Trumpington.
Verbatim is a challenging theatrical form which puts different demands upon the writer than when they are scripting an original play. With Trumpington Voices, we needed to compose the play from spoken material, bringing together voices which were recorded in isolation from each other. Craig Baxter, an experienced verbatim playwright, listened out for recurring themes and gradually established a structure for the play based on these themes.
The play has an authenticity about it because it is made up solely of words used in interviews or conversations. However, once words are separated from the original interaction, they take on a new form, but one where it is still possible to explore a thought process taking place and for an audience to see people struggling with complex feelings and responses.
The play is one important outcome of this project. The other is the sound archive which contains all 58 interviews in full. The sound archive is currently under construction and will be available soon.
" Our approach is always to give the speakers dignity without shying away from the human inability to express ourselves as fully – or as articulately – as we might like."
— Patrick Morris, Director