This is not as easy as it seems. At DeFT we are aiming to capture and re-tell stories of our participants, but we know we will come across all sorts of questions when we start to do this. Will the participants want to be identified? If so what implications does this have on their colleagues, pupils, friends… if not how are we going to portray these people in these specific places without the world finding out who and where they are.
Also whose voice will we be using when we tell these stories? Will we use the words and voices of the participants, or will we be using our words to portray their experiences? As we are making our study into OERs, we are hoping to tell the world about their experiences: how will our participants feel about this?
It is with these questions in mind that I went to see Ice and Fire, a small theatre company that explores human rights stories through performance. It is supported by Actors for Human rights. The theatre group draws from a small group of actors and uses minimal props so that they can tour around to different venues with minimal fuss and expense. The production I saw this time was a part of a conference run by the British Red Cross, looking at issues around asylum seekers and refugees. The actors sat on high chairs to deliver their material in a way similar to ‘vagina monologues’. They read scripts of real stories from real people. The stories were harrowing. The effect was powerful.
I was curious as to how this company addressed some of the questions we will come across in our study. The methods they use respect the needs of their participants, some of whom need to remain anonymous for their own safety. At a performance in Sheffield, it was explained that some participants are willing to tell their stories over and over again, as a way of expelling horrors: through iterative tellings, the story becomes an object in itself, and in this way people are able to put a distance themselves and their experiences. These people take part in the actual productions. Others found their story so traumatic that they were disinclined to repeat it. This is the reason the theatre company use actors to deliver the anonomised scripts. An interesting and effective way of overcoming questions of confidentiality!