Hannah Vincent discusses playwriting

On the 13th December 2018, Hannah Vincent, RLF Fellow at Brighton University, took part in the Performance and Community REG programme by offering a talk on her work as a playwright in the Joint Stock method. Hannah is a novelist and short story writer but her writing career began in theatre and she later worked as a television script editor for BBC Drama. Her play for radio, Come to Grief  won the 2015 Audio award for Best Adaptation, and was adapted from her own stage play, produced as part of a residency at the Royal National Theatre Studio.

Hannah’s talk was entitled, ‘Experts in our own lives: the Joint Stock Method’ and she was invited to contribute to this blog herself – over  to you, Hannah!

Thanks for having me, Craig. I was happy to come and speak about my experience of working in the Joint Stock method at the Royal Court Young People’s Theatre back in the early 1990s. I have fond memories of that particular time – formative memories, too, as the approaches I was introduced to as a young writer have had a powerful influence on my developing practice.

The Joint Stock method offers a way of dismantling hierarchical theatre-making structures by inviting director, writer and actors to research a play together. Members of the company are considered equal and collaborate in a workshop environment. The play is developed by the whole group. In the first stage of the process, writer, actors and director research a given topic and conduct interviews, bringing the results back to the rehearsal room where actors assume the role of the interviewee and characters begin to emerge. These characters are placed together in improvised scenes and then the writer goes away to write the play, drawing on whatever aspects of the research seem most valuable.

After this, a more conventional rehearsal period begins with a first draft of the play. The text remains flexible and the writer is collaborative, accommodating ideas from other company members as the material is refined and adjusted. I leaned a lot form this process – as a writer and practitioner I continue to be open to feedback and I think this comes from my early experience of allowing my written work to be ‘up for grabs’ during its drafting.

An important element of the Joint Stock research/rehearsal process is the invitation for experts in the field to address the company. When I wrote my play about HIV and AIDS education in 1990 there was a lot of ignorance surrounding the subject. We met health workers and specialists as well as people living with a diagnosis. My interest in verbatim techniques and the rich material that can be generated by paying attention to the way in which individuals articulate themselves has informed my subsequent practice in prose and life writing as well as drama.

Since we are all experts on something I invited members of the Performance and Community group to interview each other and listen out for the idiosyncracies of speech and mannerism which characterise our accounts of ourselves. I think the group agreed that the results are often more striking, original and moving than anything a writer could come up with alone in their artist’s garrett.


For more information about Hannah visit hannahvincentinfo.com

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