The groups that Somebody’s Daughter works with, without exception, want to tell their own story. The challenge for us as artists working within the Company is always to remember that we are there to enable a group to do it for themselves.
The hardest part is not that we are working with inexperienced actors, but that the people we work with usually have chaotic lives fraught with serious issues such as whether they have a safe place to sleep tonight or whether their child will be allowed to visit them in prison. Often belonging to Somebody’s Daughter/HighWater becomes the one strong, stable point in their life – the one secure thing they can rely on. So the major dilemma we face in producing high quality theatre is dealing with the continual disruptions in their lives, not the fact that they are not experienced actors.
The first task is to find what story it is that the group wants to tell. Usually the group will start with something general such as ‘I want people to understand what it’s really like being a kid on the streets’ the groups that Somebody’s Daughter works with, without exception, want to tell their own story. The challenge for us as artists working within the Company is always to remember that we are there to enable a group to do it for themselves.
We use a variety of methods to uncover the story, sound and movement work, improvisation, guided imagery and writing workshops. We also do a lot of sitting around talking during which time we will take notes. We talk as a group and we also talk individually. And so the script evolves, and then we give it a written form so that it can work dramatically and the play mirrors what is happening in their lives.
When we have come up with a number of scenes, we get a clear sense of where the play is going. The further we move into the development of the play, the more and more the young people take ownership of the direction of the story which is fantastic. There is always dynamic discussion - twelve young people all offering ideas as to where the play should go and how a scene should be played out.
Music is integral to our productions, not only do people love music and most love to sing, it is also a very valid way of telling stories, and structurally it can break things up, change a mood and raise the emotional feel.
Our performance style does not rely on technical gizmos and we don’t rely on props. It is very much an actor in the space telling a story. Some would like to put our work in the therapy basket, but this is not how it works for us; the arts provide a truly equal meeting ground, and the quality of the work we produce is of a highly professional standard.
It is the strength of their truth as actors that make the shows so exceptional and powerful. Our role is to ensure that the script can work dramatically and that it is within the range of the various performers.
There are thousands of young people around, whose everyday lives grapple with impossible situations like these. Those in HighWater are actively taking steps to redirect their lives and in that, they all reflect the hope that is captured at the end of Who’s Holding My Dream..
There is a level of honesty with these people. It gives them energy to tell their story. We have seen it strongly with the young people – that their story is the story of so many others. That they are being the voice for many who are normally voiceless, takes them to another level in how they view themselves. In the telling of the story and finding some practical resolutions – they are also saying this is our story but now we are moving on from that. It is possible to own the story without being trapped by it.