Acting with Facts: Actors Performing the Real in British Theatre and Television since 1990 (2007-2010)

Description of the project

Publications from the project

Description of the project


The research project 'Acting with Facts: Actors Performing the Real in British Theatre and Television since 1990' was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and ran from 2007-2010. The project was one of the activities of the Television Drama Research Group. It was led by Dr Derek Paget, working with Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Heather Sutherland and Professors Jonathan Bignell and Lib Taylor. Over the three years, the researchers interviewed over thirty British actors and professionals in TV and theatre about their work in factual drama. Subjects researched included Verbatim and Tribunal Theatres, Community Theatre involving documentary/factual material, film and television docudramas and historical reconstructions, and film and television 'biopics'. The work analysed the specific demands made by different media on actors' and other creatives' competencies when making or performing fact-based drama. It investigated comparisons and correspondences between docudrama and fictional drama. The factors at work included the ways that television docudrama has responded to the 1990 Broadcasting Act, increased international co-production, and the digital revolution. The results of the research showed how fact-based theatre responded to accelerated social and political change since 1990, and dealt with ethical, institutional and practical constraints such as legal restrictions, marketability and cost. The project tested the usefulness of existing academic theories (of form, genre, format and audience) in the analysis of docudrama. Publications detailing the results of the project included special issues of two journals, and articles and chapters by members of the research team. The project held two one-day and one three-day conference for academics and professionals from the creative industries.

During the research project, interviews with 23 actors were conducted, mostly between 2007 and 2009. 

For further information contact Jonathan Bignell.

Publications from the Acting with Facts project

Where a publication has a hyperlink, a complete text or an abstract can be downloaded from the University of Reading's research repository, CentAUR.

Bignell, J. (2010) Docudrama performance: realism, recognition and representation. In: Cornea, C. (ed.) Genre and performance: film and television. Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK, pp. 59-75. ISBN 9780719079801

Bignell, J. (2011) Docudramatizing the real: developments in British TV docudrama since 1990. Studies in Documentary Film, 4 (3). pp. 195-208. ISSN 1750-3280 doi: 10.1386/sdf.4.3.195_1

Paget, D., 'The 'Broken Tradition' of Documentary Theatre and its Continued Powers of Endurance' in A. Forsyth and C. Megson (eds) Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), pp. 224-238

Paget, D., No Other Way To Tell It: Docudrama on film and television (Manchester University Press, 2011).

Bignell, J., Paget, D. J., Sutherland, H. A. and Taylor, L. (2011) Narrativising the facts: acting in screen and stage docudrama. In: Tönnies, M. and Flotmann, C. (eds.) Narrative in Drama. Contemporary Drama in English (18). Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, Trier, pp. 21-52. ISBN 9783868213157

Paget, D. (2007) 'Acting with Facts': actors performing the real in British theatre and television since 1990. A preliminary report on a new research project. Studies in Documentary Film, 1 (2). pp. 165-176. ISSN 1750-3280 doi: 10.1386/sdf.1.2.165_1

Paget, D. (2010) Acts of commitment: activist arts, the rehearsed reading, and documentary theatre. New Theatre Quarterly, 26 (2). pp. 173-193. ISSN 0266-464X doi: 10.1017/S0266464X10000308

Sutherland, H., '"Embedded Actors" as Markers of Authenticity: Acting the Real in "Troubles" Docudramas', Studies in Documentary Film 4:3 (2011), pp.267-282.

Paget, D., New Documentarism on Stage: Documentary Theatre in New Times Zeitschrift fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik 56: 2 (2008) pp. 129-141

Taylor, L. (2011) The experience of immediacy: emotion and enlistment in fact-based theatre. Studies in Theatre and Performance, 31 (2). pp. 223-237. ISSN 1468-2761 doi: 10.1386/stap.31.2.223_1

Taylor, L. (2013) Voice, body and the transmission of the real in documentary theatre. Contemporary Theatre Review, 23 (3). pp. 368-379. ISSN 1477-2264 doi: 10.1080/10486801.2013.806318

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