our words make worlds

Multilingual Devised Theatre


Multilingual Devised Theatre project was a collaboration between performance artist Angela Margaret Main, adult learners of English in Scotland, and researchers Marta Nitecka Barche (University of Aberdeen) and Dobrochna Futro (University of Glasgow), who wanted to gain a better understanding of learners’ needs, aspirations and reservations when it comes to the use of creative methods in the process of language development.

This project was based on the principles of devised theatre and explored the impact of embodied and sensory experiences and multiple (home, second and modern foreign) languages in the process of language learning through developing a physical and multilingual performance. Devised theatre is an approach to creating a piece of performative work that is process-led and inclusive of all members of the group. The process places emphasis on the journey of making and enables participants to develop an ensemble-based way of working that is built upon trust, mutual communication, and awareness. As the group takes ownership of developing and writing its own script it provides opportunities for members to participate in the work, in ways with which they feel most comfortable and confident.

With no given title, script or expectations of the end piece, the group of participants were supported to navigate their way through exercises, stimulus and technique to create and generate material in both English and their native languages. This material was then rehearsed and developed to create the final performance piece.

Impact of Covid-19

The project started in February 2020 and work was well underway when the Covid-19 UK lockdown came into place in March, making it impossible to continue with the project in its original form - participants had met weekly to create work in a close contact environment.

In early August, the researchers and lead artist Angela Main made the decision to adapt the project in response to the pandemic and to explore ways of working online. Three of the seven initial participants returned and two new participants were welcomed on to the project. New contributors not only integrated extremely well, but also brought new energy into the project.

Final performance

The final project piece constitutes a short film. Each participant developed and produced their mini-film using their mobile phones. Next, the mini-films were edited into one short film. The participants decided on the content and sequence of the final film. Angela Main worked with all the participants in weekly online group sessions as well as held individual sessions, in order to support and guide the participants during the process of facilitating and producing the individual mini-films. The short film was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that interrupted the work of the group and made both the physical contact as well as the final live performance on stage impossible.

The premiere took place on 14 November 2020 during the online conference Art in Language Education: research, creativity and practice in the multilingual world, with participation of the project performers/devisers and an introductory talk by Angela Main. The short film shows the ordinary lives of five extraordinary people and their response to and commentary on the world during the pandemic. Initial feedback after the premiere suggests that the film is a valuable resource and example of what can be achieved while working remotely but with passion, engagement, and determination. A brochure introduces the project’s leading artist and participants/devisers.

To learn more about multilingual devised theatre, the project, and about Marta and Dobrochna's broader research, please visit the Art in Language Education conference website.

Film: click on the embedded video above and select [ ] to watch it in full screen, or watch it here.

Brochure: download here.

Marta tweets at @MartaBarche and Dobrochna tweets at @dobrochnafutro.