Verbatim theatre is the art of interviewing real people and then giving the transcripts to actors. Made popular by Moises Kaufman’s THE LARAMIE PROJECT in early 2000, this talking head style of storytelling translates perfectly to cinema.
Carla Simón’s BORN POSITIVE is not truly in the Verbatim style, as the cast of three actors mime to original audio recordings. The three subjects are young people from central London, all born HIV positive. The interviews reveal that the stigma attached to their condition puts them at risk of attack, and so their names have been changed. Mark, the angriest and most conflicted interviewee, talks about the physical and emotional violence he faces, and the anxiety of having to keep his condition secret.
The primary challenge the actors face is maintaining naturalism in their performances, staying as true to the script as possible. There is no room for artistic licence, only restraint and sensitivity; and the three actors master this precarious tightrope. Each performance is personable and fully realised, their hang-ups, moments of respite and laughter at their situation are all touchingly addressed. Trevon Paddy, who portrays the emotionally articulate 13 year old Blake, shows a tender nervousness: his eyes dart and flutter as he conveys his difficult and unfairly adult situation, one with which he seems to have sufficiently come to terms.
Always understated, BORN POSITIVE is a carefully sensitive portrayal of the resilience of these young people and their discovery of a sense of self in the face of adversity.