For the survivors of trauma, however, the human desire to provide an account of oneself can become a profoundly troubling process. The traumatic eludes comprehension and communicability. It shatters our self-perception and disables our capacity to process, understand and express what has been encountered. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle [1920], Sigmund Freud identifies the traumatic as an event that ‘breaks through the protective shield’ (Freud 1985: 301) of the self or ‘the ego’. Trauma, then, is that which lies beyond experience and which cannot be absorbed into the cognitive framework of experience and our own personal narratives. In Felman and Laub’s book Testimony, Dori Laub says: ‘The trauma is thus an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during and no after. This absence of categories that define it lends it a quality of “otherness”’ (Felman and Laub 1992:

69). The traumatic therefore exceeds the human capacity for language and selfarticulation. This raises critical questions for Applied Theatre practitioners as well as playwrights who seek to create theatre texts that are derived from ‘real’ personal accounts of trauma. The traumatic should not be confused with the experience of hardship or suffering – however severe. On the contrary: there is no ‘story’ of trauma and the absence of the restitutive narrative categories of beginning, middle and end means that theatre must engage with that which is by definition incomplete and incomprehensible.