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Berkoff's Theatrical Purpose

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What is Berkoff’s theatrical purpose?

Steven Berkoff didn’t have an easy childhood but he escaped this through theatre. He started in small theatre groups around the country, but when he formed the London Theatre Group he become known for combining mime and theatre, and now, also, is known as a playwright.

In his plays Berkoff intends to provoke his audiences by showing grotesque images of his characters, and, with careful, exaggerated movement, include the audience in the performance and be consumed by the atmosphere of the play e.g. in the Fall of the House of Usher the sense of the ‘House’ is created before the audience enter by using a sound-scape and not through a set as Berkoff focuses more on the actor. Also Berkoff’s idea of ‘Total Theatre’ aims to challenge the audience using all the aspects offered by the theatre including athletic actors. He used this style to make the audience more than just on-lookers of the performance and to bring the text to life, rather than just to portray what is written. He would also try to replace things on stage such as props and furniture with the actor’s bodies so as not to let anything distract from the actors and what they are trying to put across ‘why not make a grotesque throne out of bodies if other materials are scarce’. He goes between using stylized movement that seems almost robotic in plays such as ‘East’ and the very slow, detailed and almost mind-numbing pace in theatre such as ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, which also reflects the characters.
In Metamorphosis he used innovative staging to help create the image of Gregor as a beetle. By using the athleticism of the actor combined with the ‘climbing frame’ type staging Berkoff is able to create a convincing insect that can create an image in an audience members mind and really bring them into the story.

Plays such as East and Greek have a certain frankness about them, which comes from Berkoff’s childhood when he had the openness to speak his mind. He didn’t care about what he said and what he said was meant to shock, which is the intention in his drama, ‘East was born out of a simple wish to make each speech or scene a kind of confession of the characters’ greatest moments… times of real change, the best experiences or the worst.’ He saw youth as a dynamic universe and was a time that was charged with a sense of danger. He used his emotions of these times in his life to aid him in creating scenes about a working class life.

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Response to the question

This is a very good essay written by a candidate who has clearly conducted external research to find the quotes they use to fortify the answer with evidence. The answer addresses a number of Berkoff's theatrical intentions and presents them ...

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Response to the question

This is a very good essay written by a candidate who has clearly conducted external research to find the quotes they use to fortify the answer with evidence. The answer addresses a number of Berkoff's theatrical intentions and presents them clearly with reference to his own work (e.g. 'East') and/or interpretation of other published works (e.g. 'Metamorphosis'). It is a very succinct essay that stays very to the point once the introductory paragraph is out of the way. I might argue that the introductory paragraph is unnecessary but if the candidate can do the above in the allotted exam time then I see no reason they couldn't do so.

Level of analysis

As analysis is not what the question asks for, I will mark this based on the level of knowledge, detail and accuracy (AO1). This candidate has clearly studied the dramatic intentions of Steven Berkoff's revolutionary mime-based theatre, considering how he aims to break the fourth wall and create a sense of "total theatre" by drawing the audience very close to the action on-stage. The candidate uses a variety of appropriate dramatic terminology accurately and wherever necessary, creating a very clear and precise essay with retains and air of extensive knowledge about Berkoff throughout.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is excellent. The candidate has taken care to ensure clarity in conveyance and written expression, even with specialist vocabulary - which have all been applied and spelt correctly. There is very little else to say here other than to commend the candidate for clearly taking extra measures to ensure their essay is void of errors, aiding optimum understanding to even a non-professional dramatist.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 27/06/2012

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