When we did the 6 hour workshop on capital punishment, we looked at some extreme cases like two Somalia women; one was raped and stoned to death; the other was also stoned because she committed adultery, which was seen as crime by law in her country. The other case was about a man who was trying to get his lover’s aunt to sell him her farm. When she refused he killed her, but he didn’t want to go to jail, so he told his lover that she should take the blame because, she is underage and therefore wouldn’t go to jail. However, she did o to jail but she is on death row and is still awaiting her death.
Even though, we studied all the capital punishment cases, it was the short plays about Derek Bentley that I decided to evaluate.
The other group decided to focus on Derek’s personal development throughout their play. The first scene is set with Derek reminiscing about his life on the day of his execution. The group use a monologue to set the first flashback of the play. He talks about how he was born and how the umbilical cord got wrapped around his neck; this was a possible cause of his mental problems. The group’s use of levels is done very well since Derek is represented by a prop which is very small and his parents are above him with the doctor and the reminiscing Derek is sitting away from the flashback – this was representing how far away from his family he is. This scene was very effective at emphasising Derek’s innocence, since babies are usually associated with purity. However, I think the scene could’ve been improved if the doctor faced the audience, unless that was an intentional way of showing that this character isn’t as important.
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The second scene isn’t as long but it shows how Derek’s personality has been developing. He is playing with his toys on the floor and he looks very happy and clueless. His parents come in to talk to Derek’s teacher, who informs them about Derek’s disabilities. The vulnerable side of Derek is seen because of the use of levels – the parents and the teacher are yet again on a higher level then Derek, making them seem like they’re in control of the situation. The scene could have been improved if more emotion was shown in the shock after Derek’s parents found out about his disabilities. If they hugged to comfort each other of they walked over to Derek himself, it would really show what kind of loving environment Derek grew up in.
In the third scene Derek is in secondary school messing around in the corridors with Chris. They soon get caught by a teacher and Chris runs off, leaving Derek to take the blame. The scene isn’t done as well as the other scenes; the use of voice isn’t clear because sometimes Derek and Chris are shouting and sometimes it’s not easy to understand the dialogue between the two. The character of the teacher does a good job at showing the anger and annoyance in the boys.
The fourth and fifth scenes merge into one scene which makes it confusing for the audience. The 4th scene only involves Chris and Derek when they’re planning their raid. Chris is trying to convince Derek that it’s a good idea and knows that Derek is going to agree anyway. There is a very quick pause and the 5th scene starts with Chris and Derek climbing up the stairs. The group used imagery props to show they’re climbing. This scene is the pivotal moment of the play, when Chris and Derek get caught by the police. It becomes a bit confusing because everyone is shouting and running around, although at the same time it creates a good scene of panic and a very realistic image of what it most likely would’ve been like in reality.
My group focused on the friendship between Chris and Derek. We start the first scene with the pivotal moment of the play, where Derek shouts ‘let him have it Chris’ and Chris shoots the policeman. The scene is a lot like the last scene of the last group – there is a lot of shouting and panic and when the shooting happens, we used a freeze-frame to emphasise the moment. I think we could’ve improved it by having a longer pause in the freeze-frame to make it clear that this is the pivotal moment.
The second scene was set when Derek first met Chris at school. They sit in the middle of the table and get Derek gets laughed at by the other children. This scene could be improved if Chris and Derek were sitting on a table away from others, to show that their friendship gets stronger.
The third scene uses actors as props; Derek and Chris are now in one of their gardens, trying to build with wooden branches. They look happy and really close as they sit in their new ‘building’. This scene could be improved if body propping was used to build something else and if the levels of Derek and Chris would change from time to time because in some parts of the scene it is clear that Chris is the leader of their friendship.
The fourth scene is quite short; it only includes Derek and Chris. Chris is trying very hard to persuade Derek that the raid is a good and safe idea. The use of voice is very effective as Chris’ voice becomes more high-pitched when he talks about how easy the raid is going to be. The use of space, however, is the thing that needed improving; if Chris walked around more to show how great the raid is going to be, it would’ve added more of an affect.
The fifth scene goes back to the pivotal moment of the shooting, but this scene is about what happens afterwards. The shooting is now much quicker and the rest of the scene is Chris getting taken away by police. This scene could’ve improved if the scene showed what happened to Derek after the shooting.
Overall, both groups had different ideas but both interpreted theirs by using the same techniques. My group used a series of flashbacks to pinpoint Derek and Chris’ friendship and the other group used flashbacks to show the development of Derek’s personality. This workshop had a big impact on how much we knew before and how much we know now. I thought these punishments weren’t happening around present time, but they are and my feelings are very much against this, no matter how bad the crime was.