Community Performance project.

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 6.2 Community Performance project.

After looking at various local historical sights our group decided on Moseley Old Hall as the setting for our community project. Our research brought to light its wonderful history and established it as the perfect venue. Use of the internet and library allowed us in-depth knowledge into the story of King Charles’ visit to Moseley, this provided us with a multitude of ideas we could incorporate into our piece.

Our aim was to retell the story but add a contempary edge for a modern audience. We chose to devise our piece in the style of Brecht, like his work “Mother Courage” [historical theme to create the story] we wanted to make our audience think about the story during and after the performance. The Brechtian style also allowed freedom to look across the three art-forms and experiment with the use of poetry, dramatic changes of style and tempo, music to tell the story and breaking down the 4th wall to involve our audience in the performance.

To begin the devising process we created a mind map of our ideas for further development. One of our first ideas which went on to influence the dance, song and even title of the piece was the game of hide and seek. This was inspired by the flight of the King and the man hunt which ensued. The idea of comparing life or death situation to a children’s game filled the quota for an original perspective and enabled creativity in the devising process. Another initial idea was to include a news report to give “headlines” of what had occurred at the battle of Worcester. This gave the audience some background knowledge and added another angle to our piece by changing styles.

We wanted to use nominal set and costumes- this was another Brechtian influence but was also practical as an outdoor piece involving dance and a promenade would have been hindered by excessive costume. Our piece had to be performed outdoors due to lack of space and danger of damaging the inside of the house, this meant wrapping up warm, the sub-zero temperatures of a wet February evening were not really the ideal conditions for a performance!

Ideas were flowing for the dance and musical aspects so we had to develop more on the acting front. We wanted to include more characters so the idea came about to include the children of the Whitgreave family to introduce the audience to the King upon his arrival.

Because the piece had to be performed outside we decided to use this to our advantage creating a promenade performance to show the audience more of the house and to add interest by following the story through its settings. This is a Brechtian idea as it removes the audience from the fact that they are watching a ‘play’ and the episodic format we decided to use helped us move through time.

In developing our ideas we needed a structure. We decided that the news report would be the ideal introductory starting point. From an outline of events at the battle of Worcester we picked out crucial occurrences and researched them to enable us to script a report for our two stereotypical news readers in glasses and suits to deliver in-between their frantic paper shuffling and  ‘live link’ to Oliver Cromwell. This scene provided humour to the piece and made it feel less like a play.  We needed something to link this scene to the next which would be the promenade leading the audience to the gate where the King arrived so we used a very Brecht inspired idea and created a poem through mind mapping and improvising to both tell the audience the next part of the story and that we wanted them to follow us in a promenade. (For poem see appendix 2.)

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For the promenade we first needed music. We created a piece of Renaissance style music using the chordal structure typical of the Dorian mode. By improvising simple drum beats on a table then incorporating a tune on the recorder which is a typical period instrument the piece was given instant Renaissance character. Texture was added with the use of small percussive instruments and a guitar was added later in the developmental stages. We created the lyrics in the true Brechtian style- to tell the story. This piece we performed whilst leading the audience to the gate [for music and lyrics ...

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