Drama and Theatre Studies structured records

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How the student role emerged and was communicated.

‘Use of space’ explored the broad topic of social and professional satisfaction and happiness. In order to highlight the universal implications of our piece, we decided that it was necessary to use diverse characters allowing the audience to identify with aspects of each persona’s issues. Initially, we brainstormed several different problems that could affect an individual’s happiness in the work place, and came up with the fundamentals for five characters.

The original basis of my character came from my own anxieties towards life. During devising we were contemplating university choices and starting to arrange our lives after college. As a group we all felt anxious and many felt a lack of direction. This insecurity we felt towards leaving the secondary education system, led to the creation of Pamela (the character I played.) After discussing Pamela’s initial characteristics, focusing on her feelings of anxiety and confusion we had to decide her plot. Her lack of control and direction led us to create her objective to gain a secure role in the work place to solve her anxieties. After creating the fundamentals of each character we discussed as a group their characterisation. The role of Pamela primarily emerged through a series of role-plays. Firstly, I performed as her character in different situations allowing me to develop her personality. The remaining members contributed as supporting characters in the role play and often suggested ways to present her.  I feel that my understanding of Pamela’s persona emerged during the staging of her box monologue. Through this monologue we hoped to communicate to the audience Pamela’s feelings of anxiety and confusion towards her professional future. As a group we felt the most effective way to portray this was through the use of physical theatre, therefore, the remaining members of the group adopted the role of a maze in which Pamela was metaphorically trapped. During the staging of this sequence I had to deliver my monologue whilst struggling through a figurative maze. As a performer I was sensitive to my characters claustrophobic feelings allowing me to successfully communicate her anxieties to the audience. Throughout the staging of this monologue the remaining group members concentrated on the performing space I was given. Although it was frustrating for me to be contained to a very small performing area, it allowed me to sympathise with my characters feelings of confinement and eventually resulted in a very successful portrayal of Pamela.

During devising our characters, we were aware that each individual had to adopt a dream persona in the ‘fantasy’ scenes. We hoped to communicate to the audience contrasting characteristics in these persona’s, to highlight their desire to escape the frustration they feel towards reality. Whilst creating the character Angela’s ‘fantasy’ persona we analysed the reality Angela. Angela shows boredom towards her monotonous life. Through her character we hoped to communicate to the audience the necessity of having hobbies and dreams. The fantasy Angela emerged through the improvisation of a Latin American soap opera. We created the vivacious and dramatic character Maria who starkly contrasted Angela. As a group we agreed that the performance of Maria should be melodramatic and exaggerated to further contrast Angela’s tedious reality. It was important to introduce a character for Maria to interact with to inject more energy into the scene.  Through discussion we settled with a cliché love story and decided to introduce a male character who Maria is having an affair with. It was essential for this scene to maintain intense energy levels to contrast with the previous office scene.  Firstly, we researched typical novella characters to influences our roles. I suggested that the group members in this scene (Helia and Payam) should highlight the sexual attraction between the characters. Initially this provoked awkwardness between Payam and Helia; therefore, we felt it was necessary to introduce an activity to make the two more comfortable with each other. We used several team building exercises to make Helia and Payam more physically comfortable with one another; the most successful was the leading the blind exercise. Through this exercise the participants were forced to be more sensitive towards each other, in partners one partner was chosen to lead the other blindly by the tip of the nose. Through constant contact and reliance this was very successful in making Payam and Helia more at ease.  Similarly, it helped to distance the novella character to the actor.  Through exaggerated physicality and melodramatic acting techniques the actor was dissociated with the character.

Costumes successfully contributed to the portrayal of my character in the murder mystery fantasy. I played a stereotypical, stock detective character originally based on the Agatha Christie character Hercule Poirot. Initially I struggled to effectively portray this character because it was such a contrasting role to my reality. Physicality was a very important aspect of this character because of the desired effect we hoped to achieve. We had chosen to use melodrama and clichéd anecdotes, therefore, it was important that the audience drew parallels between my character and Poirot for comedic effect. Through further independent research I discovered Poirot’s defining feature was a French trench coat, and I decided to rehearse wearing this item. Surprisingly, the trench coat allowed me to connect with Poirot’s physicality and personality, through wearing the coat my characterisation improved and allowed me to successfully perform as a response to Poirot.  

How the group planned for a range of responses from the audience.

Initially we intended to present a serious production highlighting the importance of life satisfaction parodied through working life, based in an office. However, during the initial devising stages we decided to introduce fantasy scenes to contrast the monotonous office scenes and highlight the significance of dreams and ambition. As a group we showed interest towards comedic genres and felt that these would juxtapose the natural and static nature of the office scenes. However, although many of our fantasy scenes were intended for humorous effect a few were interpreted by the audience as humorous without intent. Fortunately, we decided to perform a dress rehearsal to a mock audience to gain an understanding of the successful aspects of humour the results were unexpected.

Through devising the silent movie fantasy scene, we were expecting humorous results due to the slapstick nature of the comedy, however, we had to take into account the cliché and overexposed format of the silent movie. As a group we discussed the possibility that the audience would not react well to this scene due to the lack of originality. Throughout popular culture for the past fifty years in some opinions this genre has been exhausted, therefore we had to be prepared for an underwhelming reaction towards this particular scene. In order for the humorous response to be successful we decided that the content of our silent movie had to be obviously inspired by original content. As a group we decided that we were not going to aim to be original in this scene but aimed to create a polished and skilful tribute to silent films.

It was important for us to consider different attitudes towards comedic genres. In particular silent films and slapstick comedy often generate various opinions. Through discussion we discovered that in our group of five alone there were several different opinions regarding slapstick comedy. Personally, I contributed an annoyance towards the genre explaining that I found it tedious, patronising and often crude. However, contrastingly, Payam presented his enthusiasm towards slapstick comedy and defended his fondness towards slapstick comedians such as Lee Evans and Charlie Chaplin. Therefore we were initially prepared for an audience varied responses to the slapstick moments throughout our piece.

This discussion led us to consider our target audience. Due to the content of our play we discussed that it transcended a fixed target audience, any age group could respond to the implications and the messages we were hoping to portray. However, because of the universality of our play we discussed different attitudes towards aspects of the play. Firstly, we evaluated that a younger audience would react better towards the humorous aspects especially ages between 12 and 19, therefore we decided to target the humour to this age group. We initially decided to do this by exaggerating our humorous stereotypes and characters physicality to the extreme. However, during a viewed rehearsal run it became apparent that our characterisations needed to be exaggerated, especially in our silent movie scene.

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Through discussion we came to the conclusion that older audience members would react well to the stereotypes used in out murder mystery fantasy. In particular the detective stereotype took inspiration from the fictional character Poirot. Generationally, we were aware that a younger audience member would be alienated by the introduction of this stock character because they would not be able to identify with the original. The characterisation of the detective also played a large reliance on the audience members, creating a pantomime like effect. Whilst playing the detective character I often made eye contact with the audience and projected jokes ...

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