Performance Studies: Cross Art Project

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In small groups we were given a choice of stimuli such as poems, pictures and ideas. Our group chose the idea of ‘chaos and order’ as our stimulus because we thought that there would be many ideas to develop from this. We spent a lot of time discussing the idea of ‘order and chaos’ - they are opposites - there is never a situation where both occur at the same time yet you cannot have one without the other. Order is the way most people would like things to be, to keep order we use laws and rules so that everything should stay in control, without which there would be chaos. Chaos can be shown in many different ways such as riots or personal chaos e.g. a mental breakdown. There is no order in this kind of situation, if there were to be it would no longer be a riot but a march. We began by drawing out a spider diagram with the ideas we brainstormed about ‘order and chaos’.  

Using these ideas we decided to base our piece on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as it seem to express the idea of someone keeping order so much, to the point where their life becomes chaotic. In order for us to meet the criteria of this project we decided that we needed to research OCD so that we could base this piece on factual information.

Our group gained a lot of useful information from the Internet and books. Fears, worries suspicions and beliefs come into everyday life but when these doubts start to emerge much more excessively e.g. spending hours washing clean hands or driving round and round making sure no road accidents have occurred, these worries start becoming classed as obsessive compulsive. A lot of people who have been diagnosed with this disorder can only describe it as mental hiccups, which cannot be controlled. The cause of OCD is a medical brain turmoil in which people have trouble processing certain information. It is also caused by a ‘weak’ or unstable personality. Usually people with OCD will suffer with certain obsessions as well as compulsions, but in some cases they may only suffer with one or the other. One of our group members new someone who suffered with this disorder quite badly. They had observed this person from the beginning before being diagnosed with OCD. As a group we decided that we could use this person as a basis for our piece. This meant that we had some first hand information on the disorder so we could give our piece some realism and depth. Using all of our information, we wrote down some initial ideas that we could start to elaborate on.

Our initial aims for this piece was to show the progression into OCD. We thought we could do this by using abstract drama, movement and music. As we were basing our piece around a real person known by one of the group it was decided that we would apply everything that this person had in their life so that the audience could understand some of the real things that can initiate this disorder e.g. pressure to perform well or constant shouting because of failure. The basis for our piece is a gymnast called Kelly who is preparing for a national competition. Kelly has uptight mother, a pressurising coach who only cares about winning and a psychologist who wants to help her with her disorder.  We wanted to establish the way that Kelly’s character is close to buckling under all the pressure but feels trapped, as there is no one who seems to understand. For example this character goes into a trance like state and starts to count obsessively when she is being put under external pressure because it puts so much strain on her that she starts to find it hard to process everything properly. We wanted the audience to understand that in some cases even the people closest to the sufferer might not recognise that something could be seriously wrong, involving this type of disorder. For example, the first gym scene shows the mother and coach talking about Kelly having time off because she had her first breakdown but they discuss it as if it was something everyday and simple like a cold. Our group wanted to put across that Kelly was striving to create so much order in her life so that she was trying to take back this control that had been taken from her by her mother and coach. She was creating this order by putting pressure on herself to perform in gym at perfect standards and when she did not perform at perfect standards she would make herself work until she did. By doing she was building up so much frustration that it was becoming dangerous. When she did not perform to these high standards her coach put double the amount of unwanted pressure on her. This led to her completely shutting down.

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We used different techniques within our piece to show the various stages of the disorder, such as the 6 actions:

  • Jump
  • Travel
  • Fall
  • Gesture
  • Turn
  • Pause 

We used these in our opening dance piece. We had a motif, which was based around arm gestures for example here is one of our movements where we all are using gesturing:

We then developed this using the six actions. Kelly stood in the middle repeating a single gesture phrase while the rest of us circled round her doing our developed motif. We each used different gestures ...

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