The Great Big Bonsai Cacti Show was very eclectic, confusing but engaging and humorous. The plays were continuous, as if to not let go of the audience's attention, there was never a boring moment.
Naomi Darling 10H
Evaluative Phase A04
The Great Big Bonsai Cacti Show was very eclectic, confusing but engaging and humorous. The plays were continuous, as if to not let go of the audience’s attention, there was never a boring moment. They gripped the audience. The rhythm of the play was quick and it was always holding the audience’s attention.
“What’s the difference between a poor play and a good one? I think there is a very simple way of comparing them. A play in performance is a series of impressions; little dabs, one after another, fragments of information of feeling in a sequence, which stirs the audience’s perceptions. A good play sends many messages, often several at a time, often crowding, jostling, overlapping one another... in a poor play the impressions are well spaced out, they lope along in single file, and in the gaps the heart can sleep, while the mind wonders of the days annoyances and thoughts of dinner.” This quote by Peter Brook explains how all the different ideas in the play and the speed of it made it a really good play.
The performance was awe-inspiring and seemed very challenging but the actors/actresses were enthusiastic, lively, bold and took risks. They seemed to have enjoyed performing and kept in character, which was very important for such strong roles. There was a dramatic change between plots leaving the audience in excitement. The whole cast had quite big parts which gave them all a chance to show off their different strengths. They marked the moment very well, beginning the show in freeze frames with the light brightening and ending the shows with dimming of lights and freeze frames. The content was really mature which made it confusing for me. They used phrases like “in the closet” which I didn’t get but later found out what it had meant and the play made so much more sense.
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In the first scene they used space well, as if watching a film they followed the sound carrying their chairs to wherever the sound was, turning their heads round with their eyes open listening to the sound then in the one of the fighting scenes they kept going round and round in a circle with their heads moving side to side. Space was used effectively, when it was a solo part, the character came to the front to project their voices out to the back and to also be heard over the sound effects. If they were on stage as an ensemble, they were spread out evenly on the stage, which made it really organized. In “Doggone!” they used the space really interestingly. They used a triangular formation across the stage whilst riding on a triangular box resembling a horse but with “HORSE” written clearly on it and singing. The performance was end on which worked really well although they didn’t have must choice as that was the way the stage was originally set. They managed to use the space creatively, for example, running on the spot instead of really running on stage. You didn’t need the setting to be realistic as the actors were so engaging you used your imagination for the performance, the lighting and sound filling it in completing it. It was inspiring.
On one scene they did Thought-tracking on stage where the character would tell the audience their private thoughts whilst the rest of the characters were in freeze frames. I found that it worked very well as you knew the motive and intentions on the character. The characters came to life by body movement, facial expressions and personification, all used from an interesting perspective for instance they used two girls as doors leading into a saloon. With their arms as doors their then controlled who went into the saloon and who didn’t. For particular characters they would swing their arms a little then push them backwards so they couldn’t get in which was very amusing.
Saloon door using two people’s arms
Private Dick in “Sam Spade’s Lampshade” was clever with her facial expressions and used them a lot to entertain whereas Poncho in “Doggone!” used strong accents and managed to sustain her accent throughout the play. All the characters added to their interesting accents with different tones and speeds. They put themselves into the character, physically and mentally.
They used a lot of Focus, Laban and The Seven states of Tension to build their characters especially Californian.
In our drama lessons we had been working on the use of Laban, Focus and The Seven states of Tension and how using them helped build up different characters and we found that changing from one state of tension to another rapidly worked very effectively in freeze frames. In “Sam Spade’s Lampshade” one of the main characters really captured the use of suspension for her role. She also managed to use both her movement and voice to complement each other. The costumes helped a lot with characterization, making the characters come to life.
Lighting and sound played a big role in this production. The music and lighting helped create a bigger effect, never boring the audience. In the beginning the stage was black and at the back there was a cyclorama then during the play it transformed with each play by simple lighting effects. The lighting gave very different effects from “Sam Spade’s Lampshade” red and blue lights representing the lights from police cars with a siren to the cowboy-fighting scene with light flickering and sound effects for the gunshots. Music really emphasized the mood along with the different colour lights. They used spotlights to draw the audience’s attention to specific characters when required and in the romance scene they used blue lights and French music to give that romantic feel to the audience.
I felt the production had a strong sense of historical, social and cultural influences. The social and cultural influences bought to attention how eclectic Hong Kong is and although Hong Kong is quite conservative, the students were confident, adventurous and daring exploring different aspects of theatre like cross-dressing. They broke boundaries with talking about homosexuality which I think was very brave of them. They were very mature about it instead of sniggering about it they played it seriously. I feel they worked well as an ensemble and used different styles of theatre, for example they used Asian theatre with the Japanese umbrella dance and Japanese music. It had a slight American historical film influence; one of the plays “Doggone!” was like a detective film. Overall it was very cosmopolitan. The final ending of the play unraveled the play and left you feeling overly satisfied. If I was the director the only thing I would change was the use of space, I would have done theatre-in-the-round, it would give the audience a chance to see everyone’s different reactions.
In our lesson we did a workshop on the evaluative phase and did some freeze frames to show the different reactions people had to the play. We named ours ‘faces in the dark”.
After the freeze frame we did a breathing exercise with the lights off laying on the floor, we were asked questions about the performance and thought about the answers to them quietly. This was then followed by an exercise called consequences in which we were given some paper and we were asked a question and we wrote down our answer then passed the sheet around and answered another question until we had went through all the questions. I found this really helpful as when we were given this task we could go and read the sheets and see not only our response to the play but others as well.