Introduction look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

 

Introduction

The name of our devised performance was “The moral
elevator” and it was performed at Bishopshalt School on 8th
November 2016.

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Characters:

Jack Flynn – Normal and multi-rolled

Rodrique Burnett – Angry and multi-rolled

Freya Kenny – Snobby and multi-rolled

Hannah Merion – Confused and multi-rolled

Adam Alsibahie – Sad and multi-rolled

 

 Rationale:

At the beginning of our devising period our teacher gave us
three different stimuli to base our performances on. There was a quotation, a
painting and a song. The first stimulus we were given was the quotation, which
read “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Upon discussing our initial reactions to the stimulus, we came to the
conclusion that a performance based on the influence of media on our modern day
society would be an interesting concept. However we wanted to develop a unique
piece and we believed that this idea would have been used numerous times before
us, therefore we did not choose to use this stimulus as it would not have been
unique. The second stimulus we were given was the painting, called “A wind from
the sea” which was painted by Andrew Wyeth. Initially, we felt an eerie
feel produced by the painting, this because the wind blowing the curtains gave
us an impression of isolation and loneliness. After this we thought about
basing our performance on an eerie topic like paranormal activity and upon
researching the background of the painting we discovered it was painted two years
after the end of the Second World War. We thought an interesting idea would be
to base our piece on the ghosts of our past, for example things we regret doing
like soldiers who fought in the world wars and have to live with the pain they
had caused, however we thought this concept would restrict our group from
expanding on to other topics.

 

The final stimulus we were given was the stimulus we picked, the
song “A day in the life” by the Beatles. My group decided that it
would be best if we individually decipher the meaning behind every single lyric
to get an understanding as to what the song was about. I discovered that the
focus of the song was the death of Tara Browne, the heir to the Guinness
fortune, this therefore implied that despite him having all the wealth in the
world he died the same way any other normal person would, this could be linked
to the belief that we only live once and we should make the most of it. The
Beatles sing about how “They’d seen his face before, nobody was really
sure, if he was from the House of Lords”, implying that we are all the
same on the inside when we die, we are all equal. We decided to elaborate on
this idea and focus on issues in the world at the moment. My group felt that
this concept was the most unique and gave us the most freedom when it came to
devising our performance. We also felt that by choosing this stimuli it would
be more relevant and engaging to audience as we could utilize satire to keep
them intrigued.

 

 

 

 

 

Over the year prior to our performance we were taught about
numerous different practitioners and their techniques. Bertolt Brecht,
Stanislavski and Boal are just three of the many practitioners we learnt about.
 Me and my group discussed which of these
practitioners we would use to take inspiration from whilst devising our piece,
we eventually decided to use the techniques of Brecht to inspire our
performance, this was because both Stanislavski and Artaud commonly provoked
the audience to engage with the emotions and we wanted to distance ourselves
from the audience on an emotional level and we set out to make the audience
conscious of the fact that they were watching a performance. We also chose to
use the techniques of Brecht because we enjoyed how Brecht would hide political
or social messages within the performances, and we thought we could implement
our concept that “we are the same when we die” in the performance. My
group also liked Brecht’s use of breaking the fourth wall and referencing the
audience directly, another technique we liked was the use of over the top,
non-naturalistic characters as it made the audience aware that they were
watching a performance. A Brecht performance we viewed that inspired our
performance was Woyzeck, a stage play written by Georg Büchner and performed by
Spendid productions. The particular performance we viewed used numerous Brecht
techniques like breaking the fourth wall, using gestus to portray the
characters the actors were playing, they also used the technique of placards,
which we also used.

 

Development:

The role I played during my performance was an actor. During my
devised performance, I played numerous different characters, however the main
character I depicted during the performance was the stereotypical simple character
named, Normal. He was just an average Joe with no defining features, I used the
Brechtian technique of gestus to depict this character as normal as possible.
The character of normal was used to show the contrast between my other characters’s
over the top and lively nature to normal’s ordinary nature. Another character I
played was the army sergeant, he was intended to be puzzled during the March
which was conducted by Rodrique’s character, this confusion leads to conflict
between the two characters and eventually Freya’s character to get involved and
cause more chaos and conflict, relating to the main focus of the scene which
was Conflict, an issue in the world at this current moment in time. Another
character I portrayed was the character of audience member 2. During our
domestic violence, the show host calls out to the audience to ask if someone
wants to participate in abusing Hannah’s character to demonstrate what we
should do if she disobeys the man of the house. When the show host calls me
out, I stand up and face the audience performing a sequence of punches, slaps
and kicks which Hannah then reacts to as if I had actually hit her. During this
part of the scene I have uncanny, smile and I keep my eyes wide open relating
to my characters dark, sinister nature.

Over the duration of our devising process we used various
different Brechtian techniques, one of these techniques was called Verfremdungseffekt.
When directly translating Verfremdungseffekt to English from German you get the
term “Alienation effect”, this is because the main focus of
verfremdungseffekt is to make the audience aware that they are watching a
performance and to prevent the audience getting emotionally attached to the
characters and the narrative, we used this effect through directly addressing
the audience on numerous occasions, by utilizing this effect we were breaking
the fourth wall and making the audience conscious that they are not watching a
realistic, Stanislavski like performance but they are actually watching a Brechtian
performance. This technique featured mostly in our domestic violence scene,
where myself, Freya and Rodrique implemented ourselves in the audience, where
we sat beside the audience as we viewed the advertisement performed by
“the show host”, who was played by Adam and “the woman”,
who was performed by Hannah. By viewing the piece besides the audience, we
involved them in the scene, making the performance more interesting as the
audience were more engaged and felt as if they were also a character in the
performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Brechtian technique that featured constantly in our
performance was the use of placards. A placard is a sign of written information
presented onstage during the performance. Placards are commonly used In
Brechtian performances to give the audience details about the story or the
characters, this avoids creating sympathy for the characters in the
performance. They way our group used placards was by placing them around our
necks, displaying our character’s names, these names were also the emotion we
were supposed to be presenting during the performance. By telling the audience
how we are supposed to act we block the emotions directed at our characters,
meaning that the audience cannot feel sympathy towards us as we make them aware
they are watching a performance and our characters are not really feeling these
emotions. A scene which repeatedly uses placards is our last scene. All of the
cast are at downstage right, and we are standing next to a table which has all
our placards on them. One by one Freya picks up the placards and puts it around
our necks, as this happens we tell the audience why we feel this emotion
throughout the performance, my character, Normal states “I’m Normal
because I believed it was normal to hit a woman”, by revealing our
emotions we alienate the audience and make them aware that we are performing
and our emotions were not real.

In addition another Brechtian technique we used in our devised
piece was the application of multi-rolling in our piece. Multi-rolling is the
technique where an actor partakes in the role of more than one character
onstage. The contrast in the characters are shown through differing body
language, movement and voice. Despite there being a clear difference in the
characters it is visible that it is the actor playing different characters.
This keeps the audience aware that they are viewing a performance of events and
that it is not a naturalistic performance. The technique of multi-rolling
constantly features in our performance, this is because at the start of each
scene we step out of a metaphorical elevator (which is used to transition
between each scene) and transform into different roles from our main role,
which is the emotions we are playing, for example in the elevator scenes I play
the average character of Normal and when I step out I transform into the role I
am portraying in the next scene.

One last technique we used in our performance was the use
gestus, a technique frequently used in most of Brecht’s devised pieces. Gestus
is a clear character gesture or movement used by the actor that represents an
attitude of the character they are portraying. We drew inspiration from the
Brechtian performance we watched called Woyzeck. This is because in this
performance gestus is used on numerous occasions, the actor who plays Woyzeck
proceeds to use gestus every time he enters the scene, he states “Peas…
Pulse…That’s better” depicting the character of Woyzeck’s unstable and
creepy nature. My group and I decided to use this same technique through
portraying a movement which depicts the emotion we are playing, For example to
represent my main character of Normal I attempted to remain in a position which
was as neutral as possible.

A difficulty my group faced during the devising process was to
make a scene which was effective but not too gloomy or catastrophic.
We wanted to highlight problems in the world at this current time like
conflict, domestic violence and homophobia but we wanted it to remain Brechtian
and quite light-hearted. During the creation of our domestic violence scene we
were forced to use violence because we intended to give the audience a deeper
and more effective message, we did this as we wished to change their feelings
towards the issue and how they would actually react in a situation where
domestic violence takes place. To counter the issue of it being too dark of a
scene we implemented some humor, for example when Adam’s character of the show
host laughs disturbingly long, my character of audience member 2 tells him to
stop as I break character. I feel if we didn’t involve this part in the scene,
the domestic violence scene would have been a lot more dark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another difficulty we faced when creating our
performance was deciding what scene we could use to portray the issue in the
world of segregation. Initially we believed it would be better if we did a
segregation scene where it was a Christmas dinner and I was playing a foreign
friend to one of the character, in this scene I would have been segregated with
a sense of humor, for example instead of asking for turkey for Christmas I
would have asked for something unusual like sausage. When we devised this scene
I was isolated because of my differences to them. An issue we faced with this
scene is that it dragged on for quite long and most of the scene was not
relevant and did not expand on the political message we were attempting to
present. To tackle this issue we redesigned the scene in to a  different scene where I played a
stereotypical nerd who was bullied at school, we felt that this scene was a lot
more engaging and light-hearted in contrast to the original scene, it also
related to the audience who were mostly around the age of the nerd and may have
been in similar situations when joining a new school.

Personally, I believe the most important scene for
my character in the whole performance was the segregation scene. In this scene,
as I previously stated I play the role of the nerd, who is new to the school.
This is personally the most important scene because it represents our overall
moral message because it shows that despite my character and Rodrique’s
character, Sharkeisha’s differences we will be the same when we die. This scene
is also an important scene for me because it depicts the issue that we intended
to highlight, segregation. Both my character and Adam’s character are
segregated because they are different and I believe by emphasizing this issue
we may have actually had an affect on the audience in the way they would react
to a similar situation in real life. This was the main objective that Brecht
set out to achieve, to change the way people think through the use of theatre
and I believe my group and I accomplished this goal in this scene.

We used numerous different props during our
scenes, for example in the first half of our homophobia scene every character
has an item to represent their role and age, Freya’s character has a coffee cup
to show the audience that she is partaking in the role of the teacher as they
are commonly presented with coffee to get them through the stressful school
day. Both me and Rodrique’s characters had blankets to show our childish nature
and youthful age, we both held these props tightly for protection when Hannah
states “Pink Triangle” because this is linked to what gay people in
Nazi Germany times would be represented as to discriminate them from the rest
of the public, in the same sort of fashion when Hannah states this term we
cower in fear as we are terrified of her because she is different and not like
us.

 

Evaluation:

Overall, I felt that I performed strongly in our final performance,
however one scene where I felt I really exceled 
as an actor was when I was the nerd in the segregation scene. I believe
this to be the best scene for my performance because I feel I perfectly
captured the role of a stereotypical nerd, I did this by slouching my posture
and rarely facing the audience and mostly staring down at the ground. I
squinted my eyes to allude to the fact that I was wearing glasses when In
reality I was not, in order to maintain the audience’s knowledge that they were
watching a devised Brechtian, non-naturalistic piece and not a natural
performance. I spoke in a high pitched and fast paced manner to imply that I am
playing a non-naturalistic nerd. I felt I was most effective when I muttered
the line, “Who are you?” Towards Adam who played the new boy in
school, I felt it was effective because I stuttered my line to show that I was
awkward when it came to meeting new people therefore displaying that I wasn’t a
very sociable character.

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I felt I could have improved on when we performed was the use
of facial expressions during the army scene, this was because in this scene I
felt I didn’t give out enough emotions to display my feelings of confusion and
perplexity through my facial expressions.In this scene Rodrique’s character
conducts a marching sequence which Adam, Hannah and Freya all follow however my
character does not follow the others and proceeds to remain confused, the
others participate in a song, which I do not participate in as well. Instead of
just standing still I should have looked around franticly to present my
confusion. I could have also scratched my head, which is a common gesture used
to represent confusion. I could have also raised one eyebrow to further show my
bewilderment to the situation. Another instance in this scene in which I feel
that I could have used more emotion was the part where I am watching Freya and
Rodrique partake in a metaphorical tennis match, during the scene I only follow
the direction of the ball and I don’t actually show my reaction to the match, I
could have increased the audience’s involvement in the performance by showing a
shocked reaction to the match.

Overall as a group I believe our performance went well, to be specific I
believe the best part of the performance was the transition between each scene.
Instead of just travelling straight from one scene to another scene we decided
to be original and use a metaphorical elevator to transition to each scene. We
used this transition in every single scene and each time we step into it we
perform the same movements. To start we all cram ourselves into a compact space
and proceed to slowly form into our gestus to show the character we are
playing, for example Adam’s character of Sad will begin crying and lower his
head. Another reason why I believe this is our best part of our performance is
because each time we was in the elevator we foreshadowed the next scene and
gave a small section of what the next scene is going to be about, for example before
the homophobia scene my character is speaking on the phone to his uncle, who is
coincidently gay, the characters in the elevator then segregate me because of
my uncle’s sexuality, this foreshadows the next scene, which is about
homophobia. Overall I feel this transition works well because it is a unique
way to travel from one scene to another.

Something I believe as a whole group we could have improved on would
have been if we had gone through each scene and refined it to make sure that
each scene was equally as engaging and entertaining as possible.After devising
the performance we could have gone back and refined scenes like the army scene
which lacks the engaging and entertaining value, which other scenes like the
segregation scene have. The difference in the duration of these scenes is also
notable, this is because  we had spent
more time on the segregation scene than the army scene. We could have improved
the performance as a whole if we split up the refinement process in to equal
time spent on the all scenes, this would have noticeably improved our army
scene as well

To conclude , I think as a group our performance went very well and
personally I believe my own performance was decent. I really enjoyed working
with my group in producing this scene and I 
believe this is reflected on how well our performance went.

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