Saturday, 25 October 2008

Verbatim and Robben Island Bible 23rd Oct 08

If I am completely honest I had never heard of Verbatim Theatre before (blonde I no!) but I do now yaaay! I found a fantastic definition of Verbatim on 'Verbatim plays are, as the name suggests, written using only the precise words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic'. Mark suggested a few Verbatim plays to read for the lesson including Permanent Way by David Hare and Talking to Terrorists by Robin Soans. My favourite out of them all is Cancer Tales by Nell Dunn as I have never met my Grandma due to cancer. As we were also talking about placements for our assessment in the lesson reading Cancer Tales inspired me. My idea is to maybe work with a local cancer support group to create a production to raise awareness and at the same time raise money for the charity (via tickets to the production). I am unsure weather to base the production on their personal experiences (with permission) or base it on a published play?

In lesson Mark also mentioned Matthew Hahn's project on Robben Island Bible and his ongoing blog. Reading Matthew Hahn's blog really inspired me to find out more about Robbens Island, so I really recommend taking the time to have look at his blog. First of all I found a website that gave a brief history on apartheid and Robben Island - The next website is more on the prison and a photo tour. The actual tours are done by ex-prisoners which I think is fantastic and brave as it must be such an emotional place for them. The website for this is I felt very touched by the photo tour and would like to go there sometime in the future.
In the summer I went to see my uncle and auntie in Sarasota, Florida which is just south of Orlando. It is a town that is not touristy like Orlando so I was very lucky to get a taste of Floridian culture. I was extremely surprised when my uncle and auntie made a remark of we get funny looks when we ride our bikes to the shops (as they have recently moved from Holland where bikes have priority over cars!!! I'd love to see it happen here!). Me being me asked why? She explained that most Hispanics do not own cars and they cycle. They have jobs like groundsman and cleaning etc.. so there is a clear cultural divide in the area. For the next two weeks of the holiday I was more aware of it. I did not agree with this and as a result of cultural divide I was slightly frightened to go on my own anywhere. I was extremely shocked that this is still happening and my uncle said it may even take a while for this cultural divide to end.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Boal and The Help 16th October 08

This lesson started with a discussion about 'The Help'. I really enjoyed this discussion as I was able to hear everyone else's opinion on the production. I think that the majority of the class was either surprised or glad that they enjoyed the performance as we all took something from the night: inspiration, knowledge and awareness. I am glad we had a post show discussion as I was able to clarify a few things like why the joker, Terry was confused that we were concerned we might offend people if we have not had the experience they have. We came to several conclusions to why the group are worried we may offend:

1. Although we may have done our research there is a danger of stereo typing the person we are presenting. But then, a few people argued that if you have done your research what more can you do? So, the person you are presenting would not be offended.

2. It is a British manner to be polite and not offend people, so we are scared to break this manner.

3. The story that you are telling can be very sensitive to people, so is there a correct way to tell it back without offending them?

4. Being conscious of the whole political correctness which has gone slightly too far "baa baa rainbow coloured sheep"!

After, our discussion we read through Augusto Boal's 'Family' which is 'A play script used during the mandate as a basis for Forum Sessions'. It is based on a lower-middle class family who find out the youngest daughter is pregnant. We discussed what type of audience we would perform it to which was teenagers and parents. We also discussed that we could not forum any of the other characters except Glaca (the younger daughter) as she is the one with the problem that needs a possible solution. And if you were to forum for example the father you could solve the problem easily but it is not true to life and does not educate the audience. I believe that Forum Theatre educates the audience even if it is something small.
At the end of the lesson, Mark mentioned a you tube link which can be found on his blog dated 30th July 2008. It was nice to see an example of community theatre that Mark had helped with as what we discuss with him in class can be seen for real. It was also nice to see Forum Theatre being done out of the UK and still being successful.

I found a few interesting quotes and facts relating to Boal in The Twentieth-Century Performance Reader 2nd Edition by Michael Huxley and Noel Witts:
  • 'Popular audiences are interested in experimenting......they try to enter into a dialogue with the actors, to interrupt the action, to ask for explanations without waiting politely for the end of the play'. I thought that this quote from Boal was very true to Forum Theatre and maybe why it is successful.
  • This quote was interesting to me as I was unaware of it and proves to the people who think Drama is not a real subject or a proper degree! - 'Boal is currently Member of Parliament of Rio de Janiero's Workers Party (PT), where he is developing his most recent theatre form - the legislative theatre -, which involves using theatre techniques to enable communities to propose laws, which they would like the council (chambre de Vereadores) to formalise.'
  • As I believe that Forum Theatre educates the audience, I came across another type of theatre called Guerrilla Theatre which also educates. Guerrilla Theatre was extremely popular in the sixties and is performed on the streets. It is a type of protesting but through theatre. 'When ACT UP members lie down in the streets simulating the dead and dying of AIDS .....not only does the media catch the event and broadcast it, but group members are also invigorated, reaffirming in public their belief in their cause and each other' This is an example of Guerrilla Theatre.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Story telling lesson 9th October 08

Today's lesson was based on story telling. To begin the lesson we played a ball game which consisted of the group standing in a circle and throwing the ball to each other. When the ball gets thrown to a person, the person has to say a word relating to the subject that is decided before the game starts. So, for example if the subject is 'community', the person who has caught the ball may say 'togetherness'. If a person drops the ball or hesitates they have to go down onto one knee. To redeem themselves they have to re-catch the ball. This game does not only warm the group up but also gets their imagination going. I think that the game helps to involve the quieter members of the group or maybe in a community the 'outsiders'.

The next exercise consisted of the play 'Overspill' by Ali Taylor. The play was actually written for a competition in Bromley which won and was performed in the Churchill Theatre. 'Overspill' is based on three characters Baron, Finch and Potts who are all twenty years old. It is an extract from a usual Friday night out for the three characters. All three characters share the role of telling their story and they begin to represent themselves. There is a sense of community being a ritual in the play as the three characters ritual of 'We always get Big Macs' gets broken when Potts orders a Fillet O'Fish which causes friction between the characters. This kind of reminds me of when people argue over the most petty of things that to others may not mean anything but a simple thing like the Fillet O'Fish means something major to certain individuals. They are almost a community within a community as they are part of the Bromley community but also part of their three gang Big Mac crew! This community within a community idea comes to light when Baron's girlfriend, Michelle may come to their usual hanging out place (Maccie D's). Michelle is not welcomed when Baron mentions it. Michelle represents the outsider to their community as she is not welcome. In class we had a debate on weather the play was based on a different borough and was changed to Bromley for the competition. If this was true it proves that this type of community can be found in any community in any borough as these characters can be found in society. Me and Bex both live in the borough of Bromley, so in this exercise we were able to relate to the play. I could also picture the location of Maccie D's and Delano's in Bromley, which made the play more authentic for me.

The 12 dancing princesses

Molly told us a story of The 12 dancing princesses and we were told to get comfortable. As Molly was telling the story I could imagine the story and pictured it in my head. Half way through Molly role played a strict teacher and kept telling us off. I was so busy trying to be good and not do anything bad I actually missed a section of the story. Molly also made us do actions to the story which made me move away from the story and stopped me from imagining it in my head. I thought that Molly had shown us that how we tell a story can effect our understanding and enjoyment of it being told. After, Molly had told the story, we had to re-tell it without the book in two ways:

1. Taking it in turns to sit in the chair and re-tell a section of the story until someone shouts stop and takes over on the chair. If the person in the chair told a section of the story wrong another person is allowed to shout stop and retell the wrong section again but correctly. This was quite comical to watch as some people were stuck, so they said things that did not relate to the story. But at the same time it was quite nerve racking to shout stop and take over. With this exercise you have to be careful as there is a danger of people being negative to each other about getting the section of the story correct.

2. Sitting in a circle and telling a section of the story with a few sentences each. This time we were allowed to go away from the 12 dancing princesses which was very funny. I preferred this way as everybody had a chance to tell a section of the story and it was not as scary as you did not have to sit on the chair. When we were sitting in the circle I felt like we were making a team effort to the story whereas when we were scattered around the room and had to shout stop it felt like an individuals story.

I think this exercise is more useful to do with a younger generation as they are not scared to say anything silly and use their imagination as they are less self conscious than an elder generation. I am glad we are learning a range of techniques and exercises that are suitable for various ages as I am still unsure what type of community I would like to work with.

The last exercise was partner work telling each other a memorable night out. The first partner had to tell their story in an interview style and the second partner was free to tell their story. Once both partners had listened to the stories they had to re-tell it back to each other. When I was telling Simona's story back to her I felt conscious that I needed to get everything correct. Simona was really good and patient as she corrected me a few times. I felt that as I interviewed Simona I told the story back in structured chunks and had much factual information on events that happened. When Simona told my story back to me I got really attached to my story and got quite irritated when she did not tell it correctly. She probably thought moody melon! I noticed that Simona telling my story back flowed more than when I told hers back. I think this was due to the story telling styles. I felt very comfortable telling Simona my story as we are good friends but I think if it was someone I did not know as well, I think I would have exaggerated and changed sections of my story to make me feel more comfortable and interesting. It was very interesting when we had the group feed back as most people got attached to their story and exaggerated sections of their story to make it more interesting. I think it was intriguing to see how memorable nights were both positive and negative to various people, there was a real mixture of both. I can now relate to why you should ask permission to use a person's story as I got quite attached to mine.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Help by Carboard Citizens

On Tuesday 14th October, Cardboard Citizens performed The Help in St Mary's Theatre. Cardboard Citizens are a professional company that involve homeless or ex-homeless people. They are unique as they are the only homeless professional theatre company in the UK. The companies speciality is forum theatre and they perform mainly to hostels and day-centres.

I have never experienced Forum Theatre before so I did not know what to expect. As I walked into the theatre they were already on stage observing the audience coming in. I must say that this made me feel a little uncomfortable as I felt I did not want to do anything different to attract attention to myself just in case one of actors started to interact with me. The set was simple (cardboard boxes) but effective as they had many scenes with different locations. Once most of the audience were in their seats The Joker told us that we should clap to anyone who was late. This was what I feared and thank goodness I was not late! This simple exercise actually gave the audience a warm-up and I felt more ready to watch the production.

The production consisted of three adapted and true stories that set up a dilemma. Throughout the three stories the joker helped to link and multi-role in scenes. I think that the joker was vital as she gave the stories clarity and created a smooth transition between scenes. At one point Rob took the role of story telling his own story by the other members of the cast replicating him by his cloths. So, his cloths became a puppet of him. I really enjoyed this moment as the rest of the cast were working the puppet and I was able to see the character telling his own story. However, I felt that when the two social workers were restraining the puppet it felt like the moment had gone as the puppet was motionless. And I stopped using my imagination because of this. For me, I would have liked Rob to step in earlier and become himself again.

Throughout the piece there was a lot of puppetry and I thought that all performers on stage worked very well with them which made me enjoy watching them. However, the only puppet I did not enjoy as much was the puppet that represented Lee. I think that as the puppet was a ken doll and it was so different to the other puppets, I felt it did not work as well.

The overall performance was touching and creative but at places I felt the acting was slightly amateurish, this may have partly been down to first night nerves. After the performance, the forum began. I really enjoyed the audience getting involved with the dilemma on stage as it gave the performers a chance to improvise and the audience to learn. Although the company were aiming the message to an audience in hostels and youth centres, as students we still learnt something, that hostels are not free and I think expensive. The Joker had to end the forum but I really wanted to go on for so much longer and forum the other two stories! I have never experienced forum theatre before but I really enjoyed being part of an audience for the cardboard citizens forum theatre.

I recommend looking at their website as it has a lot more information on the company and future events.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

First Lesson 2nd october 08

Over the weekend me and my boyfriend Terry went ice skating in lee valley which is near Hackney, East London. As we were driving home through Hackney I began to think of the lesson with Molly, as we discussed what makes a community and our identity. It was about 11.30 on a friday night and the majority of the shops were open with quite a few people about. The shops were the kind which sell international food and store the fruit and vegetables outside. Most of the people were gangs hanging out on the street and a few waiting for buses. We stopped at some traffic lights and on the other side of the road was a young (early 20's) girl with a child in a push chair talking to an older woman (lets just say 50-90??). I was quite surprised that they were both comfortably having a conversation on a friday night as Hackney can be a rough area. I had made the assumption that a rough area would have a broken and distant community. So this made me think, if the young girl and older woman felt safe on the streets in Hackney on a friday night, could this mean they have a close community?

The lesson 2/10/08 was interesting to find out what community meant to everyone in the class and the variations (positive and negative). When we did the exercise with getting into height order, I felt quite left out as I was on the end. Being the shortest and tallest made you feel like an outsider as you were on the end of the line. A response from the middle of the line was that they felt safe and accepted. I think that this relates to a community as the different ones (shortest and tallest) do not fit in within the community whereas the similar ones (in the middle) fit in.

In 'The Politics of performance Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention' by Baz Kershaw, I found a few points interesting and others I could relate to:
  • Kershaw comments on how the audiences response changes the performance on stage. I think this is very true as when I was in 'Allo, 'Allo, if the audience were lively and laughed the performance on stage became slightly more exaggerated and dynamic.
  • Kershaw refers to Richard Schechner who believes performance is not just the production but the process before and after. I agree with this as when I am part of a production I feel that the cast and crew begin to become a community, as we all work together (most of the time!).
  • I think that community theatre involves risk as you are working with a fragmented community and some of the work will involve ideological meaning. Kershaw gives an example of performance and risk, Sean O'Casey's 'The Plough and Stars' which caused riot in 1926. Below is a link that I found that gives you a little more information on this.