IntroductionThe name of our devised performance was “The moralelevator” and it was performed at Bishopshalt School on 8thNovember 2016.Characters:Jack Flynn – Normal and multi-rolled Rodrique Burnett – Angry and multi-rolledFreya Kenny – Snobby and multi-rolledHannah Merion – Confused and multi-rolledAdam Alsibahie – Sad and multi-rolled Rationale:At the beginning of our devising period our teacher gave usthree different stimuli to base our performances on. There was a quotation, apainting and a song. The first stimulus we were given was the quotation, whichread “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 theconclusion that a performance based on the influence of media on our modern daysociety would be an interesting concept. However we wanted to develop a uniquepiece and we believed that this idea would have been used numerous times beforeus, therefore we did not choose to use this stimulus as it would not have beenunique. The second stimulus we were given was the painting, called “A wind fromthe sea” which was painted by Andrew Wyeth. Initially, we felt an eeriefeel produced by the painting, this because the wind blowing the curtains gaveus an impression of isolation and loneliness. After this we thought aboutbasing our performance on an eerie topic like paranormal activity and uponresearching the background of the painting we discovered it was painted two yearsafter the end of the Second World War. We thought an interesting idea would beto base our piece on the ghosts of our past, for example things we regret doinglike soldiers who fought in the world wars and have to live with the pain theyhad caused, however we thought this concept would restrict our group fromexpanding on to other topics. The final stimulus we were given was the stimulus we picked, thesong “A day in the life” by the Beatles.
My group decided that itwould be best if we individually decipher the meaning behind every single lyricto get an understanding as to what the song was about. I discovered that thefocus of the song was the death of Tara Browne, the heir to the Guinnessfortune, this therefore implied that despite him having all the wealth in theworld he died the same way any other normal person would, this could be linkedto the belief that we only live once and we should make the most of it. TheBeatles sing about how “They’d seen his face before, nobody was reallysure, if he was from the House of Lords”, implying that we are all thesame on the inside when we die, we are all equal. We decided to elaborate onthis idea and focus on issues in the world at the moment. My group felt thatthis concept was the most unique and gave us the most freedom when it came todevising our performance.
We also felt that by choosing this stimuli it wouldbe more relevant and engaging to audience as we could utilize satire to keepthem intrigued. Over the year prior to our performance we were taught aboutnumerous 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 thesepractitioners we would use to take inspiration from whilst devising our piece,we eventually decided to use the techniques of Brecht to inspire ourperformance, this was because both Stanislavski and Artaud commonly provokedthe audience to engage with the emotions and we wanted to distance ourselvesfrom the audience on an emotional level and we set out to make the audienceconscious of the fact that they were watching a performance. We also chose touse the techniques of Brecht because we enjoyed how Brecht would hide politicalor social messages within the performances, and we thought we could implementour concept that “we are the same when we die” in the performance.
Mygroup also liked Brecht’s use of breaking the fourth wall and referencing theaudience directly, another technique we liked was the use of over the top,non-naturalistic characters as it made the audience aware that they werewatching a performance. A Brecht performance we viewed that inspired ourperformance was Woyzeck, a stage play written by Georg Büchner and performed bySpendid productions. The particular performance we viewed used numerous Brechttechniques like breaking the fourth wall, using gestus to portray thecharacters 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 mydevised performance, I played numerous different characters, however the maincharacter I depicted during the performance was the stereotypical simple characternamed, Normal.
He was just an average Joe with no defining features, I used theBrechtian 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’sover the top and lively nature to normal’s ordinary nature. Another character Iplayed was the army sergeant, he was intended to be puzzled during the Marchwhich was conducted by Rodrique’s character, this confusion leads to conflictbetween the two characters and eventually Freya’s character to get involved andcause more chaos and conflict, relating to the main focus of the scene whichwas Conflict, an issue in the world at this current moment in time. Anothercharacter I portrayed was the character of audience member 2. During ourdomestic violence, the show host calls out to the audience to ask if someonewants to participate in abusing Hannah’s character to demonstrate what weshould do if she disobeys the man of the house. When the show host calls meout, I stand up and face the audience performing a sequence of punches, slapsand kicks which Hannah then reacts to as if I had actually hit her. During thispart of the scene I have uncanny, smile and I keep my eyes wide open relatingto my characters dark, sinister nature. Over the duration of our devising process we used variousdifferent Brechtian techniques, one of these techniques was called Verfremdungseffekt.
When directly translating Verfremdungseffekt to English from German you get theterm “Alienation effect”, this is because the main focus ofverfremdungseffekt is to make the audience aware that they are watching aperformance and to prevent the audience getting emotionally attached to thecharacters and the narrative, we used this effect through directly addressingthe audience on numerous occasions, by utilizing this effect we were breakingthe fourth wall and making the audience conscious that they are not watching arealistic, Stanislavski like performance but they are actually watching a Brechtianperformance. This technique featured mostly in our domestic violence scene,where myself, Freya and Rodrique implemented ourselves in the audience, wherewe 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, weinvolved them in the scene, making the performance more interesting as theaudience were more engaged and felt as if they were also a character in theperformance.
Another Brechtian technique that featured constantly in ourperformance was the use of placards. A placard is a sign of written informationpresented onstage during the performance. Placards are commonly used InBrechtian performances to give the audience details about the story or thecharacters, this avoids creating sympathy for the characters in theperformance. They way our group used placards was by placing them around ournecks, displaying our character’s names, these names were also the emotion wewere supposed to be presenting during the performance. By telling the audiencehow 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 awarethey are watching a performance and our characters are not really feeling theseemotions. A scene which repeatedly uses placards is our last scene. All of thecast are at downstage right, and we are standing next to a table which has allour placards on them.
One by one Freya picks up the placards and puts it aroundour necks, as this happens we tell the audience why we feel this emotionthroughout the performance, my character, Normal states “I’m Normalbecause I believed it was normal to hit a woman”, by revealing ouremotions we alienate the audience and make them aware that we are performingand our emotions were not real.In addition another Brechtian technique we used in our devisedpiece was the application of multi-rolling in our piece. Multi-rolling is thetechnique where an actor partakes in the role of more than one characteronstage. The contrast in the characters are shown through differing bodylanguage, movement and voice. Despite there being a clear difference in thecharacters it is visible that it is the actor playing different characters.This keeps the audience aware that they are viewing a performance of events andthat it is not a naturalistic performance.
The technique of multi-rollingconstantly features in our performance, this is because at the start of eachscene we step out of a metaphorical elevator (which is used to transitionbetween 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 playthe average character of Normal and when I step out I transform into the role Iam portraying in the next scene.One last technique we used in our performance was the usegestus, a technique frequently used in most of Brecht’s devised pieces. Gestusis a clear character gesture or movement used by the actor that represents anattitude of the character they are portraying. We drew inspiration from theBrechtian performance we watched called Woyzeck. This is because in thisperformance gestus is used on numerous occasions, the actor who plays Woyzeckproceeds to use gestus every time he enters the scene, he states “Peas…Pulse.
..That’s better” depicting the character of Woyzeck’s unstable andcreepy nature.
My group and I decided to use this same technique throughportraying a movement which depicts the emotion we are playing, For example torepresent my main character of Normal I attempted to remain in a position whichwas as neutral as possible.A difficulty my group faced during the devising process was tomake a scene which was effective but not too gloomy or catastrophic.We wanted to highlight problems in the world at this current time likeconflict, domestic violence and homophobia but we wanted it to remain Brechtianand quite light-hearted. During the creation of our domestic violence scene wewere forced to use violence because we intended to give the audience a deeperand more effective message, we did this as we wished to change their feelingstowards the issue and how they would actually react in a situation wheredomestic violence takes place. To counter the issue of it being too dark of ascene we implemented some humor, for example when Adam’s character of the showhost laughs disturbingly long, my character of audience member 2 tells him tostop 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 ourperformance was deciding what scene we could use to portray the issue in theworld of segregation. Initially we believed it would be better if we did asegregation scene where it was a Christmas dinner and I was playing a foreignfriend to one of the character, in this scene I would have been segregated witha sense of humor, for example instead of asking for turkey for Christmas Iwould have asked for something unusual like sausage. When we devised this sceneI was isolated because of my differences to them.
An issue we faced with thisscene is that it dragged on for quite long and most of the scene was notrelevant and did not expand on the political message we were attempting topresent. To tackle this issue we redesigned the scene in to a different scene where I played astereotypical nerd who was bullied at school, we felt that this scene was a lotmore engaging and light-hearted in contrast to the original scene, it alsorelated to the audience who were mostly around the age of the nerd and may havebeen in similar situations when joining a new school.Personally, I believe the most important scene formy 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 overallmoral message because it shows that despite my character and Rodrique’scharacter, Sharkeisha’s differences we will be the same when we die. This sceneis also an important scene for me because it depicts the issue that we intendedto highlight, segregation. Both my character and Adam’s character aresegregated because they are different and I believe by emphasizing this issuewe may have actually had an affect on the audience in the way they would reactto a similar situation in real life. This was the main objective that Brechtset out to achieve, to change the way people think through the use of theatreand I believe my group and I accomplished this goal in this scene.
We used numerous different props during ourscenes, for example in the first half of our homophobia scene every characterhas an item to represent their role and age, Freya’s character has a coffee cupto show the audience that she is partaking in the role of the teacher as theyare commonly presented with coffee to get them through the stressful schoolday. Both me and Rodrique’s characters had blankets to show our childish natureand youthful age, we both held these props tightly for protection when Hannahstates “Pink Triangle” because this is linked to what gay people inNazi Germany times would be represented as to discriminate them from the restof the public, in the same sort of fashion when Hannah states this term wecower in fear as we are terrified of her because she is different and not likeus. 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 believethis to be the best scene for my performance because I feel I perfectlycaptured the role of a stereotypical nerd, I did this by slouching my postureand rarely facing the audience and mostly staring down at the ground. Isquinted my eyes to allude to the fact that I was wearing glasses when Inreality I was not, in order to maintain the audience’s knowledge that they werewatching a devised Brechtian, non-naturalistic piece and not a naturalperformance. I spoke in a high pitched and fast paced manner to imply that I amplaying a non-naturalistic nerd.
I felt I was most effective when I mutteredthe line, “Who are you?” Towards Adam who played the new boy inschool, I felt it was effective because I stuttered my line to show that I wasawkward when it came to meeting new people therefore displaying that I wasn’t avery sociable character. One thing I felt I could have improved on when we performed was the useof facial expressions during the army scene, this was because in this scene Ifelt I didn’t give out enough emotions to display my feelings of confusion andperplexity through my facial expressions.In this scene Rodrique’s characterconducts a marching sequence which Adam, Hannah and Freya all follow however mycharacter does not follow the others and proceeds to remain confused, theothers participate in a song, which I do not participate in as well. Instead ofjust standing still I should have looked around franticly to present myconfusion. I could have also scratched my head, which is a common gesture usedto represent confusion. I could have also raised one eyebrow to further show mybewilderment to the situation. Another instance in this scene in which I feelthat I could have used more emotion was the part where I am watching Freya andRodrique partake in a metaphorical tennis match, during the scene I only followthe direction of the ball and I don’t actually show my reaction to the match, Icould have increased the audience’s involvement in the performance by showing ashocked reaction to the match.
Overall as a group I believe our performance went well, to be specific Ibelieve the best part of the performance was the transition between each scene.Instead of just travelling straight from one scene to another scene we decidedto be original and use a metaphorical elevator to transition to each scene. Weused this transition in every single scene and each time we step into it weperform the same movements. To start we all cram ourselves into a compact spaceand proceed to slowly form into our gestus to show the character we areplaying, for example Adam’s character of Sad will begin crying and lower hishead. Another reason why I believe this is our best part of our performance isbecause each time we was in the elevator we foreshadowed the next scene andgave a small section of what the next scene is going to be about, for example beforethe homophobia scene my character is speaking on the phone to his uncle, who iscoincidently gay, the characters in the elevator then segregate me because ofmy uncle’s sexuality, this foreshadows the next scene, which is abouthomophobia. Overall I feel this transition works well because it is a uniqueway to travel from one scene to another.Something I believe as a whole group we could have improved on wouldhave been if we had gone through each scene and refined it to make sure thateach scene was equally as engaging and entertaining as possible.
After devisingthe performance we could have gone back and refined scenes like the army scenewhich lacks the engaging and entertaining value, which other scenes like thesegregation scene have. The difference in the duration of these scenes is alsonotable, this is because we had spentmore time on the segregation scene than the army scene. We could have improvedthe performance as a whole if we split up the refinement process in to equaltime spent on the all scenes, this would have noticeably improved our armyscene as well To conclude , I think as a group our performance went very well andpersonally I believe my own performance was decent. I really enjoyed workingwith my group in producing this scene and I believe this is reflected on how well our performance went.