For my Devised project I chose to work with fellow classmates Abby Hammond, Zo Gilvear and Stephanie Cox, also my group had lights specialist Peter Jenkins. The task assigned was to write a play based upon any themes that occurred in the GCSE text we had been studying e.g: Dysfunctional relationships, broken families or a play following a structural pattern like ‘walking with shadows’. The original idea our group had was to follow a similar structure to ‘walking with shadows ‘ with flashbacks and non-naturalistic characters but this idea was ruled out as it would be very difficult to execute a play of that style with four characters without the play lasting an hour. After much deliberation we decided that we would link the ideas of dysfunctional relationships and broken families. This would fit nicely into a twenty minute play and enable our group to mould around an idea for a sustained period of time before our performance.
Now that we had decided on a theme, we had to decide on an appropriate storyline, this was awkward but with most of the options being difficult for one boy to blend into we had to dig deep for a reasonable idea. Then I stumbled on the perfect storyline in the local newspaper it was an article on two young girls who created a suicide pact and only one died. This had one stumbling block that I would have to multi role in the play but after all the problems of finding a choice storyline I decided that I would adapt to this storyline. Furthermore I wanted a play that could show my acting versatility rather than portray myself as a one dimensional character. The ideas involved to work around the suicide pact idea were to be: domestic violence, bullying and sexual abuse. The sexual abuse idea was abruptly stopped because of the possible explicit nature which would become a strong theme in our play.
After expelling the idea of sexual abuse we formed a guideline to our storyline. The basis of the story was to be about two young girls who were living in fear of their Mother and Father respectively the two girls were named Holly and Carly and Holly was to be from an upper- middle class background and Carly from a working class background, Holly’s Father was my character. The storyline shows the meeting of the two girls on an internet chat room and a basic insight of the intimidation from their parents and their personal demons. To add an exciting twist to our play we decided to add a tragic twist to the end of our play.
Carly’s mother who in the play is a drug addict is being haunted by her daughter’s spirit and commits suicide to link that to her daughter’s death by overdose. With an accomplished storyline created, we began to write the script. Our original plan was to make sure that we divided the writing between the four of us equally but with this lack of continuity we decided to write all the scenes together sharing each others ideas in our drama lessons. Even though our play included the use of spirits and ghosts we wanted to keep it as realistic as possible this was difficult, but however I researched about domestic violence and drug taking so that we had the realistic element in our play still. It was an exciting experience to have a play which had no ties to my actual life this enabled me to gain the required commitment for this play.
Scene 1: The character Carly has a monologue which indicates clearly that she is troubled adding a puzzling element for the viewers wondering if she is already dead.
Scene 2: The first time we see the girls speaking to each other on the chat room, they have confrontations with parents in a matching manner but in a completely different way.
Scene 3: The girls arrange their secret suicide pact and confirm the way the suicide will happen mother requests Carly to go out……unseen death.
Scene 4: News report features a report on the death of Carly…the public discover her death before her mother.
Scene 5: Detective inspector Knowles calls by the house of Mrs Patterson and tells her of the tragic death of her daughter
Scene 6: Mrs Patterson’s monologue a scene in which the underlying message of tragedy starts to become very central in the plays storyline.
Scene 7: The reintroduction of Holly and her violent father in a short scene which sees Holly’s father showing his violent temper and uppity attitude.
Scene 8: The scene in which the real story of the suicide pact gets discovered. The scene is between Detective Inspector Knowles and Holly.
Scene 9: A monologue in which Holly confesses for the first time the extent of her fear of her Father.
Scene 10: A bizarre and supernatural scene in which Holly is haunted by the spirit of Carly, these results in Carly realising the only person to blame for her suicide is her evil mother.
Scene 11: The closing scene in the play which results in another tragic death, with Carly’s spirit torturing her mother. Her mother sees the only option of this is to commit suicide. The decimation of a family is shown in this emotional last scene.
The characters I play are Holly’s Father, the news reporter and detective inspector Knowles. The news reporter is a minor character who only appears in one scene, this particular character is a dull character that plays the role of your typical news reporter a smart, well dressed clear speaker there was not much to playing this role or the character.
The character of Holly’s Father was a far more complex and exciting character to play. In the scenes this character was involved in I had to be an extremely aggressive, menacing father, I had to portray the fact that I was meant to be a snobby well educated man. The aggressive one on one scene with Zo (Holly) were fascinating, due to the creative licence I was given in the choreography of these particular exchanges. In certain instances Holly’s fathers caring side begins to emerge but his dominating nature thwarts any chance of reconciliation with his daughter. My character has a well choreographed clash with Carly’s side of the family. I think that the real breakthrough with this character was when he became physical and violent that really added a realistic sense of tension in the Father, Daughter relationship. As I was portraying an upper class middle aged man I decided to wear a smart brown and black suit to make myself look like a man of considerable importance.
Even though I was playing a dominating character I couldn’t make Holly’s Father appear a psychotic sadistic character, as this would not be suitable to show to a class under the age of eighteen. In the times where I would have to have direct contact with Holly I would walk around her menacing and occasionally being right up in her face as if something more sinister was going to happen. Even though my character is very up close and personal there is no mimed violence, but given by the fear shown by Holly it indicates that he could have harmed her in the past. This character was not exceptionally difficult to play and this character was more of an instinct character to play rather than having to research ways to portray this role. With my movement I did not take the subtle approach and I with my movement was to be bold and make a statement of intent on my characters behalf.
The movements had to be loud and as far forward in the stage as possible to make my character the focus and show the intimidation of my daughter clearly. For example I would have to make a rigid arm movement when I pulled Holly’s bag away from her, the movement had to be strong and put my character in control. My gestures would be limited as apart from the bold movements towards Holly I was just pacing around Holly occasionally getting very close. The noticeable gesture in the play would be when I raised my clenched fist as if I was going to strike my on stage daughter. My voice was often penetrating and harsh to portray the raging anger of my character and I also have a loud tone to show the audience the ‘control freak’ in my character and this was best shown in the second scene when my voice elevates until it can go no louder “cigarettes, my daughter smoking cigarettes” I repeated this line several times each time my voice raising in volume. My facial expressions were a wide range of penetrating, angry glares which represented the dangerous status my character had the real dangerous expressions came when my Holly was about to got to the police station. I gave a piercing stare which really signified the tension between Holly and her father.
My third role was a rather strange character to play I played Detective Inspector Knowles and he wasn’t to be a standard policeman, he was a stressed, obsessive man whose life has been seriously affected by trying a little too hard to get to the bottom of the case.
The techniques required for this role were not really challenging just quite difficult to adapt to when you also have two other characters to contend with. Like Holly’s Father I have another one on one scene with Zo (holly) so this does help the lack of continuity as I had a good on stage chemistry with Zoï¿½ which helped with all of my characters. All my characters wore smart clothes but The Inspector wore his clothes untucked, open collar and rolled up sleeves as if he was really under stress.
During the writing of the play my group and I discussed techniques to ensure that our play had a realistic feel even though there were some supernatural elements. Also we decided to make the deaths look as natural as possible, as we agreed that if this occurred the deaths would not look like a death that would occur in a children’s play, such as the pantomime. In terms of forcing reactions for the so called ‘deaths’ this was not too complex as all of us in the group had experienced a serious loss. This helped add the realism to the emotional reactions used.
Our play was based on a lot of stage movement especially when there were more intimate scenes with the characters getting up close and personal, and even when the girls are alone it portrays the fact they are always uncomfortable and cautious of their parents. When playing all my different on stage personas, exaggerated movement was only required when playing the role of Holly’s Father, all of the movements made while in this character were often sudden, dynamic style movements. This was the case because just aggressive words were not going to portray the fear that I was supposed to create towards Holly. In the second scene I made my initial entrance and at first I had to act as if I was the normal overcautious Father, but the more the scene developed the more dangerous and menacing I became. In terms of movement I moved around slowly in a menacing fashion occasionally really getting close to my on stage daughter. The way to show Holly’s fear for me was to make sudden movements towards her.
My tone of voice was harsh and penetrating with sudden outburst of shouting and occasional whispering again to try and portray the menacing image. In speaking like this I tried to give the audience a real feeling of my character of being a complete control freak. After having a fairly long time on our scripts we started to find that we were starting to make some progress and decided to step up the amount of rehearsals and really start concentrating on perfecting acting techniques and learning our script. With the developments being made, we started to slowly stage our play and estimate stage positioning and the props required. Even though our progress was now above the steady level it took us several weeks to arrange a set we were happy with. The process of staging our play was the most tedious part of our project; we finally staged our play just a few weeks before the date of our final performance. However we found it was imperative in the running of our play that we had an organised set and stage so that we had the run up to our performance to concentrate on acting not fiddling about with our set and stage positioning.
One of the key factors in the play was going to be the use of props because of the internet chat room the stage would have to be divided into two sections. We tried to keep the use of props to a minimum as we decided we didn’t want have to think about the use of props and how to manoeuvre them around the stage. We had the basics for the girls’ rooms, a computer and some homely items which were kept to the minimum. Also my other characters Detective Inspector Knowles and the news reporter, both uses the same table for their characters but we just used the chairs in different areas. We decided to use these settings to add to the realistic feel we tried to have. During the performance I did not really have any props because I really wanted my body language and movement to stand out. I didn’t want to lose emphasis and be overshadowed by props.
For the performance it was vital that we used set design correctly we didn’t put much emphasis on the set design, we were simplistic to ensure that it didn’t interfere with the running of the play. After much consideration we decided to place Carly’s computer DSL and Holly’s DSR to show the distance between them. Throughout the play we kept the table centre stage as it would be too much hassle to constantly move it. Besides the main immovable props our set had a very basic uncomplicated design.
The lighting in our play was quite enjoyable to sort out as we had the lighting assessment on our group. In sorting out the lighting there was minimal arguing as we had similar ideas for the basis of the lighting. Then we gave Peter (lighting) a free roam as to styling the lights to enable a wide variety of lighting to be used. Even though our lighting was quite complex, the lighting had a simplistic effect which we really wanted.
Whenever it was just the girls on stage we would blacken the stage and just have spotlights over them. Whenever Carly’s mother or Holly’s father entered the other side of the stage would be blacked out and we would have a dim red light hovering over the characters. We used red to signify the dangerous elements of the parent child relationships in the play. When either Carly or Holly were alone we used an odd grey misty light because we needed a more ominous style of lighting. With Detective Inspector Knowles involved in scenes we had just a white wash over the stage as he often paces all around the stage and it is difficult to move lights from USC to USL incredibly quickly. Along with using lighting in our play, we were given the chance to use sound effects in our performance. Even though I was particularly hesitant as to use any sound effects, we finally agreed on using a little quiet music during the monologues. The sounds chosen were abstract as we agreed that we needed an alternative style to blend in with our play, rather than using typical emotional songs.
Costume was an aspect of our play that was very easy to agree on as we just kept ideas to our own characters. My characters costumes have already been described and that was probably the least advanced costume ideas out of the play. Holly’s costume was also basic but to portray her higher social class she wore very smart, expensive looking clothes to portray her upper/middle class background. The basis of Carly’s costume was to be the exact opposite of Holly’s, a costume which would represent a working class background, it wasn’t the clothes that were being worn but the way they were worn. The clothes were dirty, untucked and poorly colour co-ordinated to represent a proper contrast in lifestyles. Abby who played Carly’s mother was an older version of her daughter and their images collide completely. This simple style of costume stood us in good stead to concentrate on making our finished article an efficient, entertaining performance.
The penultimate rehearsal before our final performance was anything but a well oiled machine. Having assistance in sound and costume changes resulted in a lot of mistakes, because of the lack of practice in having tech support. The main problem was in the acting, the previous sharp knowledge of lines seemed to evaporate under the pressure of time. After just one run through we decided to end the night’s rehearsal early so we could calm down and relax ahead of the final tech and dress rehearsal.
After the shambles of the night before, the group and I were delighted to have a smooth final technical rehearsal. Although there was still room for improvement, nothing drastic was required. Even though Peter did an exceptional job controlling our lighting, we decided that a red light whitewash was needed instead of a regular whitewash over Detective Knowles. I was also told that I needed to be more clear and concise when doing my news report. Going into the assessed performance as a group we agreed that treating the rehearsal as the real thing helped us execute a good final run through. The vote of confidence provided from our fellow classmates enabled us to go to the final performance with confidence and a lack of the inevitable nerves.
I was delighted with my performance in the assessment and the whole play ran smoothly apart from jitters for some members of the group. There were many positive parts of the performance which I was delighted with the acting of it. My struggles in the rehearsals were obliterated especially the news report, which had been a real stumbling block previously in the play. Also the character of Dci Knowles came over as a crowd favourite. I was pleased to discover that the hidden humour in the script did not disappoint! The most dramatically effective moment of our play was the emotional final scenes of the play. When Carly’s mother tragically kills herself the wave of emotion created in the studio was fantastic to be involved with. Also my scenes with Holly had great aggressive chemistry and were very effective in making the plot of the play clear.
There were definitely improvements which could have been made if there was another chance to perform. We could have actually shown the dead body of Carly on stage rather than just assuming that she was dead, this might have provided a more disturbing but gripping dimension to the play. The lighting could have been technically improved by the use of more gobos to create the effect of death in the scenes which included death. Our set needed to be more manoeuvrable for people to distinguish the room changes, the computers were too heavy to move quickly and this was a slight weakness in the final performance that we didn’t notice in rehearsals. Having an extra technical rehearsal would have greatly benefited us in having a better continuity with the technical aspects of the play. As we still felt that we weren’t familiar with some of the techniques used in the tech, our lack of practice with sound was a minor stumbling block.
However, overall I was really proud of the way our group executed the running of our play all of our hard work ensured we were pleased with the final result. The real reason I was proud of our performance was how we had raised awareness on bullying, drug abuse, child abuse and manic depression. This was the real achievement.