The improvisation exam dealt with the issues and experiences felt by people due to war and other conflicts. I found this particular topic hard to relate to at first as it is normally men who are involved with war but as the eight lessons developed I found it easier to become involved in the topic, relating the topic to similar situations that I have experienced myself. The first two lessons were particularly helpful in developing characters that could be used in later lessons. The first two lessons dealt with personal conflict between friends, family or strangers. Starting off with these topics helped me to understand the reasons behind the outbreak of war and conflicts between people and therefore aided me in build up more in depth and real characters in the war scenes.
The beginning lessons were mainly performed in pairs, which I feel very comfortable with as it allows me to create more personal characters that are less likely to be affected by other characters in the improvisation and consequently lose the concentration of my character. In the second lesson we did improvisations that involved the whole class. It was difficult to keep the concentration for the whole lesson because to work as a whole class in an unprepared improvisation is hard to do well when there is little structure to work from. In one particular exercise I was asked to be the leader of a biker gang in a heated argument between two gangs. It was a confrontational scene and required me to think on my feet and to be very forward in how I portrayed my role. As I am more comfortable with roles that are more reserved and less antagonistic and aggressive I found this particularly hard but it was a very useful improvisation for me because I was able to try a role that I was not at ease with and become more comfortable with that type of role, which would be required especially with war as the theme.
As I had had the previous experience of taking on a strong and influential character, I found it less daunting when acting as a man in the trenches during World War 1. There were long periods of characterisation where we had to take on roles in the unprepared improvisations which I thought worked well I and I felt confident in sustaining my character throughout the length of the improvisations. My concentration, on the whole, was strong and I was constant throughout the role-plays. The lesson where I felt particularly strong was during the seventh lesson, where the soldiers were packing their bags ready to leave the barracks at the end of the war. I developed a character that had lost all his friends and family in the war and believed that that the war had only been a pointless time. As I played this character it caused many others to counter my character and many issues came up, whether the war had been a good thing and whether it was possible for soldiers to recover after experiencing a horrific ordeal.
In variation to the focus of characterisation in the first two lessons, the following six lessons developed and used different techniques to add to the simple role-plays. Thought in the head was used to mark the moment of a particular scene and to show how a particular character was feeling at a given point in time. This meant that it was possible to show the feelings of certain characters in situations where without thought-in-the-head this would not have been possible. In the third lesson my group used thought-in-the-head to pause and to focus that particular moment in the scene to that character. In order to use thought-in-the-head freeze frames had to be used in order to enable the audience to realise that it was the characters thoughts. The freeze frames also suspended the improvisations allowing tension and anger between the characters to build and develop even further after the freeze frame.
The exam also used stimuli such as poems to created and widen our opinions of war and provide us with different angles to create improvisations from. I like using poems and prose in order to perform improvisations from and I found the poem “Strange Meeting” very helpful in building a different character to that I had previously developed.
The lessons that I felt were most productive and where I felt most able to perform were towards the end of the eight lessons. These explored more personal and controversial issues these had to be shown through drama. Lessons six and eight used groups of about six to show ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ and how friends reacted to meeting after the war.