‘Evaluate the use of acting techniques and staging elements in “Wild Bride”. Make reference to the style and form of performance and practitioner influence where appropriate’.
The story follows a young girl who is accidentally traded to the Devil by her father. When the Devil finds out how pure the girl is, he can’t take her. Indeed, she is so pure that, when she cries on her hands, they become untouchable. The devil solves the problem by cutting off her hands and letting life take its course to sully her, convinced that no one can stay as pure as that. However, the girl leaves her father’s care and becomes wild, she meets and a prince and they get married. When the prince leaves for war, the bride is forced into exile once more. When the now king returns from war, he himself leaves his palace in search of his bride and in turn becomes wild. At the end of the play the bride and the king are reunited. ‘Wild Bride’ is a romantic fairytale comedy.
For my evaluation of acting techniques and staging elements I have chosen the physical theatre production of ‘Wild Bride’. I will analyse the characters of the Prince and the father of the Bride, who were both performed by Stuart Goodwin, and Stuart McLoughlin who performed as the Narrator, and the vocal and physical skills, through multi-role, and storytelling that they used in particular moments throughout the performance. Multirole is where different or multiple characters are performed by the same actor or actress. Storytelling is where one or more characters assume the role of a narrator in order to tell the story of the performance to the audience.
‘Wild Bride’ was performed by Kneehigh Theatre Company under the style of physical theatre. Physical theatre incorporates into the performance through aspects such as dance, or exaggerated physical movements to show a passing of time or a physical connection between two characters. An example of this in the production that I am evaluating, ‘wild Bride’, is when the Wild Bride and the Prince meet for the first time, they engage in a fast paced, love dance and finish entwined in each other’s arms.
One of the most effective vocal skills that Stuart Goodwin (as the Father) used was when he had realised that he had traded his daughter to the devil. His line was ‘No’ which was repeated several times afterward. The first ‘no’ was said with a slow tempo, and was said in a disbelieving manner. I thought that this was effective moment in the performance because it made it seem as if the Father had just realised that he had given his daughter away to the Devil.
The pitch of the first ‘no’ was very deep although the Father’s voice suddenly became very animated and dynamic, as he wanted to make apparent to the audience that he wanted rectify his mistake. The next four ‘no’s’ in sequence that the father then went on to exclaim were spoken with a quickening pace and a more desperate and urgent tone of voice. The pitch then got increasingly higher as Stuart Goodwin continued on with his line. The rest period between the ‘No’s’ became increasingly less and less, I thought this was very effective because it showed the Father’s increasing state of panic at his realisation of what he had done, and also gave an aspect of the Father-Daughter relationship between the two.
On the last ‘No’ of the Father’s line, his voice broke, his pitch increasing and then dropping sharply. The volume of his voice dropped drastically to a point where it was almost a barely audible whisper, the pace was very slow again, and he sounded like a broken man; at this point his voice lacked any lively characteristics. He didn’t slur his words like he had before in his previous lines, which had the effect of creating of drawing the audience into a very intense moment in the performance. The tone of voice for the last ‘no’ was that of a sad acceptance, and this was an effective vocal skill because he managed to contrast his upbeat tone of voice and fast paced line deliverance, to that of a more disheartened and grief stricken shadow of his former self.
A physical skill demonstrated by Stuart Goodwin during his performance of the Father was when he was given the riches and finery by the Devil. The Father’s persona instantly changed, he became overly confident and cocky, represented by casually swinging his leg over the rocking chair, and leaning back with his hands behind his head. As he was given the new clothes, he stared disbelievingly at his hands and arms, where his newly acquired wealth was now apparent, his mouth was slightly agape and his eyes were wide.
Through physical skills Stuart Goodwin successfully created a contrasting effect of a complete character change from the gentle, merry Father from before who was portrayed as having a happy and loving personality to an outgoing, and cocky persona which was made apparent by the rich Father’s care-free attitude. This created a sub character, which I thought was performed effectively by Stuart Goodwin in order to create another contrasting side of the Father which was demonstrated through the relationship on stage between himself and the Wild Bride.
Another effective vocal skill used by Stuart Goodwin was the Irish accent that he used to differentiate the Father from the other characters on stage. Through use of an Irish accent Stuart Goodwin made the Father seem a more lovable and friendly character. Whilst performing the role of the Father, Stuart Goodwin increased the volume of the Father’s dialogue to that above normal conversation level on stage, this added to the effect of the stigma that was made apparent, and is attached to the Irish accent of being happy and cheerful.
Later on in the performance, Stuart Goodwin depicted the Prince with a strong Scottish accent, which helped to emphasize the outlandish behaviour of the Prince. The Prince behaved outlandishly by moving extravagantly, using dance like movements, across the stage. The Prince’s movements were quick and darting. This type of physical movement to introduce a character and create an audience’s response to that character is typical of Kneehigh Theatre Company’s physical theatre productions.
The two contrasting accents, Irish and Scottish, illustrated the dissimilarity between the two characters, the Prince, and the Father. The Father’s pitch was quite low and he slurred his words quite often as he had been drinking his ‘homemade mountain brew’, the Father’s tempo was slow to represent this, but picked up, and he began to speak louder when he was talking to the audience. Evidenced on asking the audience how he should kill the Devil.
When the Father appeared drunk his pitch was higher than his usual voice, whereas in contrast, the Prince’s voice became deeper the more his character developed on stage. For example when the Prince returned from war, his voice had developed a monotonous, deep, and melancholic tone. Stuart Goodwin, as the Father, increased the pace of his line deliverance, also using this vocal effect to stumble over and confuse his words when he was ‘drunk’.
The slurring of the words was also used to help to add to the effect of the Father being very dynamic with his lines. His pitch would occasionally rise, especially when he was singing a song, for example when he was chopping wood with his axe, or cuddling with the Wild Bride.
Stuart Goodwin using the Irish accent created a feeling of friendliness and softness about the Father’s character. This applied vocal skill created a Father that was a very lively and positive character. However, the slurring of the Father’s words was used effectively to portray the Father as being vulnerable and naive after he had had a drink. This is how the Devil opportunistically manipulated the Father to agree to give up the Wild Bride.
In contrast Stuart Goodwin’s vocal performance of the Prince was delivered at a fast tempo, with a contrasting high pitched voice which was used to show the Prince’s constant excitement before he went to war.
The opening scene for the Prince on stage, ‘Good morning pears!’ was delivered using a very high pitched and excited tone of voice, creating a dramatic entrance. The pitch volume of the lines was quite loud which was used to grasp the attention of the audience. This loud delivery was also a direct contrast between the Father’s speech which had become solemn and broken after the Wild Bride had left. Stuart Goodwin changed his tone of voice completely in order to accomplish the desired multirole of representing both the Prince and the pears.
The tone he used for the pears was low pitched, and the tempo was slow. The tone he used for performing the Prince was as stated above. Stuart Goodwin used multi-role to great effect here as he created a comical atmosphere as the Prince was pretending to be both the Prince himself, and the pears.
A physical skill that Stuart Goodwin incorporated into his performance was his physical shift from Prince to pear. Whilst mimicking a pear the Prince covered his mouth with his clipboard, whilst delivering the pear’s lines. Although it was made it clear to the audience that it was the Prince that was speaking this role. The Prince also lowered his head to his chest to produce an exaggerated deep tone of voice for the pears. This is contrast to his performance as the Prince when he stood up very straight with his chin pointed upwards to demonstrate authority. The Prince’s facial expression was stern with half closed, staring eyes and a furrowed brow which quickly changed into a big smile with wide, excited eyes, as he counted his pears.
The Scottish accent that the Stuart Goodwin used was very exuberant. The r’s in the dialogue were exaggeratedly rolled in order to produce a comical effect. Another vocal skill that Stuart Goodwin used as the Prince was multi-rolling. This is accomplished by using different voices to represent different characters. In the Wild Bride, Stuart Goodwin multi-roled two characters, the Prince and the pears.
One character that was portrayed was the Prince himself which was contrasted with a deep, slow paced, monotonous voice of a pear. The pear’s voice lacked the overwhelming charisma and enthusiasm which the Prince had plenty of. The Prince’s tone was excited, however his pitch dropped dramatically to a deep and shocked tone of voice after he realised that one of his pears had been stolen by the Wild Bride. The Prince played upon the dramatic irony of the situation by asking the audience if they had stolen one of the Prince’s pears.
Stuart McLoughlin effectively contributed to the telling of the performance through using a variety of vocal and physical skills. As the narrator of the performance Stuart McLoughlin used the aspect of storytelling directly towards the audience. Whilst narrating Stuart McLoughlin would be positioned high above the other characters on stage in a tree that was used as a prop. Through the high positioning the audience’s attention was drawn to Stuart McLoughlin and he became a focal point during his monologues. However, he did not detract the audience’s attention from the plot unfolding on stage below.
The other characters did not acknowledge McLoughlin whilst he was narrating the performance which helped to separate him from the action on stage. Vocally the narrator spoke with a sing song, laid back tone of voice. Stuart McLoughlin spoke loudly projecting his voice out to the audience. The tempo in which the Narrator spoke was slow and paced.
Another vocal effect that was incorporated into Stuart Goodwin’s performance was the quick reversion between the characters of the Prince, and the pears. I thought this vocal skill was used to great success as it provided a witty way of flexing Stuart Goodwin’s vocal skills and talents to a comical effect. This was both entertaining and captivating because he managed to create two completely contrasting characters, which were both believable and enjoyable to watch.