In this topic I looked at the Rwandan Genocide through the eyes of refugees, child soldiers, the problem from the West’s point of view and the first hand witness accounts. I most enjoyed exploring refugee problems, because it made me use different drama techniques to the ones I am used to, and acting out witness accounts because we were given the opportunity to use abstract drama, which I find harder that realism but enjoy a lot.
We as a class were given a wide variety of tasks that needed different dramatic techniques to help them get the desired point across to the audience. Among them was the refugee soundscape, the whole class frozen image of child soldiers and the split-scene depicting the ignorance of the West. I found these tasks challenging, and they made me dig deeper to bring out more emotions in my acting. During the refugee soundscape, I found that I had to really feel the emotions of fear, despair , exhaustion and panic to be able to portray the feelings properly through vocal expression, and help add to the layers that were drumming, stamping, heavy breathing and screaming. All drew a picture of a dusty road on a hot day with thousands fleeing for their lives, overcome with exhaustion and fear. The pitch of my voice gave away the fact that I was a child, and as we reared the climax of the piece the whole group raised the tempo, pitch, pace and volume to show the change in atmosphere.
In the class I think that Channon Daly used inventive ideas to add to the tension, and she thought outside the box, which gave her group an extra edge to their performance. I also thought that Lilly Walters performed well, but on a much more general scale, because she has a more individual style. She seems to be more at ease when acting, slipping from one technique to another, making it look easy, and helping the group to stand out when performing.
During our lessons, we were given various stimuli to provoke acting talent and use of drama techniques. These ranged from photos, film clips and first hand diary accounts. I found that the film clip of the refugees helped me to picture the scene for myself when performing the sound scape. It also helped me to draw more vocal expression, but also more active body language and facial expression during the three scene improvisation.
Another stimulus that helped me a lot was the witness account of hundreds of dead bodies floating down the river, made seemingly alive by the current. The imagery drawn by that inspired me and my group to create an abstract piece that was different from everyone else’s. As were mute for most of it and mimed out what Emily was saying made the atmosphere slightly eerie, while our body language was floating and graceful like ballet dancers, which w thought the bodies would have looked like. On some words there was decisive body language and some things were repeated to add to the abstract nature. Because it was abstract, we opted for no facial expression, so the audience would be greeted by blank faces.
Both of the stimuli helped me connect with a bank of emotions, and allowed me to portray them in different ways to better my acting techniques and characterisation.
One task given to us was the refugee soundscape, which I have already partly described. We were to use the film clip of refugees from ‘Hotel Rwanda’ to create the soundscape. We used a range of sounds, including stamping, heavy breathing, whispering voices, tired voices, gunfire sounds, drumming and a final scream. I think that it was effective because all the layers in our soundscape were arranged, and not clamouring to be heard so that the tension built up properly, and some sounds helped emphasize others.
The drumming of hands on a table was an underlying sound throughout, and helped keep us in time by picking up the pace and making the rest of us speed up with our various sounds. The voices were saying things like; “Got…to keep…going”; “I’m tired, I want to stop”; “Freedom” and “They’re coming!” As the voices rose in pitch and volume, the pace picked up and vocal expression s became more desperate and fearful as panic ran through our imaginary crowd. As our piece reached the climax, and one of our number was making gun fire sounds, I screamed to signal the height of tension, but before that the pace had been sped up so much that some of the shouted phrases were inaudible. After I had screamed, there was utter silence and stillness before Emily said “Oh my God” to express her characters horror at the carnage and destruction that lay at her feet that we had tried to depict.
In other groups, they all used drumming or some form of banging sounds, because it set the pace and tempo for the group to follow, keeping them in time. In Frazer’s group they used lots of underlying sounds like thudding chairs and stamping feet. There was less vocal expression in his group, but it consisted of much more wailing and distraught crying for family members and livelihoods left behind. I found listening to other groups useful because it gave me ideas and helped me to be self critical of my own performance. By listening, I could picture the fleeing people and feel their desperation, as if I was there with them.
We also created a split-scene task, which showed the contrast between the ignorance of the richer West and the poverty and carnage happening in Rwanda. During the split-scene, the ‘ignorant’ West were having an expensive sweet sixteen birthday party and the news about the Genocide was on the television. In Rwanda, I was being held hostage, and faced torture before a drawn out death. I used my body language to express my fear, like shying away from any noises that were near, I also tried to show my oppression my hunching down on the desk that I was sitting on, lowering myself down to emphasise my lower status. I was blind folded, and restricted to whimpering and small screams of terror, so did not use very much vocal expression. Emily used her voice to try and drive fear into my heart, by shouting in my ear and whispering inaudible words around my head, and laughing hysterically when I shrank away to show my horror. In the other scene, they do not take the news flash seriously, and switched it off.
They used irony by exclaiming “Look at those little African kids, why can’t I be that skinny?” To emphasise the point, they ignore the story behind the ‘skinniness’ and switch it off after Rachel, playing the mother, says that it is bogus, not paying attention to how many were estimated to be killed. Their facial expression and body language portray innocence and ignorance of the surrounding world, and how they get excited at the things that those being killed may never have had a chance to know, and would have been worried about the amount of clean water that they had to survive on. Their vocal expression is mock cheery and almost sarcastic in what they say and do. Meanwhile, I am still being terrorised in Rwanda, and the threats that are being whispered in my ear are more serious and terrifying that ever. Emily is making the noises louder in volume, and I scream to show my fear, which is what she wants and plays on that fear. Through my visible body tension and mute horror I portray the oppressed and helpless victim. We all used vocal expression to some extent to show our character, whether we were rich or poor, cosseted or orphaned, and how we felt about live in our situation there and then.
Another task given to us was forum theatre, firstly with three politicians discussing foreign affairs and if there was any way that they could help other needy countries. The subject of the on going Rwandan Genocide came up, but all politicians dismissed it, being symbolic because of the lack of Western help during the Genocide. The conversation moved off Rwanda, and the scene frozen. Then a member of the audience was chosen to take the place of one of the politicians, and try to keep the subject on Rwanda, wanting to do something to help. The others still try to dismiss it, but the new politician is adamant, but the conversation gets no where, with neither side willing to give leeway.
The scene ended with raised voices to express anger and frustration along with a faster tempo that they had originally started with, because the conversation had escalated into an argument. We did the same with newspaper editors, because there was not enough media coverage during the Genocide, and started off with the same argument, that it could be a story, but not enough people would want to read about it. The topic was then changed, and the scene frozen. Another person was introduced, and they had to try and keep the subject on Rwanda, but the other two editors wanted to go for a story about a woman giving birth to a cat. The facial expressions started at boredom at the conversation, but as it became more heated, they became more aggressive, and the argument was left unresolved as the scene was stopped. The use of body language and vocal expression complimented each other, and made the characters more believable, as if it could have happened at the time of the Genocide.
A witness statement given to us was used to create an abstract piece of drama, and we used blank facial expressions and no vocal expression apart from one person. This made it seem quite eerie and abstract. Emily would say out key words or phrases that painted very expressive pictures in our minds. The statement was based around watching thousands of dead bodies floating down a river, made to look alive by the currents that tossed them to and fro. We flowed around Emily as if we were dancing, and some times punctuated our expressionless dance with individual moves in time with Emily’s slow monologue. We all took it in turn to ‘crash’ into rocks in the water, and then lay down slowly at the end, for we had reached the lake that the stimulus described, where no current stirred them, and they looked truly dead. As Emily’s voice rose and fell with the current that was pulling us around her in a whirling haze we kept up the tempo, and stayed in time with the rhythmic beat of her voice. We could only express ourselves through our body language, which we all found challenging, as none us could show any proper emotions. It could have been improved by more speaking and longer, because it was only a short piece.
The final task given to us was to try and get the point across that the government should have intervened and a great many lives could have been saved. The title ‘Don’t Let It Happen Again’ inspired us in the work that we did in the lesson, and we feel that it did get the message across. We used black comedy to try and get people to think before they laugh, and a series of comic television shows. These included Match of the Day, Blue Peter, Countdown and two news flashes. Throughout the piece facial expression and body language were falsely cheery and sarcastic, with fake laughter punctuating the lines that we said. To make it better we could have put some abstract drama into it, and used a wider range on drama techniques. Other groups were mainly abstract with some black comedy. This gave them in individual feel to them, and no ones was the same because on the nature of the task given to us.
I most enjoyed the abstract drama piece, because it is a weaker area for me, so I think that I improved my abstract style. It was challenging because it was outside my comfort zone, and I found it harder that realistic acting.