Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Forced Entertainment

Do Forced Entertainment consider criticism and use it to improve their performances?

Forced Entertainment has been around since 1984 and over the years we have received a lot of praise. For example, the Guardian Newspaper has stated that we are "Britain's most brilliant experimental theatre company." However, our work varies quite a lot and is not always enjoyed by all audiences. Sometimes in a performance, members of the audience will simply get up and leave due to the dissatisfaction of what they are experiencing. An instance of this is "Who Can Sing a Song to Unfrighten Me?", which lasts 24 hours and is not only entertainment but a test of endurance.

We also receive a lot of criticism from respectable theatre reviewers. There are many who argue that our work lacks understanding and is targeted at a minority audience that is too small. However, we believe that our work is stimulating, challenging and provocative and should therefore not always be understood and it is part of our expectations that our performances are sometimes misunderstood.

Criticism rarely directly affects our performances or next performances. The entertainment we provide is forced upon the audience and should not be adapted to satisfy the critics or else it is no longer forced. However, we once received criticism that our performances were a "bloody mess". This is a usual occurance and remark directed towards our hard-work, we were not ready to change everything we do for this one comment. But we did however, use this comment for the title of our next performance which was named "Bloody Mess".

In conclusion, Forced Entertainment does not consider criticism, unless using the comments as a stimulus for a new, stimulating, challenging, provocative and exciting performance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Practical Performance Proposal

269 word pitch about a piece entitled:


From the stimuli of the Nazi oppression as well as the reminiscence of Italian Fascism, I was inspired to devise a piece where a joint assassination attempt (Hitler and Mussolini simultaneously) takes place. It is carried out by German and Italian army generals and is to take place at the 1938 Munich Agreement. The set design would be based on three separated areas. Stage left would be where the Fascist camp is located, decorated with nationalistic and fascist banners and stage right would be the Nazi camp, also decorated with loud Nazi banners. In the middle is neutral ground where the generals would meet and conspire and where the Munich conference would ultimately take place. These contrasts of banners would emphasise the difficulty of the plan of coordinating an assassination of two powerful dictators from different nations at the same time. The dictators, when on their respective stages, would always be centre stage (on their platform) and higher up in levels – possibly with a raised chair – to emphasise their power and importance. Lighting would be used to represent the seriousness of each scene as well as the importance of secretive meetings – a dim, perhaps red, light would be used when the generals conspire or meet – representing secrecy and conspiracy. A bright white light would be used when the generals are present with the dictator in order to highlight apparent loyalty. Heavily uniformed army officers constantly looking around would be randomly situated in the audience to provoke a slight fear as well as the notion of distrust among the audience as well as to emphasise the motif of nationalism and militarism.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A critical Review of Cirque Reynier

Cirque Reynier is a French travelling circus company that offers a 2 hour performance for 12-15 euros (depending on seat type). The venue was surprisingly good, seeing as the ring was set up the night before and was able to withstand gale-force winds that happened to be blowing in the French alpine region of Les Deux Alpes.

Whilst being seated and waiting for the audience to fill up, traditional circus music was being played. This helped to create a circus atmosphere within the tent. The mild smell of horses and the stronger smell of popcorn also added to the atmosphere within the tent. The ring had a diameter of around 10 metres and was used effectively to make the spectacle of the animals seem more exciting. Having large animals perform in a small area increased the impressiveness of the feats.

The costumes were professional and the character known as "Reynier" played a variety of roles. Ring leader, horse trainer and clown. Each costume was convincingly suited and the senior members of the cast stayed in character throughout the duration of the performance (the younger members of the cast sometimes lost focus). The make-up, notably that of the clown, was reconisably rushed because of the changing of roles throughout the performance. But it was nevertheless convincing.

The performance was very authentic and some of the acts were somewhat controversial since the animals were blatently not enjoying the acts. Some of the human performances were weak and boring, whereas others were somewhat exciting but nothing special.

If you can speak French, can spare 15 euros for a ringside seat, and want to experience an authentic travelling circus, then this is perhaps an ideal way to spend at afternoon. But definitly not worth seeing more than once since the acts are fairly poor. Make sure to bring several friends as the most interesting thing about this circus is the discussion afterwards about the appropriateness of what you have just witnessed.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

King of Capri Throne

For the King of Capri Junior School performance, Mrs. Richter requested that we make her a "spaghetti throne". Initially we thought this wouldn't be so difficult, but this was mainly because we hadn't started to build it yet. Our initial design was a basic wooden chair with wooden "side skirts" that pasta pieces could be glued onto. It then had a fan of makeshift uncooked spaghetti pieces of around 1.5 metres long to fan the back of the chair to add extravagence. The chair would then be accompanied by a pillow made of meatballs to represent sauce.

This idea however, had to be changed because of the problem of actually finding a wooden chair. So instead we tried doing the same or a similar idea to the wooden boxes we use in the drama room. We placed a white sheet over the boxes and began glueing the pasta pieces, donated by the ...over-generous... Sodexho company, onto the sheet. We tried a small section of the sheet and gave it a few minutes for the glue to dry. Once we moved the sheet even a tiny bit, all the pieces began to fall off. This idea had to be scrapped.

Another idea came from using one of the existing chairs in the drama room, which, much to Adrian's dissapointment, looked remarkebly throne-like already. We decided to simply use coiled up (or messy) rope to represent cooked spaghetti. 89 euros worth of rope was bought from Obi by Dr. Riley and we began experimenting with the spaghetti. We first just placed the spaghetti randomly over the chair. It looked like spaghetti, thank god! However... the pattern on the chair looked somewhat odd, and it definitly did not look extravagent. So we decided that it was probably best to place a sheet over the chair and then apply the spaghetti.

We experimented with various colours, orange, beige, black, white. The black and the orange made the rope stand out the most, but they also just made it look like rope, rather than spaghetti. By adding "sauce and meatballs", which was created by putting polystyrene balls from Obi in a red sheet This made the spaghetti on the white and beige sheets stand out more, and begin to actually resemble spaghetti on a plate. We decided also to ditch the randomly-placed idea and positioned the spaghetti as it would come on your plate if you just ordered it. We decided upon the white, solely because Dr. Riley said we weren't allowed to use the beige sheet. We stood back and admired our throne.

However, there really was something missing; extravagence. It looked surprisingly much like a chair, with spaghetti on it. We needed to create a royal look. Golden polystyrene balls were recomended by Dr. Riley, to be placed in key places on the chair. This was a good start but I knew it was missing something... The King in the script is surrounded by wealth and material items. His chair had to be the centre of the room. So, to make his chair look more like a centre-piece, I suggested we frame it with a giant knife and fork. This idea went down very well, and we set to work looking for scrap bits of cardboard to cut out our over-sized utensils. Luckily the Hausmeister was able to spare us a more than adequate piece of card. We began drawing the outline of the fork and then class was over. So that's what we have so far! Below is the final chair without the golden balls and Besteck.

Make-Up with Mrs. Hall

On the 23rd of April, the same day that we went to the theatre to watch Schnee, Mrs. Hall, a make-up artist from the BBC, ran a workshop with us about how to apply stage make-up.

She started off by explaining how effective make-up can be in theatre and briefly explained how it is used to accentuate or manipulate different aspects of a character, for example, age or tone.
We began by off by choosing a shade of foundation to attempt to match our skin. Mrs. Hall explained that the foundation must be applied everywhere on the face, including on the eyelids and over the lips. She pointed out that if you start at the middle of your face and spread it outwards then you won't end up with contrasts around your hairline. Unfortunately, I went a little overboard and looked like I had come straight from the film Troy, minus the muscles - in other words, I had picked a shade a lot darker than my actual skin colour. However, Mrs. Hall explained that this was fairly irrelevant.

Once we had applied the foundation we could then add character. We talked a lot about the eyes and Mrs. Hall went around the room examing people's eyes and the effect that inset or outset eyes had in the theatre. For example, Paul had fairly inset eyes and this can be seen as sinister. By creating shadows or adding light (using dark and light make-up) we can manipulate the eyes and thus manipulate the character. Personally I found it very difficult to apply make-up to my eyes and although I hadn't done so bad on the one eye, the other one looked completely different because firstly I am a novice at applying make-up and also because I have some sort of dyslexia for constructing symmetry.
After the eyes we learnt how to add "racing stripes", as she called them. These stripes, however, had no relation to speed or racing. They are the shadowey grey lines that are applied under the cheek bones to accentuate the cheek bones. The effect of this can be to add beauty, to add age, or to establish a malnutritioned or underfed appearance. To apply these racing stripes we were instructed to suck in our cheeks [seen left on Fritz]. This clearly displays the outline of your cheek bone, thus making it easier to follow it when you apply the make-up. However, this didn't seem to make things any easier for me and my racing stripes just looked like dirt that was smeared on my face. It was meant to look something like the picture seen right of Rosina.

We then quickly went over applying blush to create a healthy looking character. It can also create beauty in females. This was fairly simple to apply and once applied, one looks just as pretty as Fritz, shown left.

The workshop carried on a little bit longer into our lunchtime. However, Claire and myself had an extended essay meeting and had to miss the last part. I quickly ran to the bathroom and removed the make-up with soap and water and drying my face aggressively with paper-towels. I think this was probably a very ineffective way of removing make-up. Even though most people did not notice the remains of the make-up on my face, it made my face irritant and was really itchy. It also made the make-up run into my eyes and they were sore for the rest of the day.
I feel a lot more confident about stage make-up through this experience and can provide help when deciding what make-up to apply to a character. However, my ability to apply the make-up itself is poor and should probably be left to a girl with a lot more experience.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Schnee Review

Regie Lars-Ole Walburg
Bühne Robert Schweer
Kostüme Nina Wetzel
Dramaturgie Malte Jelden
Musik Theo Nabicht
Video Sebastien Dupouey
Licht Stephan Mariani

On the 23rd of April around half of our class went to see the production Schnee from Lars-Ole Walburg. The play was in German so was fairly difficult for me to understand. The storyline I did not fully comprehend but picked up that it was some sort of social critique on Islamic culture and the turban issue. The play in itself was fairly complicated so I tried to focus on interpretting or picking up on the director's intensions. I had some ideas, but most of them were quite hard to remember since I had no context or storyline to match them up with.

The set was very interesting though. It began with a pile of fairly old-looking TV monitors ranging in sizes all piled up and displaying signal interference. They went from dark to light in colour, and when they were light, the pile looked very much like a large heap of snow. Whether this was the intention or not I am not sure. But I know that in Britain the signal interference is seomtimes referred to as snow. The reason it is referred to this in the UK is because when interference occurs one sees white marks moving around on a black background and on US monitors you see black marks moving around on a white background, sometimes referred to as "bugs".

The visual parts of the performance I found very exciting since I could not understand the aural text. One of my favourite parts was when they used a live AK to shoot blanks. This can be seen in the above picture with the Turkish flag in the background. The shots were very loud and the effect was very realistic. I also enjoyed when Ka the main character picked up a handheld smoke generating device and used it to mask most of the stage [shown right]. The effect of it moving around the stage was really cool and was followed by an actor, who's character name escapes me, playing an entertaining song on the keyboard which I was able to translate successfully and find interesting. Although where it fit into the story that I was so unsure about, I don't know. Another visual effect I found interesting was displayed in the last 20 minutes, which were just an actor talking and telling a story; so for me this was highly uninteresting since I could not speak. The effect of falling snow that was meant to represent real snow. It was very convincing and very asthetically pleasing. Both myself and Paul (who also found it difficult to understand the spoken text), were fascinated by the snow and were staring at it for, well, 20 minutes.

All in all, it was an interesting experience and I did somewhat enjoy it, despite not understanding about 95% of it.

Ibsen Set Design Evaluation

Initially, I was very satisfied with my Ibsen set design of A Doll's House. My idea was to create a home a modern home that captured all the main themes of the text; a disfunctional family, money, appearance vs. reality, deceit. More detail on how these themes are incorporated in my set can be seen in my journal.

So when I received a 5 I was a little dissapointed. However, I knew after looking at other people's work why mine was not worth more than a 5. Most other people's sets were a final product of a lot of research. They took a lot more time into researching different types of traditional sets, as well as what aspects of a set can bring out different theatrical qualities. My mistake was to have an idea in my head and carry it out without sufficient enough research. Also, I did not go into much detail with my script analysis.

On the whole, despite the flaws in my work, I am proud of what I produced because I feel it was a good attempt. However, some other people's sets I greatly admired, specifically Lana's. Not only was it very asthetically pleasing, but it was obvious that alot of time and effort had gone into the making. I enjoyed Andrej's also, but thought that a lot of his intention or a lot of the sets feeling was lost in his method of presentation. It was difficult to really appreciate what he was getting at since the graphics weren't perfect - the "slanting" ceiling for example. It is alright once he has explained to us that the ceiling should be slanted, but to see it in true really helps to envision the final product that he was trying to explain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dance Essay: What are the gender roles in Poi and Haka and how do these reflect the values of that specific society?

Millennia ago, there existed a group of people known as the Māori. The practices of males and females differed significantly depending on their role in society. Much like any other tribe, the Māori women dedicated their lives to the upbringing of their children[1]. Being the backbone of a family involves many other responsibilities, too, such as cooking, sewing, and other household chores. The men, on the other hand, were committed to protecting their people. They safeguarded the women[2] and often travelled in large groups known as war parties to fight other groups. The Māori took their duties to society very seriously. In order to improve their techniques, they often honed them through dance. Women developed their hand coordination through the creative dance of Poi, whilst Māori men strengthened their mind, bodies, and image using the fierce warrior dance Haka.

In Māori legend, the sky and the earth were both assigned a gender[3]. The sky god was known as the Sky Father; Ranginui. The earth god was known as the Earth Mother; Papatuanuku. When the couple was separated, mortal life on earth began. Before the couple was separated, they gave birth to 70 sons, all separate gods. The gods noticed something was missing. Tane-Mahuta, the god of Man, created the female. Thus, Māori lore encourages male dominance over females. The male sky god is in a position of power in terms of height over the female earth god. Also, the female was created by the male. Therefore, it is also the protectorate of the female.

Whilst men were busy protecting the people, the women tended to equally as important passive duties. Many of these duties involved crafty handwork. To the Māori, ritual and dance carried much significance, so the Poi dance was created to improve the hand coordination of women[4]. Poi involves swinging two kis. A ki is a plaited flax rope, each with a woven flax basket containing a moa (egg of a now extinct bird) on the end. However, as the benefits of Poi dance became apparent to men, they realised that Poi could be used for honing weaponry skills and for hunting as well. For this the moa was replaced with large rocks and only one ki was used. Therefore, the Māori society was fairly male dominant, but they were prepared to share roles.

A male role in society is to defend their people. Before entering into battle the Māori men would perform the Haka dance[5]. There are two forms of the dance. The first is with weapons; the peruperu. This dance was said to invoke Tumatauenga, the god of war, one of the 70 sons. The other form of the dance is without weapons, haka taparahi, and usually accompanies cultural performances still today. For example, sports matches. However, only men’s teams practice this dance. But in the past, some war parties contained women, making the Haka a non-exclusive dance, like Poi.

The Māori people, as a society, practiced separate male and female dances. The dances were separate because their roles in society differed also. However, adaptions were made to the dances so they could be performed and used by the opposite sex. For example, Poi was adapted to work with weapons, and the Haka was preformed with women as they too become part of war parties. Therefore, as a society, the Māori people are very accepting of genders as well as adaptable and this value is underlined when observing their dances Poi and Haka.

[1] Mary-Kim, Arnold. "Kerewin's Character and the Cult of Domesticity." Kerewin's Character and the Cult of Domesticity. 15 Mar 2002 . Scholars.nus.edu.sg. 21 Jan 2008 <http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/nz/nzgender3.html>.
[2] Mary-Kim, “Mateship and The Family Man”
[3] Whitmore, Robbie. "Māori legends and myths." New Zealand in History. 02 May 2004 . New Zealand in History. 22 Jan 2008 <http://www.history-nz.org/maori9.html#creation>.
[4] Whitmore, "The History of Poi Toa."
[5] Whitmore, "Māori and Warfare."


- Mary-Kim, Arnold. "Kerewin's Character and the Cult of Domesticity." Kerewin's Character and the Cult of Domesticity. 15 Mar 2002 . Scholars.nus.edu.sg. 21 Jan 2008 <http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/nz/nzgender3.html>.
- Mary-Kim, Arnold. "Mateship and the Family Man." Mateship and the Family Man. 15 Mar 2002 . Scholars.nus.edu.sg. 21 Jan 2008 < http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/nz/nzgender4.html>.
- Mary-Kim, Arnold. "New Zealand as a Gendered Culture." New Zealand as a Gendered Culture. 15 Mar 2002 . Scholars.nus.edu.sg. 21 Jan 2008 <http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/nz/nzgender1.html>.
- Whitmore, Robbie. "Māori legends and myths." New Zealand in History. 02 May 2004 . New Zealand in History. 22 Jan 2008 <http://www.history-nz.org/maori9.html#creation>.
- Whitmore, Robbie. "Māori and Warfare." New Zealand in History. 02 May 2004 . New Zealand in History. 22 Jan 2008 <http://history-nz.org/maori2.html>.
- Whitmore, Robbie. "The History of Poi Toa." New Zealand in History. 02 May 2004 . New Zealand in History. 22 Jan 2008 <http://history-nz.org/poi.html>.
- Whitmore, Robbie. "The Māori – Brief pre-history." New Zealand in History. 02 May 2004 . New Zealand in History. 22 Jan 2008 <http://history-nz.org/maori.html>.

Monday, December 17, 2007

King of Capri Performance Proposal Reflection

For our performance proposal, our theatre arts class intended to adapt the book “The King of Capri” by Jeanette Winterson and propose a performance suited for students aged 7-9. The cast involves around 20 children who are all capable of singing but are lacking in theatrical experience or abilities. Therefore, we are fairly limited when writing the script and proposing ideas. There were a few themes and concepts from the original children’s book that we experimented with and tried to incorporate into our proposal. We worked in various sized groups depending on the task and the group efficiency often depended upon the number of students in a group. Some of our ideas were similar or contrasting to other methods I have seen in the past. My understanding of the theatre arts course developed considerably from this experience.

When it came down to proposing ideas we were fairly limited due to a number of factors. The script and action had to be suitable for a young audience. The audience and actors also had to understand the text. Since some were very young and some did not speak English well, the use of simple language was crucial when writing the script. The performance space was impractical because of the lack of a backstage area. However, it did contain a balcony which we found useful for hanging things on. The parents who come to watch the performance always want to see their child on stage, preferably doing something. So we had to incorporate keeping as many people on stage as possible for the duration of the play, as well as trying to give parts to as many people as we could. Due to the age of the cast and their inexperience as performers, we were fairly limited when it came to incorporating theatre techniques. However, we were still able to take advantage of what was available.

For example, the book often includes washing lines and hanging washing in the story. By making use of the balcony encircling the stage, we proposed that large washing lines be hung from one side to the other. This is an interesting idea, but has some drawbacks. One of which is that the clothes may block out lighting, as well as absorb some of the sound that is struggling to travel in the performance space due to the already poor acoustics in that room anyway.

One of Winterson’s themes is rich versus poor. This is mainly evident in the setting. Half of the action takes place on the island of Capri, which is a representation of the King’s ridiculous wealth. The island of Naples is a representation of the working class and trying to make a living. To represent this, we proposed that the stage appear like so:


One side of the “dumbbell” would be Capri and the other would be Naples. The middle section would contain waves on the edges of the stage to help the audience realise that the two areas are separated by water. One setback of this set design is that because of the audience coming from both sides, the actors will find it difficult to always face the two audiences frontally.

Wind, and the winds of change, is a motif presented in the story. Winterson uses wind as a reason for breaking the barrier between rich and poor and is therefore a significant aspect of the performance. Some wind ideas came to mind in the design process. A suggestion of a wind machine that created a light breeze and a whooshing windy noise was proposed. However, this idea was fairly complicated, required a lot of effort to create, and did not really have the desired effect of chaos and turning everything upside down, which is what happens in the book. Another suggestion was to setup several electrical fans around the audience which blew upon the audience and the stage and created a draft effect. The cast could create chaos on stage with their movements also. This would allow the audience to be affected physically by the fans and visually by the cast. One drawback of this proposal is that getting several fans could be quite expensive and the cables around the audience are fairly impractical and ugly. The fans themselves are also ugly and the noise they would make would be whirring and repeated instead of chaotic. A last suggestion is that several members or all members of the cast have a “wind uniform” that, when the actor is in motion, drags behind them to represent wind. The actors would also make “whooshing” noises to represent the sound of the wind. The cast would run around in random directions to highlight the chaos of the wind.

Once the wind has finished its chaotic episode, many items from Capri have flown over to Naples. In the book the items are stacked in a pile and each item is read out in a separate sentence to emphasise the height of the pile. To embody this pile, we thought of some ideas and experimented. At first we thought of piling many members of the cast up and having them sprawled randomly on the floor. Each cast member would read out what object they were meant to be representing. After testing this with individuals at least twice their weight, we realised that this was very painful, uncomfortable and difficult to organise. However, the children are half the weight of us, so the pain may be less, but they may not be able to concentrate and organise themselves in a pile successfully. A second suggestion was to create different levels for every item listed. There were seven levels and each would have to stand behind one another to represent the stack. This however, does not look much like a stack and also does not reflect chaos much, but is more easily organised. These were the two options we suggested along with a suggestion that both methods should be tested with the cast to see which one is more effective.

In a performance proposal, many aspects of theatre must be investigated. For example, the set, the script, the costumes, the music, the lighting. It is impossible to all sit down and work on each feature separately, especially since some individuals are more experienced or talented in one aspect than they are another. Also, by working with a group of ten for example, so many people have mixed opinions that not everyone is willing to share what they think, and when they do, it can sometimes provoke conflict. Therefore, it is most effective to split into smaller groups. In the smaller groups of 2-4, we were able to speak more freely and the ideas were debated upon in a more civilised fashion. However, very small groups, for example, one individual, are not always effective.

When one person acts as a group their ideas can sometimes seem slightly farfetched since there wasn’t anybody with them to simplify or understand their ideas. These ideas can sometimes be too complicated, too simple, or too unrealistic. It is important to work with each other to keep ideas sensible. Without input of others, the imagination can sometimes take the better of someone. An example of this was a wind machine proposal which included constructing an extremely complicated device that was beyond the scope of the performance. I was working on the script. I often wrote things on the script which I later realised were not good ideas thanks to advice from my peers.

Some of the ideas proposed could also be related to other performances I have seen. For example, in the Ramayana, water is represented with flags waving and the main characters “cross” the water even though no crossing of water is really demonstrated. However, in our suggestion for set, the water is constantly present and can be crossed physically. In a performance of the theatre “Blood Brothers” in the west end washing lines were often hung from one side of the set to the other. However, the clothes they hung were relatively thin in comparison to the thick ones we would be using and the lighting in the theatre was also a lot more sophisticated than what we have to work within our auditorium.

From this experience, I have learnt a lot about my theatre arts course. Proposing a performance idea is extremely hard work. From what I have gathered, I believe that proposing ideas for a more elaborate play where lots of resources are at your disposal, for example, a west end play, requires much more research and time since there are many options to consider and methods to explore. For a less elaborate play with many limitations it is extremely difficult to propose suggestions that will work with what you have, and this can be very frustrating at times. From this experience I have learnt a lot about how a performance is compiled and the immense work required for success. I also learnt that when you are on the opposite end, listening to suggestions, they should always be taken seriously and not taken for granted since plenty of thought probably went into them.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Elizabethan Theatre

In Elizabethan times, being an actor - or what was then called a “player” – was completely different to actors nowadays. This was mainly because of the style of Elizabethan theatre. But it also depended upon 16th Century society. Creating sounds however, was used in a similar way to modern day times. The stage and its characteristics are, however, completely different to a typical western theatre and forced the actors to improvise in ways rarely explored in 21st Century western theatre.

In the 16th Century, actors were often considered mischievous by the authorities and were not respected as much as they are nowadays. They were rarely wealthy. Mostly their only source of income was from what the audience placed in a hat passed around at the end of each performance. So the quality or enthusiasm of an actor’s performance sometimes depended on how empty their stomach was. The Elizabethan stage was open to the elements. The main part of the stage and the space where the groundlings stood was vulnerable to rain showers. This meant that the audience could become agitated as well as the acting space becoming more difficult to work with (because of the water on stage). This is why the majority of plays were presented during warmer months. The part of the stage that was covered by a roof was thatched. This area was known as the heavens or the shadow. Actors had to be careful of the roof because it was typical for it to catch fire. For example, the Globe burnt down in 1613 when a canon spark used in a performance lit up the straw. In the 21st Century, it is normal to hand out or sell a programme before the performance to explain the plot to the audience. This was not always possible in Elizabethan times and often a “Dumb Show” preceded the main performance to give a brief synopsis of the story. This was however, less common in Shakespeare’s plays.

One aspect of Elizabethan theatre which still remains today is the use of sound. The stage was hollow, so actors often used the resonance of their feet on the ground to create sounds. Other actors also climbed up into the heavens (the roof) and created appropriate noises – for example, thundering noises in a thunder storm. Music and sounds were often played from behind the stage or underneath the stage to add effect and create more suspense.

One of the few characteristics of the Elizabethan stage – sounds aside – that mirrors today’s stage are the separate areas. The balcony, for example, was used for Juliet’s bedroom in Romeo and Juliet. There was always a trapdoor underneath the stage and this was often used for multiple purposes, one example is as Ophelia’s grave. The thrust part of the stage was a lot more intimate than stages of late. Soliloquies could be delivered more confidently and naturally due to the close proximity to the audience. Stage asides were a lot more personal and served a better purpose than they do today. The set was very simplistic and rarely contained any extravagant features and did not use the computer technology that is often used today. Shakespeare frequently incorporated scene setting into his script. This can be seen in Troilus and Cressida when Achilles says:
“Look Hector, how the Sun begins to set”.
Because of the apron stage and its lack of curtain it also became impossible to open or close a play or scene. Since it was open air and performances were during the day, the stage could not be hidden in complete darkness. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy the mutilated body of the protagonist was often sprawled upon the stage. To remove the body whilst the audience was slowly leaving would ruin the illusion. Therefore, Shakespeare often incorporated the removal or hiding of the body into the script. Lodovico delivers the lines:
“Look on the tragic loading of this bed,
This is thy work; - the object poisons sight;
Let it be hid.”
in Shakespeare’s Othello so as to hide Othello’s body from the departing audience. This is not really the case in modern western theatre however since it is custom for the entire cast to go out of character – or partially out of character – and show gratitude to the audience by bowing.

In conclusion, I believe that Elizabethan theatre is a large contrast to modern day western theatre. How the actors are treated – and even titled (as players) – is very different and what I would consider disrespectful seeing as it is not easy to perform in front of a large crowd. The stage characteristics could sometimes transform the script and the weather may also alter the performance. Some things, however, have remained the same, such as the sound. But putting everything into perspective, even an experienced actor or actress of today would find the Elizabethan theatre a challenge to perform in.


OnlineShakespeare.com, "Shakespeare Online." Online Shakespeare. 2003 . Solonica Web Design. 27 Oct 2007 <http://www.onlineshakespeare.com/index2.htm>.

Gray, Terry A.. "Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet." Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet. 09 Aug 2007. Solonica Web Design. 27 Oct 2007 <http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/Default.htm>.

Langley, Andrew. Shakespeare's Theatre. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Performance Analysis

Düsseldorf 04.05.1996
Director: Karin Baier

- Begins after all characters leave stage except Lysander and Hermia.
- Ends when Lysander and Hermia kiss and Helena enters the stage.

Theatre space: End on, fourth wall present, so as to focus audience’s attention on actor/actor relationships instead of actor/audience.
Performance space: No different levels on stage, simple square stage with blackened out background (where orchestra lies). Once again, this could be to focus the audience’s attention and to allow the audience to come to their own conclusions of the characters instead of putting them on differentiating physical and moral grounds.
Actor space: At first, Lysander takes centre stage and Hermia is positioned in the corner. Further into the scene both actors take centre stage. This is mainly to show that this is the central – as well as only – action in this scene.
Actors movement in space: Lysander, at centre stage, makes exaggerated movements with a fixed position to emphasise his frustration. The not being able to move highlights his helplessness in the situation he is in. Hermia who is at first distant to the action becomes more engaged and comforts Lysander. They talk for a while with fairly gentle movements which represent their love for each other. As they become more excited by their new plan the tension and humour increases and so too does the levels. First Lysander stands and then Hermia follows. Thus, tension is proportional to levels in this situation. The tension is released when the two characters kiss in silence and Helena enters the stage.
Set: No set design, perhaps the director’s intention was to focus the audience’s attention on the character relationships and the complex issues that arise from the action, also, to not be distracted when they should be focused on the many complicated meanings behind the multiple languages used on stage.
Costume: Costumes describe how the characters fit into society. Hermia is wearing a suit much like the other characters. What is different about her appearance is that she is wearing beautiful sapphire jewellery and has tidy hair. This is a contrast to the other women on the stage who are viewed as fairly unattractive, untidy, and have unkempt hair. The other women are also not wearing a suit but instead wearing rather drab clothing. The effect it has is that it portrays Hermia in a very attractive light. Lysander is an outcast and is in Jewish attire. This is to underscore that Lysander is very different from most characters.
Sound: At the beginning of the scene, to build tension whilst Lysander is panicking and making exaggerated movements, there are fierce drum rolls being played. The music stops to highlight the transition between the conflict of the society clash and the calm of the two lovers together. Lysander and Hermia become more excited when they cultivate a plan and to increase tension they begin to talk louder and more frequently. This then stops to release the tension when they kiss. There is also a silence to insist in making Helena’s entrance more dramatic.erHerfer

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kathakali Research

What is Kathakali?

Kathakali is a form of Indian dance-drama that is originally from Kerala in South India and began in the 17th Century. It is a unique form of theatre and has its own music, costume, acting, dancing and themes. Most Kathakali performances are re-enactments of Hindu epics. Right is a picture from a typical Kathakali performance. [http://www.personal.psu.edu/ach13/sia/Images/Kathakali%20Lear%2099%20London%20Globe%20001.jpg]
Kathakali lacks speech and dialogue. The actors must express themselves through hand gestures, facial gestures and bodily movements and dancing. Music is constantly being played, mostly percussion. Different characters use different instruments to symbolise different things.
In Kathakali make-up different colours signify different characteristics. For example, green signifies a noble male. Red on the face signifies evil and completely red signifies the devil, or somebody of pure evil. Yellow portrays women and beauty.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Personal response to the drama work shops

For me, the work shops were a very productive activity to break the ice as well as learn about different styles of theatre games and theatre instructors.

Personally, my favourite workshop - apart from my own of course :) - was the workshop that involved three volunteers to be in a scene that somebody has invented. The three act out the scene and then one is taken away and the other two are told a vital piece of informaton that involved the missing person. The result is some very funny improvisation.

I think the reason that this one is my favourite is because I enjoy comedy as well as improvisation. However, I think that for the missing person it is probably not very enjoyable since they are not sure what is going on and are the centre of a joke which they do not understand.

If you are one of the two, I think this is a good exercise in discovering comic styles of acting (unless you chose not to act out your scene in a comical way). It is also a good improvisation exercise because it forces the two people to do all the work themselves seeing as the missing person has nothing to work with except to react to your words/actions.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What role do I best play in an Ensemble

In an ensemble there are several roles. A role that I prefer to play is a player. A player is the actor who performs. However, some could argue that I am also a cheat. Somebody can still be a good player as well as a good cheater.

One thing I have always wanted to try is being a play-maker. Specifically directing. I think I would be quite good at this.

By the end of my two year course I hope to have played all roles in an ensemble at least once.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Situations for Drama Work Shop

Situation 1:
A is ending their 3 year relationship with B.

Situation 2:
A had snuck out to go to a party and was discovered by Parent B whilst they were returning home. (C is second parent)

Situation 3:
Doctor A must explain to Family Member B that their sibling died on the operating table. (C is other Family Member)

Situation 4:
A must convince B not to jump off the top of the building without getting too close. (C is another convincer)

Situation 5:
A is confronted by B after B discovers that A has been sleeping with B's spouse. (C is spouse)

Situation 6:
A is explaining to B, after a 3 year relationship, that A is actually gay and is not really attracted to B anymore. (C is the gay partner who arrives to say hello)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cosmo's First Blog Entry

This is my first blog entry thingy.