These last few weeks I have had the pleasure of working with 24 students in 4 different groups playing around with devising. We had 3 hours a day over one week to create a piece of theatre that we then performed to an audience in the last 30 minutes of the final day. For this blog I thought I would share with you how I went about working with the starting point and how I made links to theorists, theatre styles and devising companies.
The starting point I chose for the work was Icarus by Sir William Blake Richmond and each day I introduced a different starting point that was related to the ideas we had covered during the first hour or so of skills development.
To follow is a break down of the content for each day:
Working with Greek Chorus – how to enter and position in space
How to present a speech from ‘Prometheus Bound’ as a chorus in the space
Working with elements – movement, voice and interaction then working as a group to present the elements as characters in a breakfast scene – family enters one at a time to communicate movement, mood and intent
Laban – working with trace forms and pathways, then levels and kinespheres to show names and identity. We developed this into paths and routes for their own lives.
At the end of day 1 we looked at the painting by Breugel of ‘The Fall of Icarus’ and discussed:
- How the elements are represented in the painting
- What the Greek chorus would say to report the incident
- How the story could be told as a through line of action using image and key moments at the end of each trace form
- How the story could be used to represent events, lessons or morals today
We experimented with the first 3 ideas shared at the end of Day 1 and then discussed their own interpretations of the myth and the messages within it. To create their stories they used image theatre to show 5 key tableaux moments, adding a maximum of 8 words per complete 5 image story.
We then read the poem based on the painting by W. H. Auden ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’ and students did the following:
- Choose 5 key images from the poem that illustrate the action in the poem
- Create these 5 images as a group
- Add necessary words to allow your audience to understand your images
- Present for feedback
Today we started with Viewpoints and I used gesture and time/duration to work with the characters in their stories. What they wanted to communicate, how they interacted and how they responded to each other. We used every day and abstract gesture then also played around with speed, duration and proximity.
The last inspiration for style I gave them was using chair duets from Frantic Assembly. We worked with the duet then layered it with a conversation from the villagers that were going on with their every day lives when Icarus fell.
In the performance I put the chair duet conversations in snippets so it was as though we were eavesdropping on many conversations.
Day 4 – was for working on putting the show together with a lighting workshop
Day 5 – final rehearsal and lighting design then tech runs and performance
I hope that these starting points and ideas can be of use to your and your students in your course.