Frantic Assembly are one of many devising theatre companies in the UK that generously share their process. They run workshops world wide, and sharing their ideas, process, development and performances in their book ‘The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre’ by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggart, Rougledge, 2009. As a student starting to approach devising, it is essential to have a process and experiment with devising tools. This blog will provide some ideas for inspiration in your own work and also outline the key things to be aware of when devising.
Above is the International Promo video for ‘Frantic Assembly’. When you watch it see how much you can draw from it to get your own ideas for staging, character, use of space, set design, atmosphere and impact on the audience.
Devising and the PPP
The PPP requires you to come up with an ORIGINAL INTERPRETATION of the STIMULUS. To do this you need to:
- Show the dynamic phases of exploring the stimulus using story boards, mind-maps, personal responses, secondary responses.
- Provide evidence of the above process coming to fruition with some CONCEPT leading towards the directorial vision for that concept in production.
But, how do you do this? One way is to copy, or in the IB we can refer to it as IMITATION, and use the ideas of people that currently successfully devise theatre. Below are the stages I went through with my students to explore how Frantic Assembly approached devising their performance’ Hymns’. These ideas are taken from their book mentioned earlier:
An introduction to the process of Frantic Assembly
Devising with a focus on:
- Frantic Assembly and their techniques
- A new devising processes
- Experimenting with stimuli
- How to develop ideas
- Sharing ideas of others
- The idea – the inspiration behind the scene and what they wanted to achieve
- The Process – how we created the scenes
- The Development – how you might develop the process. How it can be adjusted and re-used. Future potential is explored.
(page 58, Routledge, 2009)
Lullaby – Hymns 1999/2005
- Funeral, set, sombre, nothing to say.
- Time passing, not a word being said.
- A friend has died and all that has been shared are jokes and beers.
- Capture the extended introspection of the hour.
- The information of the day slowly sinks in
- Series of connections
- At times attract, at times repel
- One person moves forward to speak, touch – other moves away
- Why? What do they fear from their connections?
- What would the touch mean? What can of worms would it open?
1.. Stillness could be explosive – start with stillness. Find movements that re insular and abstract.
2. Movement has impetus – one movement attracts or repels the other. They do not touch, but what makes them connected is the feeling of the move.
3. Try to move at the same time, then all return to stillness. Emphasises the actions and the return to stillness.
4. Stillness – silence. Want to connect but are terrified to do so.
5. Play with audience focus and the connection across space.
6. Play with size of movement – hand,, head movement contrasted with all standing, sitting, adjusting seated position etc at the same time.
7. Add the music. How that does that impact or dictate shape/form?
8. Focus on each character? When? How does this create a group unified in grief?
9. How show individuals lost and alone?
10. How show the newly forming dynamic of the remaining friendship?
(Music: ‘Lullaby’ lamb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDcu1i9EvgA)
- A couple with choreographed moves
- Two rooms, sit oblivious to each other
- Run the scene – are they connected?
- Run again – aware and long to be with each other
- Which has the greater resonance?
(Music: ‘Wise Enough’ lamb: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx7ATlMrBXM)
Action on stage for the PPP
When you are creating your own devised pieces you explore the practical action on stage, but for the PPP you need to record it and document it in such a way that the reader can visualise HOW things work in practice. You need to therefore include all or some of the following:
- Plot, action, synopsis, storyline
- Annotated storyboard
- Use of space
- Production elements
- Script extract
- Shape and rhythm
- Tempo and quality of movement
- Sequence of events
But, where do these ideas come from? How do you know how things work? Well, that is either from your own practical work, or you can see how others do it. Watch the two videos below to give you more ideas and inspiration. The first is a section of ‘Hamletmachine’ by Heiner Muller, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, the second is ‘O’Povo’ by Strange Fruit Theatre Company. Good luck!