It has been a while since Katie first mentioned the idea of producing a student journal to showcase the best of the department’s academic work. It’s easy for people to get a sense of our practical work, since that is shaped for an audience outside the discipline. Not many people get a glimpse into student essays, and there are only a few chances to witness their creative writing. It therefore seemed like a great idea to produce a publication alongside the T3 festival of performances. The University’s Research-Led Education Incubator project offered a grant that supported this, as a one-off. Perhaps we shouldn’t strictly call it a journal until we know whether it will run again, but we wanted to mirror the process of writing for an academic publication, including selection, peer review and high quality production. We have enjoyed working with a great team of editors from across the Drama years and including both single and combined honours students. We are delighted to be able to share this work, and hope that the students whose writing is showcased here can feel justly proud of their achievements and certain that their writing has a wider interest than just ‘getting the grade’. It’s great that students are writing about such a wide range of subjects (colourism, dyspraxia, nationhood and its representations, theatre history, class, the politics of adaptation and more…), and we hope that it also demonstrates that studying drama is not just about performing, and not just about writing play analyses (however important these things might be). Instead, it is a lens for looking at how the world gets performed, perhaps with a focus on art performance, but with an eye to a wide range of cultural events and occurrences. We hope you enjoy it. Cathy Turner and Katie Beswick Student Editors: Narissa Birtwistle, Elizabeth Brown, Jaime Corp, Monique Day, Anna Middlewick
A Cultural Exchange Essay in reference to cover image Patric Basse
My name is Patric Basse and this is a photograph of me performing the role of Chen Miaochang in a Beijing Opera called Autumn River. The love story follows a young nun, Chen Miaochang, who escapes her convent to chase after her lover, Pan Bizheng, who has left for the capital. In order to get to her lover, the nun hires an aged boatman who helps her cross the river. The tale is a comedic one, as a panicked and heartbroken Chen Miaochang urges the carefree and playful boatman to catch up to Pan Bizheng. In the end she is reunited with her lover. In the summer of 2018 I was honoured to receive a full scholarship for Shanghai Theatre Academyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Traditional Chinese Opera intensive summer school. The opportunity saw me travel to China in June to study in the ancient art form of Beijing Opera for three weeks. I was amongst a group of around 30 international students from places like Italy, Serbia, India, America, Colombia and New Zealand to name a few. As well as learning and performing extracts from famous opera pieces, we also had cultural classes and lectures in Mandarin, Chinese History, Chinese Economics, Tea and Opera itself. Cultural exchange was a large part of the programme, with the Chinese government providing funding for the scholarships in order to allow young
people from around the world to experience authentic Chinese culture, in hopes that they would take these ideas back and use them within their own performance practices. I found it particularly fascinating that I was amongst other performance students from a range of disciplines, each using their own unique perspective to navigate this art form. On the final day, we were allowed to share our individual talents in a talent show: we had a Haka, a performance of musical theatre, a traditional Indian aria and a range of other gifts. This image is one of triumph for me. On returning to complete my third year of studying Drama at the University of Exeter, when people asked me what learning Chinese Opera was like, I likened it to our own versions of high-art forms like Ballet. Like Western Ballet, Opera training typically begins at a young age in order to allow the body to develop in a way that will enable particularities of the form to be performed best. The teaching of the art form also relied on direct imitation, both in the learning of movement and of the arias: this of course limited scope for personalisation and improvisation. The choreography was particularly intricate as the art form relies on the body of the performer to set the scene, convey status and also communicate inner-thoughts of the character. Whilst I found this challenging at first, I learnt to adjust and allow myself to become completely immersed in this new style. The programme truly showed me the importance of maintaining ancient tradition. The beauty of Chinese Opera was in its rich history. The idea that I too was being handed tools that had been passed down for generations was truly awe-inspiring. Art forms like this are special and I was particularly lucky to be able to learn from the source culture, as even Bertolt Brecht himself did.
This journal was published with funding from the University of Exeterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Education Incubator Research Inspired Learning scheme. Editorial Board: Elizabeth Brown Narissa Birtwistle Jaime Corp Monique Day Anna Middlewick With thanks to Stuart Stubbs, Emily Orley and Katja Hilevaara.
Front Cover Essay Patric Basse Credits
To what extent does colour-blind casting, in twenty-first century British theatre, solve issues of colourism in the process of casting and in its subsequent representation of black people on stage?
Rose Petal Jam
From ‘Rose Gold and the Red Wine’ Carrie Neilson
Mirror Mirror Monique Day
Extract from: ‘In what ways does a ‘nation’ define itself through performance? Discuss with detailed reference to one (or possibly two at the most) performance contexts.’
Achilles Anna Middlewick Hamlet Elizabeth Brown Hallucinations Narissa Birtwistle
The Visitor: Interactive Audiences and Performance at Hampton Court Palace Jonathan Taylor
A critical analysis of the use of drama workshops to aid dyspraxic young adults.
‘Freak’ body as a ghost: Joseph Merrick in depictions of his life on stage, screen and in literature.
A Discussion on Criticism of Contemporary Greek Adaptations Jaime Corp
Mary’s Room: A Discussion of a Rehearsal Process Elizabeth Brown
Class and race in Restoration performance and the theatre industry. Georgia Burling
Could Yerma have been Franco’s favourite play? Luke Oliver
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
To what extent does colour-blind casting, in twenty-first century British theatre, solve issues of colourism in the process of casting and in its subsequent representation of black people on stage? Dissertation Extract Monique Day
Colour-blind casting in Context
The biological and cultural variations within the human race are what make us all unique. While the diversity of phenotypic traits such as skin tone, hair texture, and facial features are indeed real physical attributes, the social and cultural meanings attached to these biological differences have been socially constructed throughout history (Wilder 2015: 47). The ideas attached to phenotypic features coincide with European colonial expansion in order to categorise people within hierarchies in societies around the world that, more often than not, situate white as superior to black. This has led to not only racism but the nuance of colourism defined as ‘the unequal treatment and discrimination of individuals belonging to the same racial or ethnic group (e.g. African Americans) based upon differences in physical appearance – most notably skin complexion (color) but also facial features and hair texture’ (Wilder 2015: 6). Colourism is a global phenomenon, operating internally with light-skinned and dark-skinned black people showing prejudice amongst themselves, and externally where white people are prejudiced against individuals based on the complexion of their skin or physical features. Most evident in education and the marriage market, colourism also impacts major institutions such as the arts where bias and prejudice based on skin colour results in the under-representation of dark-skinned people. For example, ‘In film, the black actresses with big roles in the top 20 best-selling films in the UK in 2017 include Zoe Saldana, Tessa Thompson, Halle Berry, Elise Neal and Nathalie Emmanuel’ - all women with light skin (Wilson 2018: np). In an attempt to combat this, colourblind casting aims to eliminate discrimination based on skin colour and provide equal opportunities for everyone by ignoring ‘the appearance of an actor, her “color”, and hires the most skilled performer for each part’ (Young 2013: 56). Therefore, colour-blind casting, in theory, should eradicate colourism because blindness to colour should avoid prejudice or preference of any shade of skin.
In 2016 I auditioned for the BA Acting course at East 15 drama school. In this audition, all the candidates performed their monologues in front of each other and a panel of judges. Having thoroughly prepared, I performed to the best of my ability and felt happy with my performance. After the audition, the director addressed all the candidates and encouraged us not to be disheartened if we weren’t successful from the audition as it might be because ‘We already have someone like you.’ He then explained, ‘If there were five really good black girls, we couldn’t accept you all because we need to be able to make a cast with the students we accept.’ In other words, the plays being performed did not have enough black characters for five black girls to have a role each. As the only black female in the room I felt as though this was directed at me. I was being rejected not because I performed badly, not because I didn’t have talent, but because of the complexion of my skin. I understood this to mean that the director could only envision me playing a black character; hence when my auditions for other drama schools arrived, I felt limited to only performing modern stereotypical black characters as this would reflect the roles in which I would be cast in the future. However, this troubled me because I aspire to play a variety of roles in my career, many of which are Shakespearean. The belief that has ignited my interest in colour-blind casting is that ‘hiring decisions are premised on talent and not whether a person has the “right look”’ (Young 2013: 58).
An early example of this in Britain is the non-traditional casting of Trinidadian actor Edric Connor in 1958, who appeared as Gower in Pericles at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, making him the first black actor to perform for the Royal Shakespeare company (Rogers 2013: 411). In the mid 1980s, a four-year study into the policies around racial casting by American labour union Actors
Equity Association (ACE) found ‘that minorities were under represented in the performing arts’ (Brown 2012: 9). In response, AEC founded the Non-Traditional Casting Project in 1986, a nationwide forum with the purpose of exploring ‘the theoretical and practical applications of the more race-inclusive theatre society’ (Brown 2012: 9). During this time, colour-blind casting began to gain acceptance in Britain and according to the Black British and Asian (BBA) Shakespeare Database (2018), there was a 35% increase of people of colour cast in Shakespearean plays between 1987 and 1988. ‘While major changes in theatre practices were not made following this first foray into race and theatre politics, the idea of a theatre reformation was planted in the minds’ and conversations around colour-blind casting began to expand, leading to the national debate between American playwright August Wilson and theatre critic Robert Burstein in 1997 (Brown 2012: 9). The debate examined whether colourblind casting had the potential to have a transcendent or transgressive impact on the diversity of theatre, questioning ‘whether race is truly irrelevant in American performance practices, or if the rhetoric of color blindness only diminishes the value of non-white cultures, while leaving whiteness intact’ (Catanese 2011: 34). This debate sparked conversations in Britain about the impact and need for colour-blind casting, many of which are still happening today and which I will expand on later in my exploration. Socio-political events in Britain, such as the murder of 18-year-old Black British Stephen Lawrence in 1993, drew the nation’s attention to the issue of race relations in the UK. Stephen Lawrence was murdered in an unprovoked racially motivated attack. The British police’s poor handling of the case led to the acquittal of all five white suspects and in response a public inquiry, known as the Macpherson report, was released in 1999. The report found the police to be ‘institutionally racist’ and called for all public institutions to examine their policies on race relations. ‘It was probably the Lawrence murder more than any other event that created a national conversation about race in Britain’, and it is no coincidence that ‘the sharp rise in black and Asian actors employed in the twenty-first century coincides with the aftermath of the Lawrence case’ (Rogers 2013: 416-417). It was after the Lawrence case that many institutions sought to monitor equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies, making conversations about colour-blind casting relevant to theatres in their attempt at become more inclusive. However, the Arts Council England revealed that the representation of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds
in London venues were as low as 5% in 2015, highlighting the reality that although there had been a sharp rise there was still a long way to go (Masso 2018: np). Black British artists, such as comedian and actor Lenny Henry, have publicly requested the need for colour-blind casting as a solution for the lack of diversity in Britain, stating that ‘colour-blind casting hasn’t quite caught on in the UK casting’ and that ‘the likes of Idris Elba, who has been touted as the next James Bond and actress Thandie Newton are not getting the job offers they deserve’ (Matthew 2015: np). In response to the Arts Council’s findings, and public calls for a more inclusive industry, 90 theatres in the UK ‘vowed to tackle black, Asian and minority ethnic under-representation’ as part of a new initiative led by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) (Masso 2018: np). BECTU has encouraged each theatre to rethink ‘its application and recruitment processes to attract more BAME applicants and ensure a more level playing field’ and many believe that colour-blind casting has the potential to achieve this (Masso 2018: np). For example, the American Broadway hit musical Hamilton demonstrates the success of non-traditional casting. Its UK arrival in December 2017 made a powerful statement ‘in the stubbornly white world of British theatre, which remains a long way off from regularly casting black and minority ethnic actors in roles long-played by their white counterparts’ (Ellis-Peterson 2017: np). If East 15 had held colour-blind auditions and practised nontraditional casting for the plays they produced, perhaps I would have been accepted as one of their students. Debra Ann Byrd was also ‘told by a teacher that, as a person of colour, she would not have a career in the classics’ but this did not deter her and she went on to become the founder of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival and an award winning theatre professional (Alberge 2017: np). Although Byrd has played traditionally white characters, such as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, she acknowledges that non-white actors ‘go to these casting calls that say they are non-traditional or colour-blind, they act their hearts out and still don’t get the roles. Or they get a role in the corner holding the spear’ (Alberge 2017: np). Byrd, along with many other BAME actors, has shifted the debate from whether to use colourblind casting to a question of whether we can really be blind to colour. How effective is colour-blind casting in practising what it speaks and enforcing equality into the audition room?
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
Colour-blind Casting as a Solution for Colourism Colour-blind casting, ‘like equal opportunity and affirmative action legislation, was intended to create professional opportunities that would counteract the historical prejudice against minority actors’ by hiring based on talent alone regardless of race or skin complexion (Pao 2010: 58). This practice has become most apparent in classical productions, such as Shakespearean drama. While race and skin colour can play a significant role in shaping the context of classical texts, colour-blind productions encourage the audience to look beyond the colour of the actor as it claims that skin colour ‘is the least consequential or least significant element when evaluated alongside age, physical ability, gender and that, as a result, it can be ignored or overlooked’ (Young 2013: 57). Due to the frequency with which Shakespeare’s plays are produced, it is thought that ‘audiences eagerly look forward to seeing new interpretations and, therefore, are more receptive to color-blindness in those performances’ (Young 2013: 58). With British-Nigerian David Oyelowo OBE becoming the first black actor to play King Henry VI in 2001, and three years later Black British actor Adrian Lester playing King Henry V at the National Theatre, there is ‘evidence of positive steps on the part of leading national companies towards full inclusivity’ through colour-blind casting (Rogers 2013: 418). As a growing multiracial society, there is also less importance placed on the skin colour of many modern characters. A doctor, police officer, lawyer, judge etc. can be played by anyone regardless of race or skin shade. The growth of interracial families has also made it easier for audiences to accept a family whose skin shades vary in colour. When working as an actress in 2015 Meghan Markle (now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex) addressed issues of colourism and shared her appreciation for colour-blind casting: One of the reasons her role as Rachel Zane in the US legal drama Suits ‘stole her heart’ was because it wasn’t about the character’s skin colour. ‘The show’s producers weren’t looking for someone mixed, nor someone white or black for that matter. They were simply looking for Rachel.’ (Wilson 2018: np) Casting in this way provides equal opportunities for actors of all skin tones. It diversifies our stages and television screens as it opens ‘what was primarily a Euro-centric, Western repertoire to artists who had been systematically excluded and discriminated against for reasons such as the colour of their skin’ ( Jensen 2013: np). It is believed that blindness to colour ‘offers a glimpse of a utopian future in
which not only racial assumptions but also prejudices and discriminatory beliefs that can serve as social obstacles no longer exist’ (Young 2013: 58). While we have not arrived at the stage where it can be claimed we live in a colour-blind society, many institutions such as the National Theatre have adopted colour-blind policies in an attempt to implement equality in the audition room. Nevertheless, this research project into colourism and colour-blindness has led me to ask the question: To what extent is discrimination and prejudice against skin colour actually eradicated in the casting process? While individuals and institutions ‘deny that they see color, they do in fact see it; it is part of their cultural ontology to see race and to assess people according to race’ or skin colour (Anderson 2006: 91). A stereotype is a ‘simplistic image or distorted truth about a person or group based on a prejudgment of habits, traits, abilities, or expectations’ and the more we use stereotypes to navigate the world, our response and use of stereotypes become automatic and unconscious (Moule 2009: 321-322). Stereotypes of skin colour ‘shapes our attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and, at times, choices’, so while we can consciously choose not to acknowledge the complexion of someone’s skin, unconscious bias can influence our external practice the way in which we behave, treat and respond to social categories such as skin colour (Wilder 2015: 2). The Clark Doll Experiment, conducted by Dr Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie Clark in 1939, illustrated how stereotypes produce unconscious bias. The experiment involved presenting a black child with two dolls which were identical except for skin colour and hair. One doll was white with blond hair and the other brown with black hair. The child was then asked questions such as: Which doll is a nice colour? Which doll looks good/ bad? etc. The child’s answers showed a preference for the white doll. When this experiment was repeated in 2005 by 17-year-old student Kiri Davis, in her short film A Girl Like Me, fifteen out of twenty-one children showed a clear preference towards the white doll. This experiment highlights how racist and colourist ideas are internalised and unconsciously influence our choices, attitudes and ideas about individuals (Moule 2009: 322). A similar study was conducted by the BBC about bias in recruitment. Two identical CV’s were submitted with different names – one using an English name and the other a Muslim name. The experiment found that ‘an English-sounding name was offered three times the
number of interviews than the applicant with a Muslim name’ (Adesina 2017: np). While employers may ‘enforce’ equality policies, unconscious bias ‘allows people who consciously said they wanted qualified minority employees to then unconsciously rate résumés with black-sounding names as less qualified’ (Moule 2009: 322-323). There is overwhelming evidence that ‘unconscious bias seeps into decisions that affect recruitment, access to healthcare and outcomes in criminal justice in ways that can disadvantage people from ethnic minorities’ (Devlin 2018: np). Therefore, we cannot whole-heartedly accept that colour-blind casting policies eliminate prejudice against colour. Our internal scripts, which carry colourist ideas, unconsciously influence our external practice, such as the action of hiring a specific actor. For instance, in the casting of Shakespeare’s young and innocent Juliet, the sight of a dark-skinned actress whose skin colour encapsulates the stereotype of aggressiveness can produce unconscious bias towards a light-skinned actress auditioning for the same role, her appearance signifying civic innocence and beauty. While the casting director intends to blind-cast based on talent, there is no certainty that unconscious bias will not influence their judgment. Following the implementation of race relation laws and policies, many agree that overt racism in twenty-first century Britain has declined. These changes, however, have not eradicated race and colour discrimination. It has simply changed the way in which these attitudes are expressed, shifting from public acts of discrimination to private underground expressions of hatred. It can be argued that colour-blind casting policies keep covert colour discrimination hidden. This is known as colourblind racism, where individuals or institutions assert that we live in a colour-blind society in which there is no personal or national problem with racism and colourism. This creates a façade that hides covert discrimination and acts as a defence against any accusation of prejudice and discrimination due to the assertion of not seeing colour. In asserting ‘that the playing field is now equal because laws and policies have eradicated the mechanisms that produce structural inequalities’ people are prevented ‘from being able to examine meaningfully the reality of ongoing racial inequality’ (Burke 2018: 2). In colour-blind casting, for instance, if the casting director unconsciously or intentionally discriminates against a darkskin actor, to address this would prove difficult because there is already an established defence on the part for the director – they are supposedly blind to colour and therefore
their prejudice is non-existent. In this way, colour-blind casting ‘provides tremendous protection for those who actively harbour racist views but seek to keep them hidden’ as choosing to ignore race and colour provides the opportunity for ignoring racism and colourism (Burke 2018: 21). While there are ‘assertions that color blindness serves as a social-political mask’ to hide individual and institutional prejudice, it also ‘camouflages the reality of white privilege’ (Brown 2012: 50). Colour-blind casting achieves inclusivity though allowing people of colour to play characters who were traditionally written for white Europeans. This means that classical texts, such as Shakespearean plays, are able to constantly be reproduced without excluding non-European actors. However, for some, like Pullitzer-Prize winning playwright August Wilson, there is concern that simply casting people of colour in traditionally white roles leads to the whitewashing of theatre as ‘many color blind projects using classics and other white or European drama to showcase (black) talent provide only a superficial representation of our diverse world. True diversity means creating a balance amalgam of different cultures’ (Brown 2012: 51). The meaning and preconceptions attached to skin colour represent many histories from around the world, therefore colour-blind casting of classical European plays ignores the culture and politics which a diverse stage has to offer. In this sense ‘the rhetoric of color blindness only diminishes the value of non-white cultures, while leaving whiteness intact’ (Catanese 2011: 34). The 1997 debate between August Wilson and Robert Burstein highlights the concern of colour-blind casting whitewashing theatre. While Robert Burstein found colour-blind casting to be a major step forward towards racially diverse companies, August Wilson insisted that ‘We do not need colorblind casting; we need some theatres to develop our playwrights’ (Pao 2010: 44). He argued that colour-blindness ‘denied the existence and worth of a unique black worldview, values, style, linguistics, religion, and aesthetics’ and instead maintained white supremacy through allowing people of colour to join their white European world of theatre (Pao 2010: 43). In this sense, colour-blind casting doesn’t seek to confront issues of colourism, work with, or celebrate the diversity and culture which skin colour provides. Ignoring or being blind to colour therefore justifies a lack of racial and colour consciousness and keeps whiteness intact.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
We can appreciate the good intentions of colour-blind casting which aims to provide people of colour, both dark and light-skinned equally, the opportunity of playing a wide range of roles. In theory it creates an environment where actors, as the black American civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr. said: ‘are not judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character’ (King Jr., 1963). However, it would be naive to think that people can switch off their human brain from seeing colour and disconnecting from their unconscious bias that categorises people in sociallyconstructed boxes regarding colour, race, gender, etc. As a result, colourist ideas can influence a casting director’s perception and subsequent choice in hiring a person of colour. Colour-blind casting also enables intentional neglect and discrimination based on skin colour to occur as it creates ‘powerful explanations – which have ultimately become justifications – for contemporary racial inequality’ as accusations of such are denied with the claim of being blind to colour (Richeson and Nussbaum 2004: 410). The technique of using colour-blind casting to cast people of colour in traditional white roles as a means of achieving inclusivity also ignores the history, culture and politics of skin colour. Therefore, the extent to which colour-blind casting solves issues of colourism in the process of casting is minimal.
A critical analysis of the use of drama workshops to aid dyspraxic young adults. Dissertation Extract Stephanie Gaddum
Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), is a specific learning difficulty. Dyspraxia impacts education, work leisure activities and everyday skills. It impacts mental and physical heath, coordination, spatial awareness, time management, planning, organisation and social skills. Dyspraxia is currently underresearched in comparison with other learning differences, such as dyslexia and autism. My dissertation investigates the potential use of drama workshops to aid dyspraxic young adults across three different case studies, through a critical lens. This extract covers the first case study on David Roy’s mask workshops for dyspraxics in a school in Australia. As a dyspraxic and drama student myself, this topic interests me greatly. I have experienced some benefits of drama workshops first-hand, but would like to consider their use on a wider scale. Whilst it is impossible to encompass this in its entirety, as dyspraxics are not one homogeneous group, I would like to investigate if completed workshops have positive effects for dyspraxics. I want to understand what factors influence the effectiveness of these workshops, and if they have the potential to aid dyspraxic young adults specifically. Through this dissertation I hope to have informed some educators on how to enable learning for dyspraxics and increase awareness and understanding of dyspraxia. I was diagnosed with dyspraxia when I was twelve years old and the diagnosis changed my life. Dyspraxia affects my everyday life and means that routine tasks are harder, for example using keys, tying shoelaces, walking upstairs, getting dressed especially with zips and buttons. I often find it hard to read peoples’ body language. At school, I hated physical education and struggled in mathematics, particularly when using a drawing compass and understanding place value. I was constantly criticised for bad handwriting and untidy, illegible work. Dyspraxia cannot be ‘grown out of’; I will always be dyspraxic. Dyspraxia affected my school life and I regularly felt ‘stupid’, ‘hopeless’, ‘clumsy’ and ‘forgetful’. I saw my differences as negatives. I could not understand why
I was falling behind in classes and unable to apply ideas to paper. Following my diagnosis, I was better able to understand myself and others. I was lucky to receive help from physiotherapy, a supportive family and a helpful secondary school. Without early intervention and support, I am not sure I would be the person I am today. Understanding my differences gave me the chance to develop coping mechanisms and build my self esteem and confidence. This made it easier for me to make friends, be happy and achieve my goals. Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) is a specific learning difficulty. I prefer the term difference. It can affect anyone and may be detected by professionals in very young children and babies that generally present with low muscle tone. According to the NHS: ‘Dyspraxia is thought to be four times more common in boys than girls’ (NHS 2016:np). The Dyspraxia Foundation defines dyspraxia as: A common disorder affecting movement and coordination in children, young people and adults with symptoms present since childhood. A person’s coordination difficulties affect their functioning of everyday skills and participation in education, work, and leisure activities. A range of co-occurring difficulties can have a substantial adverse impact on life including mental and physical health, and difficulties with time management, planning, personal organisation, and social skills. (Kent 2018:np). There has been very little research on dyspraxia compared with dyslexia and autism, which are, in medical terms, related conditions. Dyspraxia is not as well understood as other learning differences, which is why I have chosen to focus on dyspraxia for my dissertation and will concentrate on co-ordination, confidence and social skills. Nick Miller1 a medical professional, observed a dyspraxic patient as follows: ‘A continent patient was given the bottle in sufficient time, but nevertheless wet himself and the bed because of his disability in coordinating the actions of putting the bottle in position, opening his pyjamas, directing the penis into the urinal and only then releasing urine.’ (ibid:19).
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
This perverse example alienates dyspraxics and stigmatises them, using a technique known in philosophy and phenomenology as ‘othering’. Othering is labelling and defining a person in a socially subordinate category. It is identifying someone as a subaltern, a person who is seen as being outside of a hegemonic power structure, socially, geographically and politically. Fortunately, perceptions of dyspraxia have improved since the 1980s although aspects of this stigmatisation and ‘othering’ still exist today and this is due to the lack of understanding of dyspraxia. In their journal article dyspraxia in clinical education: a review, Walker et al argue that even clinical educators and medical professionals have little understanding of these specific learning differences: ‘Anecdotal evidence suggests that clinical educators may have limited understanding of dyslexia, and even less understanding of dyspraxia.’ (Walker E, Shaw SC, Price J, Reed M and Anderson J 2017:99). This may explain why theatre workshop facilitators seldom consider dyspraxia in the creation of workshops. As a dyspraxic teenager, one area that particularly helped me was drama and theatre. Joining weekly group sessions of drama, dance and singing was initially scary and I would only watch, but gradually I participated more and found I really enjoyed it. It was a useful escapism that helped me develop creativity, teamwork and social skills. I decided to study drama at school, my confidence improved and, with practice, so did my co-ordination. This enabled me to participate more fully in both my academic and social life. For this reason, I want to explore how drama and the way it is taught could be used more widely to aid dyspraxic young adults. The first case study I am going to investigate are the workshops of David Roy. David Roy has dyspraxia and lectures in drama at Newcastle University, Australia. It is important to be aware of the educational and cultural differences between the UK and Australia when discussing this case study. Politically correct language can differ depending on cultural contexts, for example, the UK mainly uses the term dyspraxia but other countries such as Australia, are shifting to use Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) instead. Roy has run multiple workshops within school settings and led workshops with both teachers and parents. He believes strongly that drama can be extremely useful for dyspraxics in developing coping strategies for life. In his article co-authored with Caroline Dock; Dyspraxia, Drama and Masks: Applying the School Curriculum as Therapy.’, he notes that mask work is
particularly useful when working with dyspraxics. In my direct correspondence with Roy, he told me: ‘Their label ‘disappeared’ when using masks.’ (Roy 2018:np). According to Roy, by wearing a mask, the student could be someone else, forget their differences and be more confident. Having personally participated in a mask workshop led by a student of the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School, I found mask work improved my spatial awareness as I was more able to focus on individual parts of my body. Individual mask exercises encourage visualisation, for example when roleplaying the task of finding a rock and throwing it out to sea, I focused more accurately on my individual movements. Lecoq developed his work from Jacques Copeau’s (1879-1949) noble masks, which were primarily used as training devices. Copeau first discovered the benefits of mask work when visiting English modern theatre practitioner Edward Gordon Craig. Copeau was working with an actress with poor spatial awareness, who was continually blocked by others, ‘Copeau took his handkerchief and covered her face, noting that her body was immediately released as an expressive instrument. It was her face which had been making all the effort.’ (Hodge 2010:57). The use of masks helps to free the body by taking the focus away from facial expressions. Mask work helps to improve co-ordination, as it allows all the effort to go into the body and how it is positioned. Consequently, I became more aware of how my body was balanced and precisely moved. Roy argues that ‘Drama offers opportunities to develop balance and other gross motor skills from an early age, and it can be a key intervention strategy for dyspraxia.’ (Roy 2014:371). I have participated in drama workshops from the age of ten and, in line with Roy’s argument, I have found that it aided my co-ordination and also my confidence and social skills. Roy states that through mask work, ‘communication was more reliant on physicality. It encouraged students to be very aware of movements and motor skills (supporting those with motor skill challenges) and most importantly students stated a sense of freedom to try ideas without judgement’ (Roy 2014:2). As this statement explains, mask workshops are safe, non competitive environments for dyspraxics to practice their co-ordination skills without judgement. Other environments, such as physical education classes, do not allow for this due to their competitive nature. Mask theatre helped my confidence because I felt less selfconscious due to the sense of anonymity the mask gives. There is an external transformation of students’
confidence and ability by wearing a mask. Copeau’s student and later son-in law, Jean Dasté, commented: When the face is masked or hidden, one is less timid, feels freer, more daring and insincerity is quickly apparent. The mask demands both a simplification and extension of gestures; something forces you to go to the limit of the feeling being expressed’ (Hodge 2010:57). Roy argues that dyspraxics can gain confidence through participating in drama, this results in raising the student’s confidence, they then become more willing to participate in tasks. ‘Because drama is a collaborative, not competitive, methodology, the fear of rejection and failure can be challenged and through development of strengths in academia can support children.’ (Roy 2014:369). When dyspraxics are in a non-competitive environment, they are less scared of rejection and failure. This means that dyspraxics are more willing to try new things and so engage with learning more readily. To gain this non-competitive and safe environment, it is important that whoever facilitates and leads the workshops must gain the trust of the participants. This makes participants feel at ease and willing to be involved. When conversing with David Roy by email about these mask theatre workshops, he stressed how important it is to: ‘…just make it a fun and silly and a safe place. If the leader/ facilitator can make mistakes and show it’s okay to do so then the students will feel more comfortable.’ (2018:np). Thus, indicating the relationship between the facilitator and the student is crucial, as it gives students the opportunity to ‘fail’ within a safe space and practice without judgement. This counteracts the current education system’s traditional desk-based learning, that arguably pre-judges set aspects of a child’s abilities through primarily assessing them by tests. I propose that desk-based learning potentially misses out valuable skills, such as creativity, which aren’t as thoroughly addressed through standardised testing. This standard teaching alienates students who are less academic or find it harder to flourish in this environment. The arts allow these students to succeed as they offer different, often more kinetic, learning methods to students. In Roy’s 2014 article ‘Dyspraxia, drama and masks: Applying the school curriculum as therapy.’ Jennings and Minde state: ‘The arts in all their forms offer multiple methods to allow children to access the curriculum. Therefore, the arts have a role, in inclusion for all, to allow full access to the curriculum’ (np).
Confidence is a transferable skill that increases job prospects for dyspraxic young adults. Job interviewees tend to be more successful if they can communicate openly, clearly and confidently. Greater confidence benefits any presentations dyspraxics may have to do in future careers. Drama is an excellent grounding for all these experiences. Mask work allows dyspraxics a sense of anonymity which Roy argues is used to shake off differences, allowing them to feel more included and belong within a mixed environment, as they become more detached from themselves. Often, many dyspraxics long for acceptance and understanding. Charlotte, a dyspraxic mentioned in Caged in Chaos, comments on how she used a laptop in her class and people complained about the ‘very loud and annoying’ noise of her laptop: ‘I didn’t like to be seen as ‘different’. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I just wanted to be invisible.’ (Biggs 2005:75). The use of masks in drama removes this unwanted attention and allows dyspraxic students to be included and feel like they belong. Roy claims that mask work can aid the individual’s ability to view themselves positively: ‘The individual who has a disability can distance themselves from feelings of inadequacies created through the perceptions of a society that glorifies physical normality and conformity condemning the physically/neurotypically atypical.’ (Roy 2014:372). As explained here, the student often views themselves negatively, as they see their differences as burdens and want to be able to conform to the rest of society. I think this is particularly prominent at secondary school, where I personally found pressure to ‘fit in’ and ‘seem normal’ or meet my own definition of ‘normal’. Roy explains: ‘Through wearing the mask, the individual does not lose their own identity, but can adopt another, whilst their physicality is disassociated.’ (Roy 2014:372). This process, Roy argues, allows for the student to feel more included despite any differences they have in co-ordination and movement. Roy argues that in his mask workshops the inclusion of dyspraxics was important: ‘Their inclusion, and partaking of activities within the classroom, was not only equal, but students with learning difficulties were not immediately apparent to the outside observer.’ (2014:2). Inclusion is defined by Roy as: ‘… all children are involved and supported in all aspects of education, no matter the gender, ethnicity belief system, social circumstances or challenges (including disability)’ (2017:1). Dyspraxics may generally like to be viewed as equal and not have their differences highlighted. However, whilst equality for dyspraxics is important, arguably it is unethical for dyspraxics to shun their dyspraxic identity
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completely and try to adopt a neurotypical one or hide their differences. I believe that a dyspraxic should not adopt another identity or hide their differences just to fit in. The social model of disability states it is society that should adapt and change for disabled people, as society is what perceives them as impaired. If modern-day society was adapted to include disabled people, their differences wouldn’t be perceived as inabilities or issues. Disability theorist Deborah Leveroy states: ‘…socially constructed values [...] make dyslexia a ‘problem’ and it is society’s institutions which need to adapt’ (2013:97). I suggest that we should encourage dyspraxics to embrace their differences, not blend in and hide, as the mask work could imply. If it is noted to students that the mask does not transform them or who they are but is purely for them to focus on their movements, I see mask work as being a more effective tool. In his more recent article, “Using Drama as a Tool for Inclusion Within the Classroom”, Roy argues theatre activities need to be accessible and inclusive for dyspraxics: ‘Put yourself in the position of your students. Are there any barriers – emotional, intellectual or physical – preventing all of your students from accessing lessons? How can you overcome these barriers to make the setting truly inclusive?’ (2017:3). It is assumed that due to his personal experiences Roy has a clear understanding of dyspraxia. However, no student opinions are included and whilst his reasoning raises some interesting points, it assumes people with similar learning challenges can be grouped together, which is not the case; ‘dyspraxic and dyslexic people are not a homogeneous group where one method will suit all’ (Whitfield 2016:115). All dyspraxics are different; we are individuals with our own personalities and our dyspraxia ranges case by case. I believe that it is an oversimplification to consider dyspraxia as homogeneous when each person’s dyspraxia can be very individual. Furthermore, if we focus too much on inclusion of students with broader needs, it is possible classes are no longer appealing to neurotypical students. A prime example of this in education is the advice noted in The Clinical Teacher in its article ‘Dyspraxia in Clinical Education: A Review’: ‘We suggest treating all students as though they may have dyspraxia’ (Walker, Shaw, Price, Reed and Anderson 2017:102). This could come across as patronising to those who are neurotypical and may mean neurotypicals blame those who have learning differences for the changes in their learning. Similarly, Roy argues the opposite is also ineffective: ‘separating children into
‘special’ areas for learning is not inclusion but integration or segregation (dependent upon the context).’ (Roy 2017:1). It should be remembered that drama teachers are generally not experts in specific learning differences (SPLD), but I believe teachers should aim for a balance. It is important to note that inclusion depends on adapting to suit everyone’s abilities, not just those who have learning differences: ‘Any good drama teacher knows that the curriculum is a lived experience; it is negotiated with colleagues and students - a fallible event dependent upon the abilities, moods and backgrounds of those who construct it.’ (Taylor 2000:7). Some approaches do not work for dyspraxics in a workshop setting. This also applies to neurotypicals, not just dyspraxics. There are many different factors that affect the effectiveness of a workshop, like the facilitator to student relationship, content, and how competitive the environment is. Furthermore, Taylor states, content in drama workshops should be dependent on the moods and backgrounds of students. Arguably, content should be negotiated and chosen by teachers and students collaboratively. I believe that a dyspraxic does not need to be taught by someone with dyspraxia to be successfully taught. Having been taught by a mix of teachers with and without dyspraxia, I see no issue being taught by neurotypicals. It is more important that, neurotypical teachers ensure they fully understand any learning barriers of their students, in order to be effective and successful. As explained: ‘Teachers have a responsibility to recognise how understandings are constructed in process and how they can co-construct the curriculum content and its implementation.’ (Taylor 2000:7). From my own experiences, I have found teachers who understand and adapt to make it easier for me to succeed. For example, I find physical theatre difficult due to co-ordination and often I feel my differences are highlighted due to my lower ability level. Teachers who are patient and understanding allow me to succeed in an environment I would usually find daunting. Read more in Miller N. (1986) Dyspraxia and its Management London and Sydney Croom Helm. 1
Extract from: ‘In what ways does a ‘nation’ define itself through performance? Discuss with detailed reference to one (or possibly two at the most) performance contexts.’ Essay Extract Patric Basse
The performance of ‘nation’ has long been used by countries to reassert the borders of difference that divide us as people, solidifying the idea of a shared culture within a common boundary. Edensor described the nation as a ‘spatially distinguished bounded entity, possessing borders which mark it as separate from other nations’ (Edensor 2002: 37); the idea of a nation striving to define itself as unique in its own right being the crucial part. The construction of the idea of nation therefore relies on the performance of rituals, symbols and behaviours that reinforce this ‘distinguished bounded entity’ (ibid.) as an existence within the wider world, forming an ‘imagined political community’ (Anderson 1983: 6). The defining of a nation is also a ‘simultaneous synthesis of internal selfdefinition and one’s ascription by others’ (Edensor 2002: 24), relying just as much on a nation’s own understanding of itself, as it does on how a nation is perceived by those outside of it. This essay, in its original entirety, comparatively explores the Olympic opening ceremonies of Beijing 2008 and London 2012. It looks at elements of similarity and difference in order to analyse how countries use the ceremony as a performative device of national identity. This extract focuses on just Beijing 2008 and how China portrayed an image of hybridity: a nation stooped in a rich past but also one of cutting-edge innovation leading the world into the future. One of the most powerful devices that nations have used throughout the years to define themselves through performance is the opening ceremony of the modern Olympic Games, a mega-event of great proportion and prestige. Whilst competitive sport between nations has always been ‘one of the most potent sources of vibrant, compressed national symbolism’ (Rowe 2012: 22) in terms of evoking a strong sense of nation within rivalry and also representation, the Olympic opening ceremony has allowed sport to merge with art to create a ceremony that fulfilled the original vision of Pierre de Coubertin (Coubertin 1997), the founder of the International Olympic Committee
(IOC). By the 1920 games in Antwerp, iconic elements like the athlete’s parade, the lighting of the cauldron and the releasing of the doves for the opening ceremony, were already in place. At the heart of this, however, lies the ritual of the artistic program, that must showcase the Olympic virtue of humanism. The artistic program has often been used as a means for countries to perform themselves expressively to the wider world as they take centre stage in hosting the games. Hosting the Olympics and having the chance to stage an opening ceremony has consequently awarded countries the opportunity to use ritual to showcase a particular image of themselves; in turn allowing them to manipulate or adjust global perception. One particularly strong example of this was the 1936 Berlin games, dubbed the ‘Nazi Games’, as Germany attempted to sustain an image of white supremacy and German superiority over Europe. As Edensor argued, ‘the masses are drawn together by such ceremonies’ (Edensor 2002: 5) and are rendered ‘powerless to resist[ing] the overwhelming appeal’ (ibid.) of the mass spectacle and so ‘passively [ingest] ideological messages’ (ibid.) In order for this image to appear as intended, the ritualistic part of the performance must remain central to the spectacle, as it did with Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Apart from the obvious inclusion of the standard elements (as listed by the IOC), drumming was used in both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 opening ceremonies to maintain the spectacle of ritual within the performance, however each country used the drums to also perform a specific idea of nation; rewriting common perceptions from outer nations and reaffirming their own cultural boundaries. One of the most remarkable moments of the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony was the drum sequence that started the ceremony off at 8pm local time on the 8th day of the 8th month of the 8th year of the 21st century. As seen with the starting time and date, symbolism was heavily prevalent in this drumming sequence and introduced the audience to the style of performance that would follow;
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full of meaning, precision and fusion. The choice to begin the ceremony with drumming played into the idea of the ceremony being heavily ritualistic. Often, we associate the sound of percussion as pre-empting an entrance or a start, as with a drum roll or with the chiming of Big Ben on an hour; a ritual has a distinctively marked beginning. The drums, in China’s performance, evoked an image of China as seen from a western, perhaps touristic, perspective of an ancient civilisation that’s a ‘contrasting image’ (Said 2003: 2) of Europe. However, a directorial choice to have the ancient drums laced with LED strips, along with having LED drum sticks, aided the nation’s attempt at ‘recreat[ing] the global narrative…as the story of a forwardlooking, modern nation that can boast a long and glorious past’ (Askew 2010: 104): the drums here representing the ‘long and glorious past’ (ibid.) and the LED showcasing a ‘forward-looking’ (ibid.) China. By performing the idea of themselves in this way, China affirmed their place in the modern world by boasting rich roots and foundations whilst simultaneously using the technology to remind the global audience that China has been at the forefront of the Digital Age.
The Visitor: Interactive Audiences and Performance at Hampton Court Palace Dissertation Extract Jonathan Taylor
This is an excerpt from ‘An Exploration of the Use of Performance to Create Interactive Educational Experiences at Hampton Court Palace’, a third year dissertation. The performances at Hampton Court Palace vary in scale and style, but they all invite visitors to become an ‘interactive’ audience, placing them ‘at the centre of the experience’ ( Jackson and Kidd, 2009: 241). This is done through an invitation for the visitor to interact directly with costumed interpretations, which we classify as ‘performances’. The visitor is given ‘the agency to alter the work or elicit a reaction to its assertions’ (Klich and Scheer, 2012: 153), encouraging some kind of interpretation or assisting in the progression of the narrative. At this point ‘the relationship between the viewer and the work can be classified as interactive’ (Klich and Scheer, 2012: 153). Performances at the site achieve this interactive relationship by having first-person costumed interpreters available for an interested visitor to interact with. I observed one example of this in the Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court Palace, where a scribe was demonstrating Tudor calligraphy whilst engaging in conversation (Past Pleasures: 2018). The actor was seated at a table in the centre of the room and not actively trying to gather an audience. He was, however, out of place compared to the 21st-century visitors who filled the room. It was this contrast to a regular visitor that drew the initial attention of visitors, and his actions of simply writing a scroll with an ink quill prolonged their interest. Although he was going about his business, he still appeared available to visitors, and would often catch their eye and offer conversation to them. One such interaction that I observed was between a woman who told him it was her wedding anniversary that day. Upon volunteering this piece of personal information, the costumed interpreter congratulated her and began writing a scroll to commemorate the occasion. By Klich and Scheer’s definition, the interaction was ‘complex’ as it ‘[required] the real-time and mutual activity
of both agents’ (Klich and Scheer, 2012: 164). This real-time activity by a reciprocal actor showed that the performance respected that a visitor has ‘the agency to alter the work or elicit a reaction to its assertions’ (Klich and Scheer, 2012: 153). The costumed interpreter was playing a real historical figure (Past Pleasures, 2018), accessible by a modern audience through real-time ‘human-to-human give-and-take with […] limitless potential for alternative narrative outcomes’ (Klich and Scheer, 2012: 166). It was this adaptation and collaborative response to a visitor’s interaction with the performance that made it museum theatre, placing ‘the learner at the centre of the experience’ ( Jackson and Kidd, 2009: 241). The interpreter did not seem to fall ‘into the trap of romanticizing the past’ and was ‘committed to accuracy’ when explaining his role within the Tudor household (Sheppard, 2009: 15) (Past Pleasures, 2018). The ‘authenticity’ of the performance in the visitor’s eyes was built upon at the end of the interactive performance. The performer gave the visitor the scroll that he had prepared for her. The visitor could take this away, having assisted in the creation of ‘something they can take home, that exudes authenticity because something one makes for oneself is viewed as inherently authentic’ (Donnis and Wilkening, 2008: 22). For the visitor, they had seen an ‘authentic’ display of history through the interactive performance and being able to take away a newly written scroll reaffirmed the authenticity of the historical interaction. After all, the interaction was personal, it did not have a predetermined script, and so it appeared to be authentic. I use the word ‘authentic’ tentatively, as it is impossible to be fully authentic when portraying the past. A costumed interpreter is not a person from the past and objects are only ever authentic within their own context. Objects have history of their own and it is impossible to identify them as authentic, due to the conflicting opinions of what their history may be.
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When I interviewed Mark Wallis, he summed up this impossibility of authenticity in a few words: ‘We can’t think like these people. We can never be those people physically’ (Wallis, 2019). It is beyond the scope of this document to detail the semantics of the word ‘authentic’, but it is valuable to understand how the word can be interpreted in many different ways. This dissertation employs the word in relation to a visitor’s experience, and the perceived ‘realness’ of that experience. Donnis, E. and Wilkening, S. (2008), ‘Authenticity? It Means Everything’, History News, Vol. 63, No. 4, Autumn, pp. 18-23. Jackson, A. and Kidd, J. (2009), ‘”Museum Theatre”: Cultivating Audience Engagement – a case study’ in Shu, J. Chan, P., McCammon, L.A., Owens, A. and Greenwood, J. (eds.) Planting Trees of Drama with Global Vision in Local Knowledge: IDEA 2007 Dialogues, IDEA Publications, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Drama/Theatre and Education Forum, pp. 240-54. Klich, R. and Scheer, E. (2012), Multimedia Performance, New York: Palgrave. Past Pleasures (2018), Below the Stairs. Hampton Court Palace: Past Pleasures. Sheppard, B. (2009), ‘Interpretation in the Outdoor Living History Museum’, History News, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 15-18 Wallis, M. (2019), Interviewed by J. Taylor, unpublished, Hampton Court Palace, 22 April 2019.
‘Freak’ body as a ghost: Joseph Merrick in depictions of his life on stage, screen and in literature. Essay Extract Lucy Mckelvey
Joseph Carey Merrick, born in Leicester in 1862, is known more commonly throughout history as ‘The Elephant Man.’ Born with a rare genetic disorder, Merrick’s body was encompassed with limb deformities consisting of large fleshy tumours and bony lumps. With limited scientific understanding in 19th Century Britain, Merrick was quickly labelled as a ‘freak’ by Victorian society, branding him as an outsider. Although he was taken into the care of surgeon Frederick Treves at the Royal London Hospital, from the freak show where he was displayed, Merrick’s status as an outcast is emphasised in depictions of his life. Bernard Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man, first performed in London in 1977, particularly illustrates this. The interactions between Merrick and the characters highlight how Victorian society has made him into a ghostly figure. He is never truly seen or treated as a human being, allowing us to only glimpse the shell of the person that he was beneath his deformity. This has led scholars such as Benjamin Poore to believe that Merrick represents ‘a potent symbol of the outsider’ within history (2017: 208). Moreover, Victorian Britain was a time of great change with the birth of capitalism and the industrial revolution, imperialism and the expansion of the British Empire, as well as a new fascination with science and technology. These significant changes influenced society and the way people behaved and saw the world, causing new ideologies and morals to emerge. Therefore, this essay argues that the expectations and culture of Victorian society caused the ghosting of Joseph Merrick, both in Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man and in other adaptions of his life. Development of the Industrial Revolution between 1760 and 1840 meant that when Merrick was born in 1860, Victorian Britain was encompassed by a commodity culture centred on the production, buying and selling of goods and products. This led to a mass increase in both factory and machinery-based employment, dominating the workforce of the middle class for families like Merrick’s in the 19th Century. It is clear in Merrick’s own autobiography written in 1884 and in Pomerance’s play The Elephant Man that
Merrick, due to his physical deformities, was unable to fit into this working culture. In his autobiography, Merrick states that he ‘obtained employment at Messrs. Freeman’s Cigar Manufacturers’, however his ‘right hand got too heavy’ so he ‘had to leave them’ (1884: np.). The phrase ‘too heavy’ highlights how Merrick’s deformity prevented him from carrying out the delicate movements needed to hand produce cigars. Merrick then explains that because of ‘being unable to get employment’ his father got him a ‘pedlar’s license’ but because of being ‘deformed, people would not come to the door to buy [his] wares’ illustrating how society rejected him because of his deformity, giving him no choice but to seek employment elsewhere (1884: np.). Moreover, Howell and Ford state that Merrick’s admission into the ‘Leicester Union workhouse’ was recorded in December 1879 (1980: 43). In Pomerance’s play Merrick describes how at ‘the workhouse where they put me’, they ‘beat you there like a drum’ (Pomerance 1979: 26). The phrase ‘where they put me’ confirms society’s rejection of Merrick from the dominant commodity culture. Merrick’s repetition of ‘boom boom’ throughout the scene emphasises his haunted experiences within the workhouse, the onomatopoeia evokes the sounds made by mechanical instruments yet also resembles the sound of a beating heart symbolising the trauma that the real Joseph Merrick must have experienced while attempting to work within this environment (Pomerance, 1979: 26). Therefore, as Merrick was unable to fit into the working culture of the 19th Century, he became a commodity himself by becoming an act in a freak show. Merrick’s title of ‘The Elephant Man’ as well as his act description of ‘Halfa-Man-and-Half-an-Elephant’ dehumanises Merrick so that he is no longer seen as a person but is now purely an object, a good that can be bought, sold and rented for a price, allowing him to fit into the commodity culture (Howell Ford, 1980: 10). This concept is emphasised by Howell and Ford’s statement that ‘the showman hung a large canvas painted with the startling image of a man halfway through the process of turning into an elephant’ that also
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announced ‘the same was to be seen within for the entrance price of two pence’ representing how Merrick’s deformity was being used as a commodity that could be advertised (1980 : 10). Frederick Treves, the surgeon who discovered Merrick and gave him sanctuary in the London Hospital, wrote in his book The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences that the advertisement was a ‘very crude production’ and that the poster was ‘the figure of a man with the characteristics of an elephant’ linking to Pomerance’s stage direction, suggesting there should be ‘a large advertisement of a creature with an elephants head’ on stage, emphasising Merrick’s othering by Victorian culture (Pomerance, 1979: 3). Merrick states in his autobiography that ‘I’ll get my living by being exhibited about the country’; however, both Pomerance’s play and Carr-Gomms letter to The Times editor suggest that Merrick had no choice but to become a commodity because of the culture of Victorian society (1884: np.). The letter declares that Merrick ‘was exhibited in a room off Whitechapel road’ and ‘as soon as a sufficient number of pennies had been collected, poor Merrick threw off his curtain and exhibited himself in all his deformity’ (Carr-Gomm,1886:np.). Carr-Gomm’s phrase, ‘exhibited himself in all his deformity’, represents how Merrick had to use his deformity as a commodity to fit into the culture to make a living and survive (1886:np.). Pomerance emphasises this when the character of Ross states: ‘For, in order to survive, Merrick forces himself to suffer these humiliations’ (1979: 3). Pomerance’s choice of the word ‘forces’ illustrates how Merrick did not want to display himself: however, he had to make himself endure it if he wanted to survive (1979: 3). Pomerance emphasises this concept of Merrick as a commodity further by his visitors at the London Hospital. Pomerance makes clear that while Merrick is no longer an act in a show he is still treated as a commodity by society. In one of Carr-Gomm’s letters to The Times he states that Merrick ‘was visited by the highest in the lands’ (1886: np.) and Howell and Ford mention how ‘every lady of note in the social sphere made the pilgrimage to the hospital’, highlighting how Merrick still had an audience coming to view his deformity (1980: 89). Upon being ‘visited’ by high esteemed members of Victorian society in Pomerance’s play, Merrick receives a gift from each person who visits him. The objects given to Merrick function as payment and therefore maintain his status as a commodity despite him being led to believe that they have come for the pleasure of his company; each visitation is a selfish attempt to raise their own social status within society by being able to say that they have met ‘The Elephant Man.’ Howell and
Ford confirm this when they declare that each person who visited ‘sturdily summoned the courage to greet him with a smile and handshake, even to spend some minutes in conversation’, displaying their true motives behind the visitation (1980: 89). Pomerance also emphasises this notion by each character repeating the same line of ‘I am very pleased to have made your acquaintance’, when meeting Merrick (1979: 36). Each character’s repetition of the line implies that it has been rehearsed and therefore is insincere, emphasising the selfish reasoning behind the visit due to the commodity culture of society and their attempt to maintain their status within this. David Lynch’s 1980 film The Elephant Man further demonstrates this concept when Merrick naively mistakes the visiting woman’s shaking as shivering because of the cold, causing him to then go and close the window, thus representing how his visitors were simply enduring the sight of him for their own gain. This concept parallels the significant event of ‘The Great Exhibition’ that occurred during the period. The exhibition was held at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and showcased commodity and material progress that represented the commodity culture of the period, linking to how Merrick was exhibited in a freak show and then at the London Hospital as a commodity for Victorian society to view. Prince Albert stated how the exhibition demonstrated the Victorians commitment to ‘conquering nature to his use’ and how man was triumphing over nature echoing how Treves, by allowing members of the public to visit Merrick, is trying to ‘conquer nature’ through his ambition to understand Merrick’s illness (Martin 1877: 204). By Treeves exhibiting his findings to society and allowing them to visit Merrick, both he and society add to the ghosting of Merrick by treating him as a mere commodity. Furthermore, the golden age of the British Empire occurred in the 19th Century. The Victorians believed themselves to be morally superior to the rest of the world. They believed it was their duty to bring ‘civilisation’ to the exotic savage ‘other’ as it was the ‘white man’s burden of bringing civilisation’ to foreign lands (Kipling 1899: np.). Victorian Britain gained an imperial mentality that included a set of values and attitudes derived from the British Empire based on a colonial ideological framework. Scholar Samira Sasani argues in her essay ‘The Elephant in the Dark Room’ that Merrick, in Pomerance’s play, ‘is considered as the Other’ and is an ‘embodiment of the Orient’, implying that Merrick is viewed as a space in need of colonisation (2015: 120). Therefore, it can be seen that Merrick’s treatment at the London Hospital was shaped by
the influence of colonial ideology, Pomerance demonstrates that the character shares characteristics of the colonised and therefore requires similar strategies of control from the other characters, making Merrick a ghostly figure by being seen as ‘other’ in his own country. Imperialist language and ideology is used throughout the play that establishes Merrick as a space to be colonised: at the beginning of the play Gomm states that ‘the empire provides unparalleled opportunities for our studies, as places cruel of life are the most revealing scientifically’ and the Bishop believes that it’s their ‘obligation to bring light and benefices to benighted men’ (Pomerance, 1979: 21). Pomerance’s phrase ‘places cruel of life’ is ironic as London society’s treatment of Merrick is ‘cruel’ (1979: 21). Additionally, Merrick’s disorder is treated in comparison to those of foreign lands. Upon being asked to tend to Merrick the character of Miss Sandwich states that she has cared ‘for lepers in the East’ and in Africa has seen ‘dreadful scourges quite unknown to our more civilised clime’ suggesting that she will be able to handle caring for Merrick (Pomerance, 1979: 17). Pomerance’s choice of the phrase ‘civilised clime’ represents how Merrick is seen as an uncivilised ‘other’ and is therefore separate from the rest of society bearing more likeness to the ‘savages’ of the ‘East’ and ‘Africa’ than to the Victorian people (1979: 17). In regard to post-colonial theory, Bhabha states that ‘the coloniser desires the Other to become almost the same’ (1994: 122). This colonial desire is reflected in the play by it being the driving force motivating Treves and the British public to help and support Merrick. Pomerance clearly indicates this with the title ‘The English will pay for him to be like us’ for scene seven demonstrating Victorian society’s imperialist agenda for Merrick (1979: 19). Treves states his desire to bring Merrick ‘normality as far as it is possible’ however the phrase ‘as far’ indicates that he will never truly fit into society and will always be regarded as ‘other’ furthering the ghosting of his character (Pomerance 1979: 21). Gomm questions Treves asking if ‘he will be like us?’ however the stage direction ‘(smiles)’ implies that this is never achievable for Merrick (Pomerance 1979: 21). Moreover, Dasht- Peyma argues that colonisers go through a process of ‘coercing colonised people to speak the colonisers tongue’ reflected in the play by the ‘imposed imperial language’ that Treves uses to speak to Merrick (2009: 124). Treves tells Merrick how ‘we always do say please and thank you, don’t we?’ if he wants ‘to be like others’ forcing Merrick to mechanically repeat what he is saying, therefore making him imitate both himself
and Victorian society in speech (Pomerance 1979: 24). This example demonstrates how Treves is using the same techniques and methods with Merrick that are used when trying to civilise the colonies reflecting Sasani’s belief that although Merrick is English, he ‘is treated as the other in his homeland and is gazed at’ by the Victorian people (2015: 124). Additionally, Pomerance portrays how the character of Merrick has successfully been colonised and therefore civilised by the characters likening themselves to him. The character of Mrs Kendall notes how the objects that Merrick receives are ‘props of course’ to ‘make himself. As I make me’, highlighting how material belongings are used to create an impression of civility (Pomerance 1979: 39). Each character likens a personal quality they possess to Merrick; Gomm believes ‘he seems practical, like me’, while the Duchess knows ‘he is discreet. Like me’ and Treves states that ‘I think him concerned about the world, rather like myself’ (Pomerance 1979: 39). The characters statements imply that the process of civilisation is complete because by seeing a likeness, as high esteemed members of Victorian society, it shows how Merrick has been moulded to resemble them and a Victorian citizen. However, Sasani argues that as ‘Merrick has assimilated himself so much that each character sees herself or himself’ they see Merrick ‘from his or her point of view’ and therefore ‘nobody tries to see Merrick as he is’ and in doing so add to his ghosting and othering from society (2015: 119). This notion is emphasised in David Lynch’s film The Elephant Man by Merrick wearing a traditional Victorian suit. The costume creates the illusion that he is the same as everyone around him, however the abuse he receives later in the scene confirms how he will always be seen as ‘other’ in Victorian Britain, linking to Poore’s belief that in this scene Merrick is ‘once more exploited as a “freak”’ (2017: 214). Furthermore, the advancement of technology that occurred from the industrial revolution triggered an advance in science and a new fascination for scientific discoveries. It can be argued that this motivation is what drove Frederick Treves and the London Hospital to care for Merrick, furthering his ghosting. Upon being examined at the hospital, Howell and Ford note how Merrick ‘was the only living exhibit presented’ and the ‘only complete exhibit in the lecture room’ suggesting that other examinations had been of body parts removed in operation or from deceased bodies (1980: 28). By using Merrick as a live specimen he is no longer seen as a person but merely an object to be viewed and examined but by a different audience with a
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different agenda: being presented alongside dead body parts diminishes his status from a living subject to that of nothing. Treves wrote in his book how he ‘measured’ Merrick up in front of an audience and ‘stripped him naked to the point where he was fully revealed’ making Merrick feel ‘shy, confused and evidently much cowed’ from the experience, reflecting the humiliation and suffering he endured and the sense of ‘other’ he must have felt in relation to the rest of the room and society (1923: 25). Pomerance highlights this notion in scene eighteen of his play where Merrick’s treatment from Treves is scrutinised, by Pomerance mocking and distorting scene three. In this scene Pomerance makes Treves the subject of examination symbolising how the experience of being examined has afflicted Merrick and made him believe he is an outsider to society. Howell and Ford state how Merrick ‘was needed to be ever available for inspection by medical students and eminent scientists’ showing how this othering was forced on him for the entirety of his life (1980: 118). Overall, it is clear that the culture and expectations of Victorian society had great influence over the ghosting of Joseph Merrick. The culture of the period forced Merrick to become a commodity because of his inability to work within the demands of the dominant commodity culture, the imperialist ideologies within society caused its people to view Merrick as a space in need of civilisation making him be gazed at ‘from a superior stance by his own countrymen’ while society’s desire for new scientific discoveries demoted Merrick to nothing more than an object (Sasani 2015: 124). However, blame for Merrick’s ghosting cannot be given to a singular aspect of society; all aspects together influenced his treatment making Merrick live ‘in a prison of good intentions’ from the ‘enlightened’ Victorian people (Margrave 2018: np.). In David Lynch’s film Merrick famously states ‘I am a human being. I am a man’, reminding us to remember that in life ‘the mind’s the standard of the man’ (Watts 1706: np.). Bhabha, H. K. (1994). The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge. Carr-Gomm, F. (1886). ‘Letter to Editor of The Times Newspaper,’ 4 December. [Online], http://www.lettersofnote.com/2016/08/theelephant-man.html [17 December 2018]. Dasht-Peyma, N. (2009). Postcolonial Drama: A Comparative Study of Wole Soyinka, Derek Walcott and Girish Karnad, Jaipur: Rawat Publications. Howell, M and Ford, P. (1980) The True History of The Elephant Man, London: Allison & Busby. Kipling, R. (1899). ‘The White Man’s Burden’, The New York Sun, 10 February.
Lynch, D. (1980) The Elephant Man. DVD. Paramount Pictures. Margrave, C. (2018). ‘The Elephant Man in the Room’, Chiron Review, Issue 111, Spring 2018. Martin, T. (1877). The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, Vol. 2 , New York: D. Appleton & Co. Merrick, J. (1884) The Autobiography of Joseph Carey Merrick [Online], https://publicdomainreview.org/the-autobiography-of-joseph-careymerrick-1884/ [17 December 2018]. Pomerance, B. (1979) The Elephant Man, New York: Grove Press. Poore, B. (2017). ‘True Histories of the Elephant Man: Storytelling and Theatricality in Adaptations of the Life of Joseph Merrick’ in Barton,A . and Smith, A. (ed) Rethinking the Nineteenth Century, Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 207-224. Sasani, S. (2015). ‘The Elephant in the Dark Room: Merrick and Menacing Mimicry in Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man,’ International Education Studies, Vol. 8, No. 8, p.118-128. Treves, F. (1923). The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences, London: Cassell. Watts, I. (1706). ‘True Greatness’ in Eliot, W. (Ed). English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray. Vol. XL. The Harvard Classics, New York: P.F. Collier & Son.
A Discussion on Criticism of Contemporary Greek Adaptations Critical Analysis Jaime Corp
In her chapter within Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre, Olga Kekis, an independent drama scholar with a background in theatrical adaptation and theatre history studies, uses a ‘palimpsestuous’ (2018: 196) approach to explore hyper-theatricality, or active links and connections between plays, in contemporary adaptations of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, i.e. by overwriting an existing piece or idea in such a way as allows the pre-existing to show through. Through placing this text in dialogue with two 21st-century adaptations: Kaite O’Reillys’ Peeling (2002) and Christine Evans’ Trojan Barbie (2010), Kekis argues that the hyper-theatricality and palimpestuous layering of the texts emphasizes that the ‘defining radicality’ of the adaptations lies in their reconfiguration of the female characters as ‘female “Writs of Habeus Corpus”(2018: 211). Kekis’ ‘hyper-theatrical engagement’ is a natural progression from her previous work on twenty-first century adaptations of the classics: Medea Adapted: The Subaltern Barbarian Speaks (2003). Medea Adapted, like ‘hyper-theatrical engagement’, focuses on the ‘radicality’ and ‘subaltern status of [the] heroine’ (Kekis 2010: 4) in contemporary adaptations of a Greek drama, in this case, Euripides’ Medea. Although ‘Hyper-theatrical Engagement’ similarly contemplates the transformation of the ‘tragic’ female characters into ‘twenty-first century women who challenge and contest their social and personal status’ (Kekis 2018: 196), there is a progression in Kekis’ approach to analysing new adaptations. In ‘hyper-theatrical engagement’, Kekis pays close attention to Gerard Génette’s concept of hyper-textuality; ‘any relationship uniting a text B (... the hypertext) to an earlier text A (... the hypotext)’ (Génette 1997: 7). Kekis makes her own adaptation of sorts in applying this theory to theatre under ‘hyper-theatricality’ (Kekis 2018: 195). The hypertext then, becomes the hyperplay and the hypotext the hypoplay (Kekis 2018: 195). Different from the more simplistic contrasts and parallels drawn in Medea Adapted, here Kekis views Trojan Women as a ‘scaffold’ (2018: 195) on which Peeling and Trojan Barbie are built; a scaffold which is still
visible through the cracks and tears in the new texts. This concept, as well as Alexander’s concept of the ‘palimpsest’ (cited Hutcheon 2013: 6), allow Kekis to successfully discuss the links and influences between Euripides’ original and the adaptations without resorting to merely labelling the differences or similarities and marks Kekis’ progression in analysis. Viewing adaptation as a ‘reformulation of its communicative situation’ (Casetti 2004: 83), Kekis’ argument that O’Reilly and Evan’s adaptations redefine Scanlan’s view of The Trojan Women as ‘Writ of Habeus Corpus’ to a ‘female Writ of Habeus Corpus’ (Kekis 2018: 196) suggests that the productions fit in with modern desires to retaliate against hegemony. Whilst this follows Kekis’ view, it is at a stark opposition to the opinion of Eleftheria Ioannidou’s introduction to the chapter. Kekis suggests the physical peeling away of costume in Peeling metaphorically signifies the removal of societal constraints and therefore shows the strength of the women in ‘lay[ing] bare their souls’ to the audience (2018: 204). Ioannidou’s introduction challenges this as Kekis, although approaching the texts palimpsestically, does not discuss the canonical influences of the adaptations. As Ioaniddou argues, the adaptation of classical texts creates ‘ambivalence’ (2018: 191) in their quest to challenge authorial figures in that the adaptations themselves are creating and recreating a ‘cultural hegemony’ through affirming the canon which first created it (2018: 191). Despite Kekis’ claim of ‘hyper-theatricality’, the implications of reviving the cultural canon are not considered. The strength of the argument then, lies in discussion of the representation of the ‘other’ in the adaptations. The two case studies used are well-suited to this exploration with both portraying the concept of otherness in diverging ways. O’Reillys’ Peeling sets out to challenge tradition of otherness in Western theatre being rarely played by those who were other themselves. Trojan Barbie instead evokes otherness but through an uncomfortable depiction of distance and time. Kekis
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furthers the argument seen in Reverman’s The Appeal of Dystopia which concentrates on the twentieth-century desire to expand and exploit the otherness already seen in Greek tragedy, that they have ‘an irresistible tendency to indulge in difference’ (Reverman 2008: 109). Here, although Kekis focuses on twenty-first century plays which do seem to ‘indulge’ in difference, they instead normalise otherness. In Peeling, Kekis states, ‘the least important element of this theatrical mélange is that very disability’ (2018: 198). The female characters, Kekis argues, show their strength either through or in spite of their otherness and it is this which makes the adaptations ‘female “Writ of Habeus Corpus”’ (2018: 211). Kekis’ chapter successfully highlights the hyper-theatrical layering that takes place between Peeling and Trojan Barbie and Euripides’ original. Although perhaps the exploration is not entirely a palimpsest due to a lack of consideration of the ‘cultural hegemony’ of the play, Kekis uses the concept of the ‘other’ as a clear through line for her argument that the text is adapted as ‘female “Writ of Habeus Corpus”’ (2018: 211).
In her chapter ‘Gender, Empire and Body Politic’ within Space and Time in Epic Theatre: the Brechtian Legacy, Sarah Bryant-Bertail, an Associate Professor Emerita of Theory and Criticism with a strong understanding of European theatre, explores discourses of gender and empire within Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1991 adaptation of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia. Through placing this twentieth century production, Les Atrides, in dialogue with the original text, Bryant-Bertail argues that Mnouchkine resists re-producing cultural hegemony through ‘systematically revis[ing] the major assumptions of traditional mimesis’ (184). Instead Les Atrides allows the ‘inherent’ critique of a patriarchal and imperialist Greek Empire to be reflected onto the audience’s ‘own interior psyche’ (Bryant-Bertail 2000: 184). Bryant-Bertail emphasises that it is this reflection which makes Mnouchkine’s production ‘historically responsible’ (2000: 176). Published in 2000, ‘Gender, Empire and Body Politic’ follows a rise in feminist critical theory occurring in the late twentieth-century, with feminist writers such as Judith Butler redefining gender as ‘a stylised repetition of acts’ which are ‘tenuously constituted in time’ (1988: 519-520). Butler’s influence on Bryant-Bertail is clearly seen in her discussion of Mnouchkine’s rehearsal processes; ‘This practice of actors’ trying on roles and costumes [is]... identification as a performative social act in Butler’s sense’ (2000:184). However, she extends Butler’s interpretation of
gender a ‘social’ act (1988: 519), to one which is enhanced and reflected within theatre, specifically in Mnouchkine’s Les Atrides. The ‘performative social’ act of the actors’ identification with role and costume is then projected onstage. Whereas Butler claims that ‘links between a theatrical and social role are complex’ (1988: 527), for Bryant-Bertail, it is these links which allow the ‘inherent’ patriarchal view to be reflected onto the audience, further enhancing ‘historically responsible’ nature of Mnouchkine’s work. (2000:184). Bryant-Bertail’s choice of Mnouchkine’s Les Atrides is well suited to her discussion of both gender and empire. Mnouchkine’s feminist stance, as well as her ‘Theatre du Soleil’s’ tradition of borrowing from Asian culture allows an in depth and interlinked exploration of the relationship between the two discourses. Bryant-Bertail’s states that gender and empire are inherently linked as ‘the coloniser often imagines the colonised as an other by feminising, demonising and depriving the other of language’ (2000: 176 my italics). This view of the ‘other’ as both feminine and colonised is shown, Bryant-Butler argues, semiotically in the production, not as a ‘reproduction’ but as ‘a staging of historical consciousness’ (2000: 177). In this idea, BryantBertail applies Edward Said’s statement that ‘the Orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West’ (Said 2003: 5) to both empire and gender. It is the ‘tradition of thought’ of the colonised and the feminine as ‘other’ which maintains the hegemonic and patriarchal structures of the West and is the ‘historical consciousness’ (2000: 176) which Bryant-Bertail praises Mnouchkine’s work for demonstrating and reflecting onto the audience. Les Atrides has, however, been at the centre of feminist and scholarly controversy, much of which disagrees with Bryant-Bertail’s view. In ‘Playing against the Text: “Les Atrides” and the History of Reading Aeschylus’, Sallie Goetsch argues that Mnouchkine’s ideological reading of the text as ‘propatriarchal’ in fact ‘disempowers’ female characters (1994: 76). Ironically, both Bryant-Bertail and Goetsch’s arguments focus on letting the text ‘speak for itself’. Whereas Bryant-Bertail argues that Mnouchkine brings out the ‘inherent’ patriarchy of the text (2000: 184), Goetch emphasises her reliance on translations of the Greek texts instead of originals and states a failure to recognise the text as Aeschylus’ most radical work (1994: 78). Bryant- Bertail counters negative critical reception in the conclusion to her chapter, arguing that it is ‘these
mindsets that the work tries to theatrically expose and interrogate’ (2000: 200). It is difficult, however, to continue thinking about Les Atrides as a production of ‘historical responsibility’ (Bryant-Bertail 2000: 176) when perhaps the most radical of the female characters, Klytaimestra, has been transformed from characteristically ‘like a man’ (Aeschylus 1995: 12) to the ultra-feminised role in Mnouchkine’s production.
Kekis, O. (2010) Medea Adapted: The Subaltern Barbarian Speaks [Online], www.nanopdf.com/download/medea-adapted-the-subaltern-barbarianspeaks_pdf [08/02/19] Revermann, M (2008) The Appeal of Dystopia: Latching onto Greek Drama in the Twentieth Century. Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, vol. 16, no. 1 [Online], www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/29737379. pdf?ab_segments=0%252Fdefault1%252Frelevance_config_with_ defaults&refreqid=excelsior%3A3eebeb433e03609cee7d54b6f25649 8b [08/02/19] Said, E. (2003) Orientalism. London: Penguin Books
The strength of Bryant’s case for Les Atrides lies in her commentary on the ‘movement’ (2000: 191) of characters within a power structure. Bryant-Bertail’s extensive analysis of specific details in the production, the tweak in a costume or return of certain actors, allows an understanding of how Mnouchkine is presenting ‘a flight not to “freedom of gender identity” but from one constructed position to another, creating a sense of narrative displacement, of a history rolling past to expose a social landscape’ (2000: 191). It is this ‘social landscape’ which is being reflected onto the audience and which reinstates the production as ‘historically responsible’ (Bryant-Bertail 2000: 176). ‘Gender, Empire and Body Politic’ successfully analyses gender and empire discourses using the production of Les Atrides. Although perhaps the production is not wholly, as Bryant-Bertail argues, ‘historically responsible’, her reading of the production as reflecting the audiences ‘interior psyche’ is proved in discussion of semiotic othering and specific character movement (2000: 176). Bryant – Bertail, S. (2000) Space and Time in Epic Theatre: The Brechtian Legacy. New York: Camden House. Butler, J. (1988) Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenolog y and Feminist Theory. [Online] www.jstor.org/ stable/3207893?seq=9#metadata_info_tab_contents [06/03/19] Génette, G. (1997) Palimpsests: ‘Literature in the Second Degree, London: University of Nebraska Press. Goetsch, S. (1994) Playing against the Text: “Les Atrides” and the History of Reading Aeschylus. [Online] www.jstor.org/ stable/1146381?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents [06/03/19] Hutcheon, L. (2013) A Theory of Adaptation, Second Edition, Oxon: Routledge. Ioannidou, E, (2018) ‘Reinscribing the Other in Contemporary Adaptations of Greek Tragedy’, in Reilly. K, (ed.) Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre, London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd, pp. 191-193. Kekis, O. (2018) ‘Hyper-theatrical Engagement with Euripides’ Trojan Women: A Female ‘Writ of Habeus Corpus’, in Reilly. K, (ed.) Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre, London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd, pp. 195-212.
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Mary’s Room : A Discussion of a Rehearsal Process Reflective Analysis Elizabeth Brown
In February 2019, I was fortunate enough to be cast in Theatre With Teeth’s Mary’s Room, an original play written by third year English student Amy White. The play deals with difficult and moving concepts such as the question of what it means to be human, as well as what it means to be a good friend. In this article I will aim to go into detail about the process of creating the show and what it was like bringing our characters to life. Each character in the show has a complicated and interesting relationship with my character Mary and the process of cultivating those relationships and bringing truth to them was a very rewarding experience The cast is made up of four characters. First there is Adam, played by Luke Gyesi-Appiah. Adam is an AI presence created by the egotistical and ambitious scientist Shelley (Nikki Palmer), and her quirky but equally brilliant colleague, Cavendish (Will Davies). My character, Mary, is a botany student and flora enthusiast, who becomes involved in the experiment with Adam by being tasked with the seemingly impossible task of teaching him how to be ‘human’. At first, it does seem like this is really what the scientists want for Adam, but they get more than they bargained for with this particular student. A bond, a friendship, blossoms between Mary and Adam. However, due to Shelley’s jealousy and mistrust of Mary, it ends with unfortunate circumstances for both Mary and Adam.
Once we had taken on the physicality of our characters, Ana asked us to imagine different situations which our characters might find themselves in, and to think about how they would react, for example being lost in a train station or getting caught in the rain. This led us on to hot-seating. One by one we sat in front of our fellow cast members and were asked a series of questions about our characters and, in character, we had to respond to them. The questions explored our characters traits and backgrounds. My characterisation process began with Mary being extremely defensive and cold. Mary’s character required a lot of background information being decided by myself with input from the writer, director and the other cast members. I needed to consider why Mary had such strong negative feelings about her parents, as she disagrees with her parents on almost everything, something which comes to light through her conversations with Adam within the play itself. However, in order for those emotions to become true for me as the actor, I needed to give myself (and Mary), a reason to feel that way. Ana led me, as well as everyone else in the cast through an exercise about thinking about our characters’ pasts. Some of it was done in character, and some of it was part of a wider discussion as a cast during which we all gave our opinions about everyone’s character. Deciding on backgrounds for our characters not only gave them more depth but also gave us the opportunity to portray our characters more truthfully.
Because the play was cast in early February and its first performance was in June, we had a lot of time to rehearse. In fact, we had more time than most university society shows have between casting and first performance. Our director, Ana, was keen not to make the process dull or boring for us at all given how much time we had. We began our first rehearsal by doing a very useful exercise in which we walked around the studio space while slowly taking on the physical attributes and characteristics of our characters. Of course, what this exercise looked like on the first day of rehearsals compared to the warm-up before our first performance was widely different - however it was extremely beneficial to immediately get a feel for who we thought our characters were on the first day.
As the weeks went by, we began to explore our characters not just individually, and we began to think about what their relationships to the other characters were. The script is written in such a way that Mary and Adam are often coupled together in scenes, as are Shelley and Cavendish. Ana led us by getting us to think about these two sets of characters together. Mary and Adam’s relationship is at the heart of the performance with their conversations providing a lot of the exposition that goes towards the audience understanding both their motives during the play. Mary’s turning point as a character needed to be clear for the audience. The moment that she turns from a guarded and disinterested teenage student to the moment when she begins to let her guard down and trust Adam
had to be clear to the audience in order for them to fully invest in their blossoming friendship. Luke and I did a number of exercises in order to build up that relationship that needed to shine through between Mary and Adam. We would rehearse our scenes during an exercise where we tried to forget about the script and ad-libbed the scene, while still arriving at the same conclusion that the scripted version of the scene did. This allowed us to continue to keep the play fresh and original for ourselves and was a vital technique due to the lengthy amount of time we had before our first performance. What this exercise brought out in all of us was a new, authentic side to our characters, and I felt the bridge between Elizabeth and Mary starting to close. This was the exercise that brought out the little quirks in my character: things such as how she ate; how she sat in a chair; how she thought about a difficult question Adam might have just asked her; and how she would react to being in a new environment, such as the interview room which was the setting for her meetings with Adam. Mary and Shelley’s relationship was extremely interesting. The two women of the play do not see eye to eye when it comes to Adam, but they do have some sort of subtle, twisted connection. There is a scene which involves Mary and Shelley right after Adam has had his memory wiped; Shelley has ‘rebooted’ him. Mary, at first oblivious to what has been done to Adam, slowly starts to catch on as she realises Adam does not recognise her. Mary’s anger ends up getting the better of her and what follows is an explosive argument between herself and Shelley, where major questions about the ethics of Shelley’s ‘project’ are brought into question. For this scene, it was important that both characters held gravitas on stage, as they are both strong women who speak their minds. Mary’s intense hurt had to also be clear as Shelley delivers her monologue about her reasoning for ‘rebooting’ Adam; SHELLEY: There’s no flaw in the code. It’s in us. (Scene X, pg. 20) The exercises we underwent to get the scene to the standard it needed to be included a lot of hot seating between Mary and Shelley. Nikki and I were encouraged to have a normal ad-libbed conversation as our characters, discussing controversial topics such as the treatment of Adam by putting forward our thoughts and opinions on the subject. As they clashed directly with each other, it proved a very interesting few conversations! This did in fact help us to get the root of our beliefs and understand why our characters believed what they did. It also helped Nikki and
me to muster some kinds of negative feelings towards each other’s characters, which believe me, was very hard to do! Mary and Cavendish share a touching moment together in Scene XI, right at the end of the play. Mary has just been let go by Shelley as, since Adam’s memory has been wiped, they no longer need her. She sits alone in the café, silently sobbing when Cavendish notices her and decides to try and comfort her. For the not-so-emotionally-intelligent professor, this is a little hard for him to try to do. He begins by trying to placate her by presenting her with the Peace Lily she had given Adam as a gift, the same one Shelley had told Mary to take back in the scene before. This scene was important as Cavendish’s hidden caring side does show itself in this brief conversation, and the audience gets to learn more about his own motives for building Adam;
MARY: Why did you do this? Shelley I can understand what with the God-complex and everything but you’re the last person I’d expect. But you wanted it just as much as the mad professor, didn’t you? Why? CAVENDISH: Why not? (SCENE XI, pg.21)
Again, ad-libbing the scene was very useful to create authenticity between Cavendish and Mary, however working on their relationship throughout the play not only gave Cavendish more motive to act in this way in the final scene, but it also gave Mary more of a reason to listen to what he has to say. Cavendish is much more reluctant than Shelley to wipe Adam’s memory, and is also the one of the pair of scientists who wants Mary to join the experiment. This is also seen in Scene IX when Mary accidently stumbles upon Cavendish and Shelley working on Adam. Once Cavendish has removed Mary from the room, he remarks to Shelley: CAVENDISH: We needed herSHELLEY: Something to say, Doctor? CAVENDISH: No.
Clearly, he doesn’t believe fully in the ethics behind what they are doing. Cavendish, by the end of the play, although still completely complicit in what happens to Adam, does have some sort of sympathy for what Mary is going through in losing her only friend.
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Being able to be a part of this amazing cast has been a real honour and privilege. I have felt so unbelievably lucky to have been a part of it. I want to thank everyone who came to watch the show in Exeter, and I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait for our twoweek run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! We are there from the 12th-24th of August, so do please come along if you can! MARY: They made a man, a real man with a real soul. Out of latex and lighting and carbon fibre. They did this impossible thing like it was no big deal and for some reason they want me, this kid with mud under her fingernails and no five-year plan to teach you how to be human. ADAM: I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see a problem. MARY: Yeah, well, I think that is the problem, Adam.
Class and race in Restoration performance and the theatre industry. Essay Extract Georgia Burling
‘Those comic or tragi-comic plays which thematize life abroad in the colonies, in the Indies, among pirates and in utopias satirize the novel social types produced by colonial expansion and settlement’ (Orr 2001: 3). Orr is arguing that plays set in the colonies belonging to England during the restoration period, portray the ideals of society that have been taken over and put in place. I agree with Orr, particularly when looking at class, as maintaining social hierarchy was an important part of how society was organised. Everyone belonged to a class or sort and carried out the roles in those divisions; upper sort, middle sort and lower sort. As well as royalist ideals, England was mostly pro - monarchy, particularly the Tory party. Therefore, in plays set in colonies abroad, royalist themes are present and often have characters that are Tory immigrants, bringing over their support for the royals. The Widow Ranter by Aphra Behn and Oroonoko by Thomas Southerne portray clear class representations through their characters. I will specifically look at the council members and the Indian queen in The Widow Ranter and the titular character in Oroonoko.
owner living in Virginia for ten months says, the council members ‘some of whom have been perhaps transported criminals, who having acquired great estates, are now become your Honour and Right worshipful, and possess all places of authority’ (Behn, Friendly 1.1).
‘Neo-Marxist and new historicist orientations of early modern studies, however, considers class not as the ultimate subject of history but as a key element in the critique of ideology’ (Dharwadker 2008; 140). Dharwadker is suggesting that class is a key component in restoration plays when looking at the ideology of society. This particularly applies to The Widow Ranter because Aphra Behn has set the play in Virginia where England have taken their ideals of society, reinforcing the hierarchy. This is shown through the council members, who have tried to climb their way up into the upper class. The audience are given the impression that they are members of the upper sort because they are council members; ‘Justices of Peace’, therefore sit in court meetings, help make decisions on how the country should be run and reinforce order in Virginia. However as Friendly, who is an old friend of Hazard, and after inheriting his uncle’s plantation, has become a plantation
Although they give the illusion of being members belonging to the upper sort, as the play goes on, attributes to their characters and situations they find themselves in suggest they have dressed in cross-class disguise as they in fact belong to the lower sort. In Gillian Russell’s article, “Keeping Place”, when talking about Townley’s High Life Below Stairs says, ‘the actual boundaries of rank had to be reaffirmed’ (Russell 2001; 32). Maybe Behn is trying to say something similar with The Widow Ranter. Whilst The Widow Ranter’s aim isn’t to restore social status, it is suggested when looking at the characters in the council who are exconvicts. Their names; Timorous, Whimsey, Whiff, and Boozer are traits of their personalities, for example they drink during court, ‘the complaint is, Brother Boozer, for drinking too much punch in the time of hearing tryals’ (Behn, Whimsey, 3.1). Their names also suggest that they are cowardly and not the brightest. This is further shown in Act three Scene two where the council attempt to overtake
This description of the council members shows that these characters have jumped social status by moving countries and appointing themselves as council members, as well as acquiring property of their own. Their appearance of high status would have been portrayed through their costumes, wearing extravagant clothes with bright colours made out of good materials with accessories such as hats and scabbards or baldrics. Carrying around weapons, this is shown in a conversation between Wellman and Whiff, ‘why do you bear arms then?’, ‘why, for the pay; to be called Captain, noble captains. To show, to cock and look big, and bluff as I do’ (Behn, Wellman and Whiff, 3.2). This proves that they act of higher status than they really are, striding around confidently with ostentatious weaponry.
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Bacon and kill him but fail miserably. They are depicted as cowardly when they are approached with the task to capture Bacon and are too scared to do so, Wellman: ‘now, gentlemen, here is a brave occasion for emulation- why writ not the master?’, ‘I see you’re all base cowards, and here cashier ye from all commands and offices’ (Behn, Wellman, 3.2). This shows their cowardliness and by being so, they lose their status having all future commands taken away from them as they are not useful. Therefore, undeserving of being members of the council and upper sort. Learning that there is a reward they then decide to take on the task as it will make them ‘the four greatest men in the colony’ (Behn, Timorous, 3.2). When Bacon comes in they once again get too scared and Bacon captures them. Resulting in the council folding to support Bacon, ‘we ever lov’d and honour’d your honour’ (Behn, Whiff 3.2). In this scene it is conveyed that the council members are not brave and noble. They are inspired by money and a good appearance, but when it comes to doing as they should they don’t want to fight because they are too afraid. This suggests that they don’t have much courage and that they just conform to whatever is going to benefit them the most. Even though they are still regarded as council members, their status during this scene is knocked down, as they don’t portray the ideal noble and upper sort Gentleman. The Widow Ranter conveys commitment to hierarchical social order. Behn does this not only through the colonists who have taken over Virginia but also through the Indian tribe. ‘Karen Kupperman argues that the English have viewed Indians through class, not race (Pulsipher 2004; 45/46). I agree with this statement as it is shown throughout The Widow Ranter through the characters of the Indian tribe that their arrangement of hierarchy and class is important; race not being seen as a dominant feature. Particularly the king and queen who both hold a noble status and are the head of their tribe; are shown as of upper sort and not the opposite race, this is only questioned when they come to battle. The battle however is more about who holds the upper status in Virginia and not about excluding the Indian tribe. The queen’s royal status is portrayed through her entering on stage with ladies-in-waiting surrounding her each scene, ‘all bow to the idol’ (Behn, stage direction 4.1) and she uses her status throughout the play, particularly when in court to make decisions. She is further shown as noble and loyal through her relationship with Bacon (the queen being his love interest) and not wanting to fight. Rebecca M. Lush
says in her article on The Widow Ranter that ‘Behn creates sympathetic Indian characters who, by comparison with the corrupt colonists are diplomatic, refined, and, most importantly civil and royal’ (Lush 2014; 149). This poses the question of who are the real threat in the play? As the council mention they are more worried about Bacon and what his plans are more than the Indians; ‘I do not look upon our danger to be so great from the Indians, as from young Bacon’ (Behn, Dunce 1.2). The queen’s relationship with Bacon, ‘symbolizes the established aristocratic class’ (Lush 2014; 131). Becoming Bacon’s love interest would suggest that she is of high status because Bacon who is of noble status sees her as a suitable partner and attractive, ‘how charming is the Queen’ (Behn, Bacon 2.1). I agree with Lush’s statement that Behn has created Indians of high class as would Pulsipher who quotes Hendricks to make a similar point, that Behn creates a ‘seemingly favourable overall portrayal of Indians as noble savages, English preconceptions of hierarchy created categories of good and bad Indians’ (Hendricks in Pulsipher 2004; 46). The audience are led to believe that the queen is a good Indian, because when looking at the tribe the ‘natives’ are portrayed in a positive way to a restoration audience. As they are using English society ideas, having a familiar hierarchical order, where the native rulers represent the equivalent to English monarchs and running their tribe with a similar political system. Therefore, the Indian characters are viewed through class and not race because Behn has created a tribe that live very similarly to the English, with the hierarchy being an important part of their community, therefore they don’t pose a threat to the other characters in the play, having a long term friendship with Bacon; nor to the audience because they are portrayed in a positive light, being noble and a nice character; not challenging the ideals of the way English citizens lead their lives during the late 1600s. Class is important and an integral part of the restoration society. This is shown in the play Oroonoko. Dharwadker argues ‘there are few outsiders to question or radically disrupt class boundaries’ (Dharwadker 2008; 150), however I disagree because this is challenged through the character Oroonoko. Oroonoko is a slave who has been brought over from Angola, the play being set in Surinam a colony in the West-Indies; who turns out to be a prince. He comes to ‘disrupt class boundaries’ later in the play when he organises a rebellion for all the slaves. ‘A substantial element of the black community of the metropolis consisted of servants who had been brought to Britain from the colonies by planters, military and naval officers, and colonial administrators’ (Russell 2001; 26), whilst not brought back to Britain, this happens at the
beginning of the play. ‘Look you, I have done my part by you; I have brought the number of slaves you bargained for’ (Southerne, Captain, 1.2), this demonstrates that Oroonoko’s status starts off as low as he is a one of the slaves that the captain has brought over. The captain when talking about him does not change his opinion of him after learning that he was a prince; ‘he’s the devil of a fellow, I can tell you; a prince every inch of him. You have paid dear enough for him, for all the good he’ll do you: I was forced to clap him in irons, and do not think the ship safe neither’ (Southerne, Captain, 1.2). The dialogue here also suggests that the captain is of the mind-set that being part of the Indians, a different race, that he is a slave, particularly as Blanford has paid for him and therefore he will remain a slave.
to be sold to Blanford, who respects that Oroonoko was once a prince, therefore he doesn’t treat him badly and gives him a fairly comfortable set up, promising to be his friend and that he ‘will employ my power, and find the means to send you home again’ (Southerne, Blanford, 2.2). Unlike Aboan, a fellow slave who describes how slaves were really treated, ‘for senseless beasts to bear then thinking men. Then if you saw the bloody cruelties they execute on every slight offence… how worse than dogs they lash their fellow creatures’ (Southerne, Aboan, 3.2). This shows how class is important because learning that Oroonoko is a prince, Blanford wouldn’t dare treat him badly. However, for the others they are nothing more than slaves and have been paid for so can be treated how their masters please.
Oroonoko’s class would have been represented on stage through his appearance. He would have been given nicer clothes to wear in comparison to the other slaves who would be dressed in rags that don’t necessarily fit. He would have had fitting clothes made out of good materials and perhaps more colourful as the brighter coloured clothes conveyed to society that you were of a higher class. The actor playing the role of Oroonoko (in this case Mr Verbruggen) would be made up in blackface; reminding the audience that although he is a prince, he is lower in status than the British characters because of his ethnicity. When Oroonoko speaks he holds an upper status because he speaks in verse which shows he is well educated, and sophisticated, more so than the slave owners;
‘The most frequently articulated anxiety is that stewards and gentlemen ushers will overstep the boundaries they themselves were enjoined to maintain, thereby damaging the household’s symbolic role’ (Burnett 1997; 181). The plays of the restoration period as shown in The Widow Ranter and Oroonoko want to limit the extent of disorder. This is conveyed through Oroonoko’s character because even though he is a prince, he has been brought over as a slave, the captain will not allow him to go free and he must go with Blanford, who has paid for him. Blanford as previously mentioned, is impressed that he is a prince and promises to treat him nicely, ‘I’ll study to deserve you to be your friend.’ (Southerne, Blanford 2.2). By doing this Blanford is keeping Oroonoko happy and helping to maintain order of hierarchy. Aboan comes in to challenge this, reminding Oroonoko of his role as prince, and as leader of upper status, should come to the aid of his people; ‘remember who you are, a prince, born for the good of other men… against oppression, and set free mankind’ (Southerne, Aboan 3.2). Patricia Godsave says servants often ‘take matters into their own hands with both good motives and bad’ (Godsave 2018;2), Aboan does this by manipulating Oroonoko into leading the rebellion by using Oroonoko’s unborn child (Oroonoko doesn’t want the child to grow up in slavery) to motivate him to lead the rebellion. They both then take it upon themselves to rally the other slaves together and put forward the idea of a rebellion for liberty.
‘The dog that skid me did profess as much As you can do. – But yet I know not why– Whether it is because I’m fall’n so low, And have no more to fear. – That is not it: I am a slave no longer than I please’ (Southerne, Oroonoko 2.2) Oroonoko’s princely lifestyle is shown when he is talking about his past and having been involved in the slave trade himself, ‘if we are slaves, they did not make us slaves, but bought us in an honest way of trade; as we have done before em, bought and sold many a wretch, and never thought it wrong. They paid our price for us, and we are now their property, a part of their estate, to manage as they please’ (Southerne, Oroonoko, 3.2). This suggests that Oroonoko having traded slaves himself doesn’t see anything wrong with it and therefore, feels that he shouldn’t do anything about it, as Aboan is suggesting. This could also be due to the fact that Oroonoko is lucky
Burnett, in his article about the noble household and servants says, ‘senior servants who stray from their path of domestic virtue are stripped of their badges of their profession’ (Burnett 1997; 181). He is arguing that if you don’t stick to your role within society you will be punished,
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as sticking to structure is very important. A similar idea is shown in Oroonoko whose fate comes to an end along with Aboan and Imoinda (Oroonoko’s wife). Although it is their choice in the end, it is because they can’t see a life worth living in slavery, especially with a child along the way, particularly for Oroonoko who has known the life of a prince. Is Southern suggesting that the end is not positive for Oroonoko because they didn’t obey their roles and attempted to disrupt class boundaries by causing a rebellion? This is further shown when Oroonoko says ‘but we were born to suffer’ (Southerne, Oroonoko 5.4). Whilst Oroonoko has been treated better than the other slaves because of his prince status, his life comes to a fatal end. The above quote is a possible reflection on their race and how no matter their place in social hierarchy, it won’t turn out well for them because of their race and having the English colonists taking over where they live; taking control of them. Class, therefore, is a principal theme in restoration plays shown through the different characters. It is a fundamental concept and organisation of the restoration period’s society. The upper sort in The Widow Ranter are portrayed through the council members, who have moved up in society from being ex-convicts to ‘Justices of Peace’; however, they are cowardly and fail their mission, suggesting that they cannot be true nobles because they were not born into it. Royalist themes are shown through the Indian queen who is also of the upper class, conveyed by having ladies in waiting, her control in the Indian court and her relationship with the colonist Bacon. Hierarchy is shown through Oroonoko as he is first thought of as a slave, however upon other characters learning that he is a prince, his status moves up having more respect from the colonists who ‘raise no other objection to slavery- protest Oroonoko’s enslavement purely on the basis of his rank’ ( Jaher 2008; 55), resulting in him being praised upon by his master and treated better than the other slaves. Both these plays also explore the idea that when the class system is challenged it backfires resulting in characters ending in worse situations. If I were to continue developing my research, there is more I could look at to continue to explore class through other characters in the plays as well as race, how it questions class and the affects it has both in the plays and wider implications.
Behn, A. (1689) The Widow Ranter. Burnett, M. T. (1997) ‘The Noble Household’, in Masters and Servants in English Renaissance Drama and Culture, Great Britain: Macmillan Press, pp. 155-191. Campbell, M. B. (1999) ‘My Travels to the Other World; Aphra Behn and Surinam’, in Wonder and Science: Imagining Worlds in Early Modern Europe: Cornell University Press, pp. 257-284. Dharwadker, A. (2008) ‘Restoration Drama and Social Class’, in Owen, S. J. (ed.) Companion to Restoration Drama: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 140-160. Godsave, P. A. (2018) The Roles of Servant Characters in Restoration Comedy, 1660-1685, [Dissertation] Georgia State University. Jaher, D. (2008) ‘The paradoxes of Slavery in Thomas Southerne’s Oroonoko’, in Comparative Drama, Vol. 42, No. 1, Spring, pp. 51-71. Lush, R. M. (2014) ‘The Royal Frontier: Colonist and Native Relations in Aphra Behn’s Virginia’, in Hamilton, A. T. and Hillard, T. J (ed.) Before the West was West: Critical Essays on Pre-1800 Literature of the American Frontiers, Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, pp.130-160. Orr, B. (2001) ‘New Habits on Stage’, in Empire on the English Stage 16601714, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pulsipher, J. H. (2004) ‘“The Widow Ranter” and Royalist Culture in Colonial Virginia’, in Early American Literature, vol. 39, no. 1, pp.41-66. Russell, G. (2001) ‘“Keeping Place”: Servants, Theater and Sociability in Mid-eighteenth-century Britain’, in The Eighteenth Century, vol. 42, no. 1, Spring, pp.21-42. Southerne, T. (1695) Oroonoko.
Could Yerma have been Franco’s favourite play? Dissertation Extract Luke Oliver
When we think of adaptation we usually think of remediation, the changing of a story’s medium, from myth to play or novel to film to name a few. The form of adaptation that this dissertation explored was that of a play being adapted and translated from one culture to another and their joint relationship in creating theatre that transcends linguistic and geographical borders. Could Yerma have been Franco’s favourite play? highlights the socio-political environment in which Lorca wrote Yerma as well as some of the ways in which newer iterations adapted the play’s political message. This meant looking at the play’s journey from 1930s Andalucía on the verge of Francoism, through to a version that depicted London circa the Brexit vote. Yerma tells the tale of a woman who desires nothing more than to have children, but is unable to have them, as her namesake suggests . As alluded to by academics such as Maria Delgado, Yerma is a story written with the Greek model of theatre in mind; Lorca ‘interweaves the personal and the political’ (2016: 3) in a way that demonstrates how public ideologies infringe on the private sphere. Throughout the 20th century, Spain’s political landscape was tumultuous, with swings from far-left to far-right resulting in a Civil War that shaped Spain’s relationship to the world for many years as well as splintering the Spanish public. Yerma appears on the surface to be an endorsement of the ideal fascist woman, but in fact, as a known supporter of the Second Republic and a socialist, Lorca’s text could be seen as a subversive piece, exploring how Fascist ideologies, evident in the public domain, damage Yerma’s private world.
that there must always be a function for something, in this case procreation. Finally, ‘Security’: it is through marriage that a woman can feel secure. The narrative of ‘stable families in which individuals fill their proper roles for the good of the state is a metaphor for the creation of powerful nation-states’ (Carbayo-Abengózar, 2001, p. 84) and a core aspect of Fascism. It follows then, that by Yerma having all three, in a way she has achieved a woman’s purpose and therefore, in her mind, deserves the outcome she desires, a baby. What she is actually rewarded with is the reality of ‘how incongruent societal norms are with the living body’ (Nolan 2007: 16). Yerma, then, appears as if it should be applauded by fascists, for although the character is struggling to conceive, she is still going about her duties for the good of the state; thus Nolan argues that Lorca’s play ‘borders on the fascistic’ (Nolan 2007: 3). However, what the play actually reveals through its lack of plot development (‘No hay argumento en Yerma’ (McDermid 2007: 146)), is the repetitive nature of the fascist machine and that as humans are not machines, they will not necessarily adhere to what is required of them. Instead, I would argue, Lorca is commenting that it is through her conformity to fascistic doctrines that Yerma becomes tormented by her inability to have a child, which results in her not being able to conform to doctrine at all and she stops functioning. In spite of her attempts to ‘Save’ herself for the marriage, and her chaste behaviour through the engagement, she does not then have a paradisiacal marriage and cannot fulfil her ‘Utility’ role, which results in her not experiencing ‘Security’. In reality, Lorca is taking ‘the camera lens on stage and [giving] the audience a close-up shot of fascism’s [damaging] end result’ (Nolan, 2007, p. 12).
In her article on Franco’s Spain, Carbayo-Abengózar explains and reduces the Francoist discourse around the roles women should play within society to three main areas: ‘Saving’, ‘Utility’ and ‘Security’. ‘Saving’ is the notion of restraint: by showing restraint you are proving yourself to be respectful. If you prove your respectfulness, you will be rewarded through the institution of engagement - that is, the experience of sexuality within the confines of a ‘paradisiacal marriage’ (Carbayo-Abengózar, 2001: 84). The concept of ‘Utility’ restricts ‘Saving’, however, in
This notion of the body not conforming is also reflected within Trevis’ and Stone’s productions of Yerma, at least to some extent, although not with an emphasis on fascism. Stone’s adaptation is still an exploration of how the public affects the private. Trevis’ production similarly follows Lorca’s political implications in so far as Yerma goes about her duties, washes the clothes, sews and maintains the home. In Trevis’ production, when Yerma goes to seek the advice of the Pagan Woman and the Elder Women in the village she is subtle about sneaking out of the house to
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visit them, making sure not to besmirch the ‘good name of [ Juan’s] house’ (Luke 2000: 194). Whereas in Stone’s text, Yerma is more forthcoming about their situation as she blogs about it, publicising their private lives to the public realm of the internet. Stone’s Yerma is somewhat of a self-proclaimed anarchist, the career woman, never having been focused on wanting kids, even stating that she ‘hates babies [because] they’re stupid and completely self-centered’ (Stone 2017: 14). Stone reveals the notion of Yerma bowing to societal pressure as being bound a lot more to the notion of the ‘biological clock’. A modern British audience would know this turn of phrase, often heard as some sort of reminder to women that their eggs have an ‘expiration date’. We can acknowledge that the concept of a woman’s ‘role’ in our society today is a lot more nuanced in that women do not have a specific role; ‘I am not my reproductive system’ (Stone 2017: 15) Stone’s Yerma says. But what she is exploring in ways Lorca’s never did is Yerma facing the concept of choice around what her contribution to society will be: her career as a journalist or to become a mother. Part of the reason this adaptation of the text works so well is that it resonates with the women in the audience who are often faced with this dichotomous question - one or the other. Carbayo-Abengózar, M., 2001. ‘Shaping women: national identity through the use of language in Franco’s Spain’. Nations and Nationalism, 7(1), pp. 75-92. Delgado, M. M., 28th November 2016. La Dimension Escénica Actual del Teatro de García Lorca / Lorca and the Stage. Madrid, Fundación García Lorca. Luke, P., 2000. Yerma. In: G. Edwards, ed. Lorca. London: Methuen , pp. 157-206. McDermid, P., 2007. ‘¡Hijo de mi alma!- Gender Inversion and the Metaphysical Reproduction of the Self in Yerma’. In: Love, Desire and Identity in the Theatre of Federico García Lorca. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, pp. 142-168. Nolan, L., 2007. ‘A Politics of the Body: José Antonio Primo de Rivera’s Fascism and Federico García Lorca’s Benjaminian Response’. Modern Drama, 50(1), pp. 1-24. Stone, S., 2017. Yerma. 1st ed. London: Oberon Books Ltd.
Yerma is the Spanish word for barren The democratic republican administration that existed in Spain from 1931 to 1939 3 There is no plot 1 2
Creative Writing 35
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Rose Petal Jam Ridhi Kotecha
Rose Petal Jam is a thriller/mystery short story about a chef whose husband mysteriously disappears and her sudden rise to fame, unravelling the dark secrets of her success.I wrote this story in March 2019 as a Creative Writing piece for English. As I have recently been trying to experiment with scriptwriting, I composed this short story in such a way that it could be performed as a monologue or a dramatic reading. It was quite an exciting piece to create as it was my first time writing a short story as well as my first time writing in this genre. Although writing a short story for the first time was testing, I feel that I was able to keep the reader in suspense throughout my piece till the very last word and my experience in writing poetry definitely helped with this. The ideas behind some of my poems influenced my style and plot in this story as well, as my writing often revolves around emotionally challenging topics. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a fan of the arts and a lot of the
music I listen to and the films I watch influence and inspire my writing. I often write down my favourite lyrics and dialogues and everything I write has some truth to it, as I combine these with things that I have written about my own life experiences. A film I watched last year (White Bird In A Blizzard ) and one of my favourite songs (Nikki) influenced the plot of my story. My own experiences such as my recent interest in crafting unusual food combinations and dealing with personal issues including trying to give up smoking, helped to develop the persona of my main character (the chef ), as well as certain events in my story, Rose Petal Jam.
05:20. My hand trembles as I slip it between my lips. I have to flick the spark wheel several times before it manages to ignite a flame and light the tip. I inhale deeply, closing my eyes as I feel the smoke rushing into my lungs, trapping it there, letting it reacquaint itself with my cells, letting it seep into my soul. I exhale with a long sigh, open my eyes and watch the smoke circle away into the clouds drifting by. It’s been four months since I quit. Four months since I lost my husband. It’s almost time to go inside and open up, but I still have time for another one, another breath of fresh air. 05:26. I always get here forty minutes before my staff arrive. I need that quiet time in the morning, alone, to myself. I need time to sharpen my knives and prepare myself for the unwelcome questions and publicity, the infamous “what is your secret ingredient?” Like a magician never reveals their magic trick, a chef never reveals their secret ingredient. I never used to have a ‘secret ingredient’, not until a couple of months ago. I’ve been getting a lot of nosy interviewers asking me about my personal life ever since it was unveiled that my husband had gone missing and has now been presumed dead. They’re so full of shit, acting like they care, giving me pity. They don’t care. They just want some juice, something new to write about, another story to make the headlines and their dirty, dirty money. I hate reporters, they thrive off other people’s misery. Everyone expected me to hit rock bottom when he went missing, but I didn’t, I just kept going and I just got better. I even made the front page in a bunch of newspapers as “Widow Turns Death Into Delicacies”. Then suddenly, everybody started asking me “what is your secret ingredient?” I never spilled the beans though, I’ve always been somewhat of a ‘clean-freak’. 05:58. My staff should be arriving anytime soon. I’ve opened everything up, checked all the surfaces and ordered today’s ingredients fresh from the market. I’m a vegetarian, I always have been; the idea of serving dead animals to people honestly disgusts me - I’d rather serve human flesh. All of my restaurants serve vegetarian food only. 06:00. My first member of staff has arrived, Rose. She’s always the first one to come. She’s a lot like me, much prettier though. We used to be close when my husband was around. We aren’t anymore. My husband introduced us at a party at his house a couple of years ago, she used to cater a lot for his mother’s parties. She was looking for a job back then and, coincidentally, I had just fired my sous-chef and gave her a chance at taking his spot - she was brilliant and has been with me ever since. 06:03. The other staff start trickling in now, heading straight towards the sink. It’s like watching a line of ants hurry towards the spilt honey. I detest dirty hands. I always tell my staff that they must have hands clean enough to perform an operation on somebody. 06:10. Everyone is ready at their stations. This time four months ago my husband was still in our bed, fast asleep. I would make fresh crêpes with jam for him every morning before I left for work, it was his favourite thing to eat. He only went to work around eight o’clock. By the time he’d come back, I’d be asleep. We open up for breakfast at seven o’clock. I start writing my newest creations, ‘The Specials’ up on the board. Savouries: Blackberry Brie Omelette, Basque Potato and Camembert Frittata, Baked Egg Danish with Kimchi and Spinach. Sweets: Brioche French Toast with Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream, Chilled Blueberry Soup, Coconut Cream Muffins. I love creating new and weird dishes, throwing in the unexpected ingredient, not sticking by the recipe – I cook like I live my life. Well, at least like I used to live my life. Everything has changed now, ever since he disappeared. I feel guilty, all the time. But at least my cooking got better, I mean, ever since I got back in the kitchen after you know… I became a star A sensation. I have my own special freezer now, in my office, no one has access to it except me, it’s where I keep all my stuff for ‘The Specials’ … my secret ingredient. 10:50. The last customers should be leaving around now, we open-up again at one o’clock for lunch. I normally stay at the restaurant till then, I never used to go home for lunch, it’s not like I’d have anyone to eat with anyways. Rose would always leave for lunch though, she doesn’t anymore now, not since the past couple of months. It’s always just the two of us now, lingering behind. She doesn’t speak to me, and if we happen to make eye contact, she darts her eyes elsewhere very quickly. She seems nervous nowadays.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
11:47. I step outside for a smoke. I take a long drag, holding it in my lungs. I don’t have any children, my husband and I, we never really wanted our own kids. Maybe he did? I puff it out, watching the smoke fade away. I take another drag, feeling the nicotine enter my bloodstream. I think he fell out of love with me, long before he disappeared. I think he was seeing someone else. I puff it out, feeling my chest grow heavy. I take one last drag, feeling the heat of the tip burning the skin of my fingers. I can’t stop seeing his face now. My hands around his neck – I can see into his soul through his eyes, all the lies, her face… I can see everything clearly now. I exhale forcefully, liberating my lungs of the sickening smoke. I think I’m going to quit again. 11:53. I go back inside. I call for Rose. I tell her I want her to get something for me from my freezer. She looks shocked, confused. I give her my keys and tell her that I’m retiring my post, that I want her to take over now, that I want to entrust her with my secret ingredient, so that she too can use it, but on the condition she swears never to share it with another soul. I tell her to fetch me a bag, right from the bottom of the freezer. She nods quietly and takes the keys. She walks over to my office. About a half a minute later, I hear a scream, and then a thud. 05:20. I start to open up as usual, prepare for the new day. No smokes for me anymore, I quit yesterday. 06:02. My staff are starting to arrive now and are setting-up their stations. I head over to my freezer. I open the lid and push some bags of frozen vegetables to one side. There it is, my secret ingredient. I’ve almost used all of it up in these past four months, but that’s okay, I just stocked up yesterday. I push a couple of bags to the other side, and there it is, my new special ingredient. I don’t think they would taste good together, don’t think the flavours would match. Maybe I’ll just use them separately, individually – how they’re meant to be used. I decide to use the new secret ingredient today, in remembrance of my husband and decide to have only that on ‘The Specials’. I’ll make his favourite, and I’m sure if he were here, he would love it, especially with my new secret ingredient in it. Although I’m sure he’s already familiar with the taste. 06:53. I head back into the kitchen to write on ‘The Specials’ board, my newest creation: Crêpes with Rose Petal Jam.
From ‘Rose Gold and the Red Wine’ Performance Poetry Carrie Neilson
The poem ‘There, There’ looks at the marriage between control and dictatorship. Contradictory to the insinuation of love and care within the poem’s title, the body of the poem represents an exercise of control and dominance. The voice of the poem reflects the feeling of satisfaction as the perpetrator successfully violates the opposition’s body, corresponding to my inspiration with this poem. I wanted to strongly capture the essence of seduction and satire in order to produce a poetic response to an issue in society which is so heavily stigmatized and remains controversial. I purposefully did not feature gender in this poem because I did not want to privilege either gender, as these events can happen to anyone in a dayto-day life.
For your sweet cheeks cannot be caressed by One or two more bats to that sweet complexion. For your eyes cannot take one more look To blind that un-orthodox imagination. For your lips cannot be kissed by another, For you are nearer to thee when you’re with me. There, There Come Monday night, I’ll wash you clean And rub the pumice that scarred your skin. My black and white canvas, don’t cry For those pools of green and blue will wash out The black and white film designed for you and me. There, There Let me brush you with the tip of my Palette knife, let me penetrate that prettiness That poise, Lets permeate the private. Carve you up, my verifiable feast. Du Poulet, Du Poisson, you’re forever trapped with me.
The poem ‘Counting down from start to finish’ is a verbatim performative piece. This piece was inspired by my childhood in Hong Kong and my move to Britain to study. Whilst there are elements and components of the poems which are slightly exaggerated, the voice of the poem represents my own experience of the challenges of growing up and moving to a new country to pursue my passion for performing.
‘Counting Down from Start to Finish’
In the moments where we clock back to zero, Pointing us back to the timeline where we Bridge the gap with batons, birthday candles And buttoned up blouses, frolicking into Fairy-tales, fostered with old-school Discipline, one look told us we should Stop pestering for more cake, and blow Out of the candles already. Already, Already, roaring in her twenties Glossed, glorified through and Through, crawling through The crowd, cursing through Spilt coffees and thick-crust Pizzas, piling on the pounds Proud she was, preserved As the seventeen year old Who properly caused a scene. Spectacle, a diamond in the spot-light Shine any light and she’d perform You a solo or two, cawing like A cockatoo, in the days she left Her voice draining on the sub-way Standing, static, stranded As the eviction notice hung high Above her head, holding her Accountable for not making enough.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
Up ahead, scored in red On the black chalk board Underlined in primary Parents educated her On how to maintain those values Cementing her morals, Not ending up loose, lorrying around Flashing too much than just a string Or two, sparingly high, she flocked With morals of an alley cat. Cat, her only friend That didn’t bark at her, When she so royally fucked Twice, thrice with the finances, Piling high into her over-draft, Penniless for a pence or a pound, Starved as she did, poking Around at the protruding hip bones Skeletal frame shone through in the Mirror, like the illusion she hoped As she had just hit adolescence Praying, weeping for a gulp Of her Mama’s pasta Puttanesca Departure or descend, Her event with leaving the Nest wasn’t granted with The openness or closeness Of embraces, enveloping her With a shocking bank balance And a heaving amount of dread And desperation. Yet, time left her without the choice To not fret, fumble or fuss about Foolish she had been for an eternal Promise which hung in her throat With the taste of guilt and regret In the seconds where we turn around And, we’ve suddenly reached the finish line, Reaching 100, more steps we could Try to accomplish and run that route one that last Time, before we blow out the candles In the finale, together, united as one Smiles shining more bright than the ever-lasting sun.
The two poems ‘There, There’ and ‘Counting down from start to finish’ have contrasting styles in the way that they can be delivered and performed and the narrative behind both poems is very different. Whilst ‘There, There’ looks at the marriage of authority and dictatorship through the perspective of a delusional and egotistical narrator, ‘Counting Down’ is based on personal experience. There is, however, a common thread of embedding alliteration and enjambment. Literary devices like these help to elevate a standardized piece of writing and recreate the structure of a devised piece of theatre. The aim of my poetry is to create a storyline where the voice in each poem becomes a character; a character which can be recognized and with which the audience can share a relational similarity or difference. The use of enjambment and alliteration enables my poetry to be interpreted in a multitude of ways without the narrative having to be too direct. It enables the voice to develop a relationship with the audience, and as a result of this, the audience’s response plays an important part in the delivery of each poem. Ultimately, I aim to evoke emotion and perform a memorable piece of writing for the audience.
Mirror Mirror Play Extract Monique Day
Mirror Mirror is a hard-hitting play based on real events, highlighting the issues of institutional racism. The play follows the lives of two women of colour: EMILY – who has hidden her true identity from her friends, desperate to be accepted by her middle-class peers. As she steps out of university the reality of being black in a prejudiced society begins to break this façade she has created.ABIGAIL – an ambitious 17-year-old aspiring actor. She is naïve and doesn’t realize the reality of life regarding racism and sexism. Her story highlights the lack of opportunity for black females in theatre.
Through OLIVER, a white middle-class male who is friends with Emily, their stories collide. The following extract highlights Abigail’s determination to break into the theatre industry. However, her belief that her family has little to offer her, in terms of knowledge and opportunities within the creative arts, creates conflict within the home. While her dad tries to prepare her for a world which is entrenched with racism, she remains naive with the belief that knowing the right people and being in the right place is all she needs to land her big break.
Scene 4 ABIGAIL’S home. MUM and DAD are on the sofa reading the bible. ABIGAIL walks in. She hasn’t spoken to DAD for the last couple of days. There is tension. ABIGAIL:
[ putting her bag down] Just met Oliver. He arranged for me to attend this acting class tomorrow.
[slowly looking up] It must be your mother you’re talking to.
[continues reading the bible] Nope. She already told me.
Well why are you telling me? [sarcastic] My opinion doesn’t matter. I can’t offer you anything good, can I?
You know I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that you can’t exactly teach me how to act or how to audition… or how to be noticed. You can’t give me advice about stuff you…don’t really know anything about.
[Stern] Abigail you will learn the hard way in life if you believe looking down on your family will get you places.
That’s not what I mean!
I may not be able to offer you money, or a job. But what I can offer you is meaningful advice.
How can you Dad? When all you’ve ever done is fix broken pipes and sinks? What advice could you possibly give be about theatre and film? I’m not…I’m not trying to put you down Dad but… it’s just not your thing. I mean… You barely know who any actors are when we watch the telly, and I don’t expect you to… because, it’s not your thing, and so I don’t expect you to be able to offer me anything.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
For heaven sake Abigail! Stop being so naive! let me open up your eyes to reality. No matter how much you ‘know’ or ‘have’, you will always be Black first. Yes, I may not know any actors… or anything about acting, but I know what it’s like to be black with a dream. I know what it’s like to be turned down because of the colour of my skin, not because I didn’t know my stuff, because believe you me I made sure I knew my stuff, but because I am black. I may not have money Abigail… but I have a heap load of experience. Experience about dealing with situations we have to face because we want to be successful and have equal opportunities. The advice I can offer you is advice that Tom, Dick and Harry know nothing about. Advice about how to ensure people like that Howard guy never make you feel as though you’re not worth anything. You are not talentless. You are not a charity. But here you are running to another upper-class White man, for opportunities to be handed to you… What makes you think he will be any different? What makes you think he can make your problems go away? And if he can, that’s great! It’d be nice to know not every white man is prejudiced. But what you do not do, what you never do, is see… see this Oliver, as more valuable than your own family. Never forget who you are and where you came from, and never look down upon the little things that your family can offer you. Because those things are much more valuable.
Dad exits, silence
Later in the play Oliver takes Abigail to her first audition. Abigail is disheartened when she realises he signed her up for a minor role despite fitting the brief for the leading role. This extract demonstrates implicit racism as she questions his intentions for doing so. It is clear that while Oliver had her best interests at heart, his unconscious prejudice unintentionally deprives Abigail of a major opportunity. Abigail begins to realise how her race can be a major obstacle in pursuing her dreams.
Scene 8 ABIGAIL:
Yeah, maybe that was something else you read. So why didn’t you sign me up for this role?
Look there’s no rush Abby, its better you get experience practicing auditions for minor roles, so you’ll be ready for the big ones.
[sigh] I guess so.
[caringly] and the last thing I want is for you to rush into it and get disheartened if it doesn’t turn out the way you plan. [ABIGAIL agrees] And I know you’re not naive... we both know there would be hardly any chance of you, or that other girl, getting that role [signals to the other Black girl ]
[looks up] What? Why wouldn’t we have a chance?
Come on... the description of the character wouldn’t suit you for TV...
ABIGAIL continues to wait for a better answer. ABIGAIL:
[ Jokingly] What, because we’re Black?
[without realising that ABIGAIL was joking] Yes, I doubt they will cast a black girl for a middle-class character like this.
[Her face drops] What? Why couldn’t they, why wouldn’t they?
It’s nothing personal to you Abby, they just want their film to be authentic and...
...having a black girl play a character who isn’t poor isn’t authentic?
Is that what you really think? That all black people are poor?
No of course not, I have a mixed friend who’s...
Or that Black people aren’t good actors? Or that...
Now hang on a minute Abigail, of course that’s not what I think. That’s not what I meant at all. I wouldn’t be wasting my time on you if I didn’t think you could act...
But you don’t think I could play a role like this; you don’t think I can be versatile...
No, no! [ABIGAIL turns away] I believe you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s not me making the decisions, I’m not the casting director or producer… and I know it’s wrong... [ABIGAIL turns around to face him] but at the end of the day, it’s about making the film authentic [She lowers her head ] It’s not about reality, it’s just what appears to fit the brief...
OLIVER continues to talk but ABIGAIL has switched off from listening to OLIVER as all she can hear is the voice of her DAD. DAD:
But there you are running to another upper-class white man. What makes you think he will be any different? What makes you think he can make those problems go away? And if he can, that’s great! It’d be nice to know not every white man is prejudiced. This play was developed during Term 3 in 2017 before being produced by Theatre with Teeth in 2018 and performed at the University of Exeter. Following its success, it was performed again later that year at Poltimore Festival.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
Achilles Maketank, Exeter, Company of Wolves Theatre, 8th June 2019 Anna Middlewick Arriving at the new theatre venue in Exeter City Centre, Maketank, I was unsure what to expect from Company of Wolves’ one man show, Achilles. The venue, which used to be a series of shops, has been carved out and a makeshift auditorium set up with an eclectic mix of chairs, sofas, bean bags and stools standing in the centre, facing the company’s portable black stage floor. Lit only by two harsh stage lights, and with echoes of the busy outside street drifting in, there was an atmosphere of hushed excitement; the feeling that we were watching something new and secretive. Ewan Downie did not disappoint, with his unwavering, resolute and silent entrance demanding immediate audience attention. Drawing heavily on the storytelling culture of Homer’s Iliad, as well as from the text itself, Downie seamlessly shifts between the multiple characters of Achilles, Patroclus, Hector and the Trojan soldiers, enacting their various feelings of grief and pain with uncomfortable force and gory detail. This skilled art of storytelling is broken only for Downie’s launch
into an ancient Greek prayer song after the death of Patroclus, and again at the culmination of the piece. The aesthetically interesting writhing and twisting movement in these moments, however, render a slight disconnect with the audience due to its drawn-out length and the emotional and guttural voice work fell short at the audience’s lack of knowledge of Ancient Greek. Speaking to Downie after the show, he revealed that these songs were what inspired the piece, with the company working experimentally to discover the story of Achilles. It is perhaps this method of working which fuelled the extent of Downie’s passion and physical energy, meaning that despite the few moments of disconnect mentioned, Achilles is an extremely forceful piece of new theatre.
Hamlet The Lemon Grove, 22nd May 2019 Elizabeth Brown Arguably one of the most highly debated and popular plays ever written, Exeter ShakeSoc’s performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet did not disappoint. Directed by Patrick Swain and Assistant Directed by Gemma Humfress, the play was set in Exeter University’s Lemon Grove, a slightly unusual space to stage one of the most famous plays in the history of English Literature, you might think. However, the incredible stage team responsible for turning the nightclub into a royal court in Denmark did an admirable job. The set was indeed well thought out, with sections of broken mirrors attached to black flats to mimic the walls of the court. The mirrors also helped to encourage the audience to pick up on the similarity between the stage set and the broken emotional
state of the play’s characters as they come to their tragic ends. The large digital screen at the back of the stage added dramatic effect through its projections of the late King Hamlet’s ghost as he implores his son to seek revenge for his murder. The cast themselves gave a remarkable performance. Their intentions as characters were clear, and it was evident on stage that each cast member put great effort into their characterisation. Finn O’Riordain’s performance of the eponymous role was thought-provoking and incredibly moving. His characterisation of the Danish Prince pulled together all the important aspects of his character and allowed Hamlet’s troubled mind to be clearly displayed throughout the performance. I was also particularly struck by Coco Brown’s performance of Gertrude, Hamlet’s enigmatic mother. Her interpretation of the character left the audience feeling as though it was beyond all reasonable doubt that Gertrude had indeed been involved in the murder of her late husband, the king. She was cold, calculating and yet somehow the audience was able to sympathise with her during her disturbing interaction with Hamlet in her bedroom, resulting in the death of Polonius.The final scene was chilling, and the tension rose and rose as it unfolded. Hamlet, traditionally clad in black, presumably to symbolise his mental and physical destruction, contrasted nicely with Laertes, all in white. This worked well to separate the two powerful characters from each other, making as clear a divide as could be between the two. The production kept true to Shakespeare’s language, which worked well despite the untraditional staging and costuming. This, coupled with the distressed staging and the
striking blue lighting upstage, gave the whole performance a distraught and unsettling feel, in the best way possible. I was thoroughly impressed with the entire performance, from start to finish. The audience was indeed taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions with twists and turns hiding everywhere, which were heightened due to the excellent execution of the plot. The directing was clear and well accomplished, and the enthusiasm of the cast shone through throughout the performance. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling theatre experience.
Hallucinations Roborough Studios, 24th May 2019 Narissa Birtwistle Hallucinations is a touching play that deals with the way the development of schizophrenia can affect a person’s life, as well as the lives of those closest to them. Specifically, the play follows Henry, who develops schizophrenia after an accident at sea and as a result he begins to isolate himself from his former life and friends and live inside his own hallucinations. The story is nothing new and doesn’t hold too many surprises – I’m sure it wasn’t a revelation to anybody that Henry’s understanding of the world was unreliable – but it doesn’t need to be. By not overcomplicating the story and sticking to the very simple premise, it puts the focus on Henry’s emotions during his struggle over anything else, a subject which the plays tackles sensitively. According to the directors, one of the aims of the production was to present schizophrenia outside the lens of lunacy and with a great deal more empathy. The way this manifests in the play is in the quiet, solemn tone that holds throughout most of the piece, aided by the mainly subtle performances by the actors. Despite
Henry’s disease, he still manages to be relatable due to the emphasis on his isolation through the use of monologue and frequent sense of emotional dissonance between him and the other characters. Though the story itself is simple, it can come off as confusing at times because of Henry’s distorted sense of reality, but as these things were presented as Henry perceived them, they only helped to enhance my own understanding of his suffering. Though the play deals very well with Henry’s feelings, it struggles with its presentation of other characters’ perspectives. At several points there is an attempt to show the situation from the point of view of Henry’s friends, but they don’t quite hit the mark. The first problem is that they don’t seem to appear very frequently in the story, only showing up a few times in the first half before their involvement ends rather abruptly. Their development is summed up in a short monologue by each of the three of them which describes how their lives were affected by an unintentional violent outburst from Henry. Some of the content of what was said could have been very powerful if explored further, but the way they were actually presented could be equated to a ‘where are they now?’ segment at the end of a reality TV show that seems little more than a footnote to the overall story. Apart from those areas that could have afforded more development, Hallucinations ultimately succeeds in nurturing an environment of understanding and empathy towards Henry, rather than presenting him as a madman. It is nothing extraordinary, but then it is in the ordinary nature of the play, despite its subject matter, that it reflects something about our own lives, just a little bit.
T3 Journal - Student Writing in Drama, University of Exeter 2018-19
Photographs: Mirror Mirror