After that, we had the task of spontaneously creating thoughts for Halina and her family whilst hiding in an underground bunker. This was very useful as it meant that we could immediately get the characters into our heads. Halina while only being young, still managed to be very mature, and understood that she needed to be quiet and keep calm not matter how afraid she was. This showed us how strong she was, something we could build upon throughout the rest of the course to expand her character. The rest of her family were also strong characters and it was easy to see the relationships between them all.Order now
The next task was a non-naturalistic stylized drama. Using the same kind of technique as the task before we spoke our characters thoughts aloud. All the while, the ‘soldiers’ were stamping their feet, to create the effect of banging on the door to break them down. The thoughts between the soldiers and the people in the bunker were different enough that we could build Halina character from using the characters in the bunker. The soldiers had two different types of thoughts; there were the ones who could think of nothing better than to kill all the Jews in the bunker, and then the ones who felt guilty that they were going to be killing innocent people. It created a suitably ‘creepy’ atmosphere.
Our next task was also a whole class technique. After being taken to a train the families were all stuffed in together, so there was not even enough room to sit down. They were transported on the train for about twenty-four hours with no way to rest, until they arrived at the camp. They were then trekked across mud and other difficult conditions, making them very tired. We created frozen pictures of each stage of the journey. This helped us to display how Halina would have suffered to get to where she is now.
In small groups, we created rehearsed improvisations of Hilek being taken away from Halina, her mother and Hilek’s wife, Hela. This was a good way to learn about Halina’s relationship with her brother. We learnt that they might have fought to stay with each other for they love each other very much but that the soldiers had no sympathy. The essence machine was a good way to get the very basics of what the concentration camp was like. We used repeated words, crescendos to build up the atmosphere of the scene. This helped us to understand how Halina would have been weighed down by her life and how she must have fought to keep up her spirits. The sadness in concentration camps was though the use of sad words, such as death, hunger, and loss, and using sounds like chocking in a gas chamber, crying or moans of hunger and weakness.
The monologues were a final last way to learn about Halina as we were writing directly from her point of view. We learn about her inexpressible joy about seeing her brother again and how she might have felt guilt about causing the Capo to beat her brother.Hela calls out, and I know at once that she has seen my brother. Her joy is like an infectious disease, it spreads to me before I have even seen him. I feel my heart thud in my chest, and as I raise my gaze, I take a delighted breath. Hilek looks up, reacting to the sound of his name. Then I can stand the silence to longer;
“Hilek!” My voice doesn’t sound like my own, or at least not as I expect it. It is full of hope, joy, and life that I have not heard in such a long time, for it has been replaced with despair, regret and most of all tiredness. He turns, an almost puzzled expression on his face, until he sees Hela and I. He smiles, with as much joy as I feel, and raises his hand to wave at us. Next to me, I can fell Hela resisting to the urge to run to him. My breath is short with joy and I can barely stand not being able to go to him. Then the moment is gone, a Capo rushes at him, his stick raised. I grit my teeth, breathing heavily through my nose, trying not to cry out. Hela’s hand finds mine and takes it, gripping tightly. I feel her pain as it replaces the joy felt for a criminally brief moment, and guilt tears at my heart as I realise that I may have been the cause of Hilek’s beating. Tears spring in my eyes.
In the first task, my favourite group who preformed used the technique of choral repetition. I liked this as it gave a very eerie atmosphere, as they also used voice pitch and pace to change the mood of the words, between encouraging and menacing. They had two different emotional qualities to represent the different ways the ‘voices’ could be interpreted. Their movement represented the different moods very well, as the menacing voices were crouched down in an almost animalistic style where as the encouraging voices kept up right in a more human form.
For my performance, we had Joan lying down on the floor, as though she is dreaming the voices. The saints who came to see her began by crouching near to her as though once they have entered her space they have control over her. We had our stage in the round, and the saints moved round Joan in circles that over lapped each other to create and never ending cycle. They began by whispering the lines and slowly built it up until everyone was saying the same line, loudly and forcefully. I enjoyed this performance as it gave us a chance to get to work with our non-naturalistic pieces first however I think we could of improved it by having another take on the words, for example Joan waking up after a round of the voices talking menacingly and saying how they are wonderful. Hopefully the audience would approach the voices a nasty but see that Joan thinks they are good.
For the scripted work, I was partners with Izzy and I played Dunois. I enjoyed this as we could take someone else’s words and create them to our own liking. So we had Joan as a masculine character however many other people took her to be very kind if impatient. We created a small set for this with a ‘tent’ which Joan and Dunois first meet with a chair that Dunois is sitting on. Then there is a ‘river’ where Dunois points out the forts that Joan is going to command an army against. We could have improved it if we had spent a little longer on the movement. We had sorted out our voices but we spent little time thinking up how the characters would move.
Our next task was the Tableau-Narration. My favourite piece from that was the one where they kept the same Joan throughout and had a narrator in the audience. This gave the audience an included feel, as though they were really in the action, even though it was freeze frame. This was also helped by their smooth transitions. I did not enjoy this piece and I felt that the group I was in was badly rehearsed and unorganised. I would have liked to do a better job but it was hard in such a large group.
The Forum theatre was very fun to watch, as you felt drawn into the action when there was the chance that you may have to go up at any point. However, the acting was quiet hard as you were both improvisation and trying to keep a fixed story up. It did produce a nice effect though and helped us to get the character of both Edith and her mother.
The thought tunnel was interesting as it gave us a chance to hear how other people in the group thought of Edith and then how they created a character and what their character thought. It gave me ideas on how to build up Edith’s character. I think it worked as we had little space or time to work with so were able to come up with something quickly. Also, as the characters already knew each other, there was a certain level of relationship already in place.
For the improvisation where Edith meets the Chaplain, I was partnered with Ellie and we had, what I would consider, a very good piece of Drama. Edith had become cynical and regretful, trying her hardest not to have hatred of bitterness toward anyone. The Chaplain was trying to get her to pray but she believed that there wasn’t the time to pray, instead she needed to think about her life and all the wonderful things that had happened in it rather than praying to be forgiven for the sins she had committed.
I enjoyed the work of one pair who had a very emotional piece. They portrayed Edith’s fear to face death very well and how the Chaplain was detached from her sadness while still supporting her. I liked this piece as the characters had a relationship that was obvious but only on the surface.
The stylised drama was brilliant. It was terrifying and mystifying at the same time, for the beats of the soldiers beating down the doors hit you right in the chest with terror, even though you knew it was acting. It was easy to get the mood and the impact was phenomenal. I especially enjoyed hearing the thoughts of the soldiers; how the people playing them could come up with such varied opinions on their task. Another excellent piece was the frozen pictures of the journey from the train to the camp. We all ended up in awkward positions and staying frozen for the minute we did made it uncomfortable to stay frozen. This gave us a weak idea of what the pain these people must have been going though, which helped us to build up Halina’s character.
The rehearsed improvisation of the scene when Hilek was taken to a separate of the camp was interesting to do. It was a very emotional piece and this was shown though many way but mainly though body language and voice. There was a strong character relationship and this was shown for our group through how each woman had a different way to say goodbye to Hilek. One group had Hilek declare his love for Hela as he was being dragged away, which was a beautiful idea but could have been portrayed slightly better, I think. It was difficult to hear what he was saying over the noise from the guards and the noise that the women were making.
I loved doing the essence machine; it was a very clever way to produce the feeling without doing an actual piece of drama. We used voice and movement to show how after a while the people felt crushed and defeated with no hope. My favourite group in this repeated each noise three time, each time getting more crushed until the only person left standing, the warden, said, “Dead” and they all fell to the ground.