Our group started working on ‘Table Manners’, one of a trio of plays in ‘The Norman Conquests’, written by Alan Ayckbourn. We used the following explorative strategies; Role-Play, Hot-Seating, Thought-Tracking and Still Image, to further enhance our understanding and appreciation of the characters in the play.
For this explorative strategy, we were split into two groups, and we were to portray all six characters, as if they were in a waxwork museum. We exaggerated features of our character, to make it easier for the other group to identify our characters. As individuals, we focused on our body language, facial expression, but as a group we tried using our proximity to show the character’s personality and attributes. We showed this, by depicting Norman as being the ‘gigolo’ he says he is in the play, and by having his arm around Annie, looking extremely confident, but still longing for Ruth, as he was still looking at her in admiration.Order now
Meanwhile Tom was expressed by him just looking at Annie from a distance, showing his inability to put his emotions to words or actions. I posed as Reg, while another member of my group was Sarah; she tried ‘perfecting’ my appearance, keeping in line with her character’s opinionated views, by fiddling with my shirt. At first, I put up a facial impression to show how annoyed I was, but when I got feedback, I realised to better show Reg’s humorous and jolly character I had to include an element of laughter or comedy. So I decided to show I was pleased with myself as Reg would know that this would clearly ‘wind up’ and annoy Sarah hugely.
Yet I still tried looking a bit disgusted as he has had to put up with Sarah’s controlling and opinionated character ever since their marriage. Ruth was portrayed as being distant to everyone else. The person in my group that portrayed her, was reading some type of an office report, to bring out her work-orientated character, and was also isolated from the rest of the group; it showed her dislike for the family, and her view of them being inferior to her. This exercise helped us to exaggerate our facial expressions and physical features to portray our characters effectively and also trained us to sustain a character for a long time.
For this exercise, we split into groups of three, two characters portraying Tom and Reg, and the other member of the group directing. I chose to be Reg, as I liked his character and found it challenging to portray him effectively. We tried three different techniques of thought-tracking, and the method we chose as the most effective was where the speaker started speaking quieter, but carried on his actions. As I was Reg, just as I started my long speech, I ‘turned down my volume’, but still carried on my actions, as Tom started thinking about Annie out loud. This showed how disinterested Tom was with Reg’s speech, while he worried about Annie.
This part of the scene was just after Annie shouted at Tom, for not asking her to this weekend with him. The other member in my group portrayed Tom as being very lost, and bewildered and very confused as to why Annie just shouted at him. His facial expression was very blank, and he furrowed his brow very often to show his misunderstanding of the situation. This explorative strategy helped us to understand Tom’s point of view and also improved our understanding of Reg’s character and personality.
Role-play: For this explorative strategy, we first created a ‘watering hole’ in the middle of the room by putting together chairs in the shape of a rectangle. We were then split into six groups, each one assigned to a different character. We were than asked to associate our character with an animal, one that reflects its personality. We also had to make up a mating call and a movement, everything relating with our character. The animal our group chose to represent Tom was a sloth as we thought it brought out his shyness, and the fact that he never does anything about his affection for Annie.
The mating call that we came up with was an extremely pathetic, ‘meh’, to show how useless Tom is when it comes to relationships. The other sound that we used was a very timid noise which combined well with the movement, which was again very timid with a very bent posture, to show his meek and inexpressive character, which also lacks confidence. As the animals were sent into the watering hole, one after the other, the Norman’s, who were portrayed as an attention-seeking, confident gorilla, had destroyed the watering hole by ruining everything, the Tom’s tried cleaning everything up, trying to keep the peace within the community. This variation of a role-play made us think about character’s movement, and how we could represent them physically. We found this quite hard, as we couldn’t figure out what animal would best represent Tom, but we did think that the sounds worked well as it showed different sides to his character.
In this exercise, we were asked to choose a character, and we were to be asked questions, while doing something they would do regularly. I chose Norman, as I thought I could portray his flamboyance and outrageous character well. The situation I chose to be in was in the library. While I was putting away books on a shelf, the other members of my group asked me questions, ones that would instigate Norman’s character. The type of questions I got asked were mainly about love and my marriage with Ruth.
I never admitted that our marriage wasn’t working, always reassuring them that we were truly in love ever since we met, I also tried adding in the fact that Norman thinks he’s a ‘gigolo’ and boasting about the number of women he has slept with, trying to convince them that everyone, especially women, love him. I also got asked how Ruth and Norman met, and I made up an extremely complicated and romantic story, even though it was probably not true and completely over the top.
This explorative strategy helped us think of character’s diction, putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes, and how and what the character is thinking about. These explorative strategies helped us immensely as the different exercises demanded us to focus on different aspects of drama. All the exercises captured our response to the play, but also improved our understanding of both, the play and the characters.