For my GCSE practical, we chose to create a piece of improvisation in which I was a performer. I had previously been a stage manager and so it was interesting to be in a position to see a play from a completely different perspective, as an actor.
Our devised piece, Hangman was written and is set in the modern day; the 21st Century, as are many soaps of today, for example Eastenders or Coronation Street. A typical setting for many currently popular plays is the 1960’s or 70’s, Kes adapted from the book by Barry Hines to the play by Lawrence Till perfromed by the National Youth Theatre , Billy Liar By Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall and Abigail’s Party By Mike Leigh performed at the Whitehall Theatre are all good examples of this.Order now
But we wanted our production to really strike a chord with the audience, and felt that if the events we portrayed were set in the modern day, it would all seem more real and easier to relate to. The period does not really add a great deal to the story line of Hangman. If the same events took place in for example the 60’s, little would have to be altered in the plot. But take the play Journey’s End By R.C. Sheriff performed at The Comedy Theatre â€“ the play totally relies on its period because it is about the first world war and if it was set in the modern day there would be no war and therefore no play.
The culture in which the characters live in Hangman is a fairly ‘ordinary’ one, in the same way as the period is not highly relevant, neither is the culture. The characters are not intended to be either middle or working class â€“ it is irrelevant. The basic setting, the period and background is not so vital that if it was changed it would alter the entire play. This is similar to Sweet Panic By Poliakoff performed at The Duke of York’s Theatre which is also set in an ordinary environment in which extraordinary events occur.
On reflection, I perceived that Hangman was in fact, in a very similar style to the play The Woman in Black Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s original book performed at The Fortune Theatre. We chose to have a very minimalistic set, using ten wooden boxes to represent as much as we could chairs, toy box, laptop, train, grave stones and we used this in a non-naturalistic way. This is very alike to the set used in The Woman in Black. They used an old trunk for many different purposes a pony and trap, a train, a bed, a trunk!. The idea is that, although the audience knows that the people are not actually on a train, they accept it by seeing the way the actors behave when sitting on the boxes or trunk and sometimes with the help of sound effects.
This is very different in soaps. The set is used in a naturalistic way, if they were to do a scene on a train, they would go to a station and film it on a real train. It would look out of place for a soap to use their set in a non-naturalistic way, and that is where one of the major differences lie between Hangman and any soap such as Coronation Street. An play that used their set in a naturalistic was is Journey’s End they had a realistic looking bomb shelter with all sorts of details â€“ it appeared to the audience that the actors were actually inside a real bomb shelter. We have also chosen to keep our costumes simple with a few obvious prompters to indicate whom we are representing for example, someone would draw on a white doctors’ coat to represent a GP. This again is a technique used in The Woman in Black in which there is a rack of simple garments of clothing a few coats, a hat, and a scarf which are donned by different people during the course of the play in order to represent the various different characters.
A strong theme running through Hangman is one of supernatural beings and ghosts. We have the ghosts of the children the doctor has killed in almost every scene and they can only ever be seen by the doctor and each other. Their presence reminds me of the narrator in Blood Brothers By Wwilly Russell, performed at The Phoenix Theatre in which the actors rarely acknowledge him, but is almost always eerily lurking in the back ground. I recognised the same theme of the supernatural when watching The Woman in Black in which there is the ghost of Jennet Humphrey. She like the narrator in Blood Brothers is also often seen lurking in the background, visible to the audience but not to the actors.
But what I really mean by the term ‘supernatural’ is some being or creature that is not human, that has powers beyond any human being. This is seen in hundreds of plays, books and films. There is as I have previously mentioned The Woman in Black, in the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde The novel by Robert Louis Stevenson the character of Edward Hyde and in the film The Sixth Sense Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalon there are many ghosts. Something like this would never feature in a soap, which is typically true to life and realistic, the story lines should be believable and logical. Therefore it would be ridiculous to portray something supernatural.
The basic content and characters remind me a great deal of Sweet Panic. Poliakoff wrote Sweet Panic a two years ago in 2002. It involves a child psychologist who gets incredibly immersed in her work and patients. At the end she is starting to become mentally unstable herself because of the way that her work is taking over her life, she