In drama, we have recently been looking at a contemporary piece of youth theatre, Sparkleshark, by Philip Ridley. Sparkleshark is set on the junk-strewn roof of an inner-city tower block. This is the secret hideaway of Jake (14), where he goes to work on his stories. He’s interrupted by Polly (14), who’s more impressed by his stories than his rudeness, then by the trendily-dressed Natasha (15) and Carol (14) who copies everything Natasha does and wears; finally, to his terror, up come his tormentors, the self-obsessed Russell (15) ‘the love muscle’, his cohorts Buzz and Speed (both 14) and Shane (16), who they all regard with awe now he’s left school for the outside world.Order now
Tough, trendy, heartless, they all think they know who they are, or need to be to survive. But they’re in for the biggest surprise of their lives. When the girls try to protect Jake from the boys, he can only truly save himself and his dignity by weaving his best story yet; and this life- saver is so good that, despite themselves, they all not only want big parts in the roof-top enactment of its perils and mysteries, its trials and love quests, and its meetings with the Dragon Sparkleshark (played by Finn, 15) but will also find that they have formed new, unbelievable friendships and enjoyed the one thing they had been bullying people for.
My first response to the play was that of slight confusion. On my first look through of the play the structure and main ideas weren’t very apparent to me and I found the dialogue rather “cheesy”. I felt that some of the lines sounded very much like statements, especially lines such as, “Look! I’m going to wear it in my hair.” On my first read through of the play I did feel slightly confused by the story telling within the play and the character relationships had me rather baffled. But on a further read through I became aware of the group status and I understood that Philip Ridley wanted social status to be a major theme of the play. The story telling scene also began to flow more smoothly after a second read.
To understand and explore the piece further we used a range of different techniques. Firstly we were asked to use role-play and to create two additional scenes to be inserted before and after the play. We were told to look carefully at the characters created by Philip Ridley and to use our understanding of them and the major themes to influence our performance ideas.
Our group decided to highlight the characters reactions to Jake’s presence. After looking at the play several times, we also noticed that there is a lot of change in the characters personalities throughout the play so we decided that this was a key focus point to express in our role-plays. In the “before” piece, we collectively decided to set it in the schoolyard where the characters social status will be more pronounced. To show Carol’s desperation to be popular and to be Russell’s girlfriend, I suggested that we make her actions and speech very flirtatious and repetitive. We had her doing things like playing with her hair and sucking a lolli-pop.
I asked Emma, who was playing Carol, to say quite dull things and then giggle nervously. It was important that she didn’t look as important as Natasha, so often in the group situations she was ignored and patronised. I felt that Natasha’s posture and facial expressions could show her strong demeanour, so we had her stand strong and often with a look of boredom on her face. We showed her strong status by having her lead the group of girls and her speech was very flippant. She replied to everything Carol said with sarcasm and a belittling tone, “Really Carol, I never knew that. “You’re full of more useless information than encyclopaedia!”
She said this emphasising the “Really” by prolonging the word and making it a higher pitch to the sentence. The last part of this comment was said with real spite and with determination to humiliate and insult Carol in front of the group. Carol responded by looking ashamed and looking at her feet, it was important that we showed the audience that she didn’t have the confidence to challenge her friend verbally.
Russell’s arrogance and self-obsession was shown by Carol’s flattery, Russell’s authoritative commands to the group and his strong posture and stage presence. He stood strong and responded dramatically to female presence, winking and chatting the girls up. However to show Shane’s overall power, Russell often looked consciously behind him to see if Shane approved. The comments he made were full of bravado and smugness.
Shane was played by Rhiannon, who obviously understood his character well. She stood to the back of the group looking comfortable and oblivious by the goings-on of the group. He didn’t seem to be too bothered about being there and the little that he did say was the odd grunt of agreement. He also didn’t seem to notice that the group was constantly looking for his approval and if he did he didn’t respond. This showed him to possess effortless power over the group and it also showed that everything in the scene was of quite a regular occurrence.
I played Polly, who in the play was quite unlike her friends. She expressed a degree of compassion and seemed to care about peoples feelings. I understood from the play, that Polly was the newest member of the group and I supposed that the people she chose to spend her time with, Natasha and Carol are her only companions. I felt that she would be quite embarrassed by Carol’s desperateness, Natasha’s bitch-like attitude, Russell’s arrogance and Shane’s ignorance, and I expressed that with a disgusted look of disapproval to what Polly’s peers said, especially Russell’s chauvinistic, egotistical comments. To highlight her strong, different personality, I made her quite open to express her opinions, even in heated situations. Her more compassionate side led me to protect Jake and do the right thing.