We’re halfway through the workshop process but the room still feels fresh and the young people still eager to make and discuss and devise. David has upped his game and with a change in pace from the lead artist everyone is quickly beginning to get a sense of purpose. Slowly David is beginning to integrate ideas of critical reflection into creating work. This, he tells us, makes the work become yours, it changes the groups relationship with created work and forges a sense of collective responsibility. This is integral when devising and encourages opportunities to take risks as well as a ‘hive mind’ attitude.
David is starting to change the shape of the workshops. He is slowly beginning to leave the play aspects behind and introduce skills required for devising content. Although, as has been said in previous articles, the fundamental basics of ‘play activities’ form the ensemble which enables the devised space (so play is never really left behind). Alongside this development David is also cementing the concept of brains being connected to bodies – how to activate them both – this is part of his plan to have the young people buzzing to make work when the rehearsal period starts with Hetain in August.
We begin warming up by walking around the space. David always works with extremes so the young people are at one point moving around the space at a ‘2’, sluggish and shrunk down and then they snap into a ‘7’ and suddenly the room is hot with energy. The warm-up, which is a standard drama activity, is slightly different today as David slowly integrates ideas of physicality and gender stereotypes. He is interested in how masculinity changes posture, eye contact and shape. We discuss this after the warm-up, ‘when do you have to behave like this’. How does masculinity feel, is it strange? /Silly? Do people make you feel more masculine by looking at them? The discussion moves into public space and when people feel like they need to engage physical masculine traits. It’s an interesting concept to explore and there is certainly a general consensus that public spaces require different physical personas.
After the warm up the young people begin to start making tableau’s. One enters and strikes a pose and the other young people follow one-by-one and develop the image. This is much like the MasterChef final (David is a big fan), where finalists have to individually prepare the starter, main and dessert without knowing what the other is cooking (sometimes ending in a mash-up of cuisines and styles). There are several purposes to this style of activity, predominantly one notices that it encourages performers to anticipate each other’s actions and create actions which themselves are open. Once these tableaus have been established the other groups try to discern the given circumstances behind each performers chosen character. David shows the importance of the gaze in performances by having the young people alter where they are looking and with what intensity. This develops into a lesson on how focus can center a scene and develop a narrative.
‘Mark is trying to develop the idea of creating ‘sound as a whole’. It’s about producing sound together and seeing where the group move whether there can be a collective end and what the sound is that they create as a group.
This week’s Thursday session is split into two and the young people are in two new spaces. The first is ROOM 2 at Hope Mill Studios, the other is Theatre 2 at HOME. The first half of Thursday evening is spent with Mark. Mark is the MD for Chorus of Others who are a diverse group of men who raise awareness around men’s issues through performing together. We are developing ensemble sound and harmony with Mark and it’s great to see the young people dive into singing as quickly as they dived into David’s sessions. Mark is trying to develop the idea of creating ‘sound as a whole’. It’s about producing sound together and seeing where the group move whether there can be a collective end and what the sound is that they create as a group. There is an interesting similarity between David’s tableau exercise and this activity and no doubt the success of this exercise is down to the quality of ensemble that is being developed. Everybody throws in a sound (verbal or physical) or a note and try to feel where the group are taking the chorus that is created. The chorus choir sound itself was interesting, at moments soft and angelic and at other times more bizarre with motifs that were pedestrian with a tribal feel.
Mark’s style of facilitation is about having fun and not taking anything too seriously. Mark argues that finding a commitment that’s focused but enjoying the fun in the exercise helps to develop a more creative and intuitive environment. This sentiment is certainly true in devised environments and it is the play aspect of Mark’s choral activity that produces the results. Mark’s session flies by and soon we are heading through the Northern Quarter and down onto First street to see New Perspectives adaptation of Chigozie Obioma’s novel The Fishermen. A beautiful piece of storytelling that transports and takes the audience into another world for seventy minutes (young people responses to be added soon!).
That’s it. Lots to get into this week, but I’ve kept it short. Next week is another really full week and then we’re almost at the end of this stage. With a variety of bases covered from textual analysis to use of sound it’ll be interesting to get the young people making stuff in the coming weeks and seeing how they tie together gathered content and new skills.