Now I am coming back from a theatre play we watched with our entire DP1 Theatre community went to. We visited an international school in Shanghai which was putting up a play. The play was supposed to be provocative and intense bringing up issues in our society that everyone should be aware of.
Going to the international school, the atmosphere felt so welcoming. I was surprised by the fact that there were no Chinese students among the student body which was something I had grown used to.
After having a quick dinner we headed to their performance stage.
It was different. It was not the usual stage setting but that was powerful. The stage was not higher or lower than the seats, it was on the same level. And as the director explained after the play came to an end, this setup meant to give the audience the feeling of truthfulness. As you’re kneeling or moving to see what is happening in front of you, you feel the difficulty of getting the information and news. The same thing and process happen in reality when you try to get informed on world news from media, which tend to allure the truth making the process of getting the truth especially difficult if not impossible.
The theme of the play
I found the theme of the play marvellous. The concept of encouraging students to familiarise themselves with the tragedy and the pure nature of civil war, rape and socialism through the art of theatre made the play enlightening. This proves that theatre is one of the most efficient ways to educate the society on issues like this. On the other hand, live theatre is restrictive since it is only accessible to a number of people each time. It is the opposite of media. Media can expand in no time informing and reaching millions at once.
The aspect of journalism was touched throughout the play. One of the main characters if not THE main one, was a journalist coming to witness the civil war. She did not get involved, just witnessed and reflect on what she saw making the connection to everyday western lifestyle. Journalism was mentioned to show how the stories may not reflect the actual events. It also sparked questions such as; should the journalist be involved in an event or just report on it afterwards (Personal opinion: no matter how great the risk is, you’re a human above a journalist and if it’s up to you to protect and save the life of a human being you should take the risk.)
The performance of the actors was overall good. By that I am saying that some performances and actors were truly amazing but others could be intensified. The points that I liked the most were when the characters gave it their all and humiliated on stage. A great example of this is “Madam’s” outburst on how she feels like a hole, used and taken advantage upon by men. Her words were so strong and the situation in which she was in made the outburst more significant.
The best part about this play was the use of symbols on stage. From the beginning of the play those symbols were present. For example, a lamp coming from the ceiling was showing tension when the alarm went off making the panic more strong and memorable. My personal favourite was when the actors were mentioning books and reading and hundreds of flyers were being ejected on stage by fans and then right after confetti was thrown all over the stage. This visualisation of words by simple yet impressive actions left me speechless. I found it amazing how they came up with such a unique way of expressing what is being said.
An interesting aspect that I noticed on one of the actors and wanted to mention for such a long time was Make-up. One of the actors had makeup on his face making his expressions more visible and profound. I used makeup as well for my monologue performance as I feel like this makes your eyes more prominent and therefore expressive. Make-up is another creative factor to play with when it comes to theatre.
As Kate also noticed some elements of the play were ‘Greek style’. When the scene was too intense to visually interpret on stage such as rape or impossible to stage, they transferred it outside and mentioned what happened was came back through message carriers. This method was used in ancient Greek theatres when they wanted to show Gods input and influence on the happenings.
The way the stage had been set up
On the sides of the stage, there were constructions probably 2.60 meters tall. They were used in a way to create movement and to portray the stage boundaries, entrance, exit etc. I thought it was impressive to add height into a performance which was on the same level with the audience. The difference in levels made the atmosphere more complicated and complex.
Overall the play left me a pleasant note considering the effort of the students in creating this play in less than two months. The only unpleasant note was that during the symposium when I asked a question not only the actors and director couldn’t answer it but also the director asked Kate to answer. In the end, I did not get an answer. (Question: What would be the ideal audience which needs to be “educated” by the play more than anyone else.)
The lighting component of the performance made a significant impact on the audience’s emotions. They connected lighting to tension. As mentioned above the role of the lamp was important to increasing the strength and tension of the circumstances. The same was achieved by the puppetry looking scene. In this scene, the actors were standing behind a curtain. The flashlight was facing them. Only their shadow was visible. So, this scene focused on their physical movement which was exaggerated and intensified throughout the scene, making the atmosphere harsh. This scene was storytelling about rumoured scenes of tragedy within the circumstances of war. Lastly, the tone of light was warm with yellow and orange undertones.
- YELLOW – wisdom, knowledge, relaxation, joy, happiness, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, dishonesty, cowardice, betrayal, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard
- ORANGE – humour, energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant
As mentioned in this website the choice of colours was supposed to convey feelings such as optimism and illness, jealousy and hope, betrayal and dishonesty in an environment filled with energy and warmth.
The same message was supported by the choice of clothing as well. The worker’s clothes were orange, brown, yellow and pink showing their reality in Illyria. But, nevertheless, the clothing was simple and even though not distressed it gave away how poor and traumatised the women were.
Images on the white floor appeared as the main character, Madam, came in contact with a shoemaker. The images looked as if a rug was on the floor contributing to the atmosphere. They wanted to make clear how hard it is to create a shoe (<what we receive ready without doubting where it came from and acknowledging the effort put into it) and the complexity of the process while giving elements of a messy and filled with elements environment.
Another detail that caught my eye and impressed me with the creativity and simplicity of it was the paper birds. The paper birds were in reality pieces of paper that already were on stage (fliers -books). They used this element to give the essence of freedom which is what white birds represent as in the end, they became free both physically and mentally.
Chest boxes were placed on 3 sides of the scene. Their use was to supply the actors with staging pieces as the play was progressing. The chest boxes hid their content and because of their old style they contributed in giving the stage a sense of old and traditional. Lastly, they were accessible at all times making the flow even and the change of setting quicker
Characters that stood out to me the most
The characters that stood out to me the most were the ones who embraced their role completely and devoted to it. The first one is the official who appeared as superior in the beginning acting confidently, aggressively and walking straight and flawlessly and then showed her inferiority to Madam by expressing her dislike and aggression towards her. She even got to a point where she almost killed her.
The second character was Madam. Even though at some points I felt she was not fully in character there were others where I felt her pain and despair. Her acting was so strong that made it relatable.
What is it to contrast the two worlds?
Throughout the entire play one thing was obvious. And that was the contrast between the world of the poor citizens leaving under poverty and the privileged leaders and the people related to them enjoying luxurious goods which are unreasonably expensive in favour of the nation’s citizens. Whenever luxury was mentioned it was to portray this exact situation. Especially when Madam was demanding to get her designer shoes; everyone else was there to serve her and assist her. The ratio between her (the privileged one) and the “servants” (many poor citizens) shows the real-world situation in times of civil war; a few living in favour of many.
2nd person narration
- Element of breaking the 4th wall (Viewpoints after Brecht)
A really important element of staging in the performance was the way the thrust stage. Thrust stage is when the audience is on three sides of the stage. This makes the audience more involved and requires the director and cast to take a different approach on the performance since now the audience is in 2 more sides and they have to include them as well.
CONNECTION WITH MONOLOGUE
This performance inspired me and encouraged me to experiment more with staging elements in my performance. By seeing how meaning was expressed from symbolic objects and actions, I felt pushed to include symbolic pieces as well.
THINK OF THE DELIVERY OF THE WORD AS THE WEAPON OF YOUR MOUTH.