We did a few exercises to understand better a performance principle: making changes in our body shape, altering way we walk, or introducing new gestures, changes the way we feel. We can find many ‘characters’ within us simply by changing physical thing about the way we move or stand and paying attention to how affects our inner feelings. In our first exercise everyone walked around the room and tried to find a common rhythm for walking so that everyone was in step, once that new rhythm had been found they ‘listened’ or paid attention to how that made you feel different. Many said it felt ‘unnatural’. Finding a character will initially feel strange just because it’s different. They then worked in pairs, one following the other and imitating characteristics of their partner's walk. Sitting down they were asked to find a little mannerism, such as rubbing their hands together, or some small trait of someone they know. They were to then to allow the feeling they got from that to affect the whole body. Immediately we saw another character emerge in people, very subtle but clearly different to their usual selves.
People then put on ‘practice skirts and they walked about paying attention to how the skirts forced them to move differently and how that adapted movement made them feel. Laura Stanfield, our designer demonstrated different ways of wearing a skirt; tucking them up into the waist, wearing them like a cape, lifting the bottom of the dress up and over your head (See below). Each changes solicited different manners of moving that and prompted different inner feelings; from feeling "more grounded" "floating", "spiritual" and so forth
- The heroes’ journey will pointless unless it changes or confirms things for them, so we have to decide a point and a purpose for them to have taken it. We have agreed the Stone People represent ‘The Earth’ endowed with wisdom, knowledge and experience. But we need them to have a potent philosophy or belief to relay to us through the stories they tell, their history, their rituals (including their birthing ritual) their dance and songs.
- We need to find the stories they tell, (perhaps starting with a creation myth) or experiences that give them lessons they require.
- We have previously imagined, our heroes’ destination being the land of the Stone People, but we agreed today that they should first face, trials, tribulations and hardships on the way. I (Jon) wanted to find characters and a situation to contrast with the Stone People.
- Technically we need to find different ways of verbal communication to the audience to compensate for being outside and accommodate for people with ‘small’ voices. Important to think about this during devising as it influences ideas.
We discussed a possible ‘Badlands’ the heroes need to cross before they meet the Stone People; somewhere that contrasts to them. Direct opposites of Stone people would be (no kind) Cruel, (not Creative) Destructive, (not Calm) Frenetic (not Ordered) Chaos (not Pure) soiled, (not Considerate) Oblivious (not gentle) but wild. We imagined a devilish King obese, and gluttonous, pushed around in a beaten up shopping trolley by buffoon cohorts. These clowns would tend to his every need, the flatter him; they are both terrified and in awe. They are ingratiating in front of the King and rude behind his back. This gives room for a lot of clownish business. Perhaps these creatures live in the darker underground fissure; fossil fuels, polluting smoke, volcanic ash, oil, coal dust and pure C02 is the air they breathe. They have the ear of the Climate Change Deniers: Those taking fossil fuels out of the ground; self-interested profiteers - Car manufacturers; Big Government who depend on the polluting industrialist to prop up their expensive election campaigns.. Maybe these underground creatures in the Badlands know they are destroying the planet - their ambition to to destroy the Stone People. There is something Faustian about the profiteers selling their souls for earthly rewards in disregard of the consequences for others.
In groups we created four paper costume images of the self-Profiting Climate Change Deniers.
We took these ideas into a Creation myth that Jon wrote for a Chorus exercise. Everyone dressed up in a costume - gender neutral, no period or cultural restriction. They could wear whatever and however they wanted (skirts as shawls, trousers as scarfs) so long as they paid attention to what character was emerging from the clothes and how they made one feel. We wanted a chorus not as a single voice but a collection of unique individuals.
An final thought: Connected to ‘Dreaming,” and to what we are doing when we listen to our own bodies and allow costume, new movements and ways of walking to change us and how we feel is the shamanic idea of dreaming. The Shaman’s term ‘dreamingbody’ is a name for unusual experiences and altered states of consciousness that try to reach our everyday awareness through signals such as body symptoms, movement impulses, dreams, and messages from the environment. It is a bonus that these exercises help us to be aware of these signals and become more in tune with each other and ourselves.