THE STRANGER ON THE PATH
24th February session
PROVOCATION ON STRANGERS ON THE PATH
On our next Wednesday session is going to ask you to imagine that you are walking in Happy Valley and sit on a bench to look at the view over High Rocks and Hargate woods. A stranger sits down beside you and you start a conversation and his or her story grows and develops as you ask questions.
This is the setting of a game between you, the curious questioner, and a seasoned improviser. The first part of the evening we will disperse as usual into break out rooms. Two or three people plus one of the members Claqueur impro theatre. You will simply ask them questions to delve into the life of a stranger. Neither you nor the improviser will know where the story they tell will go. The story will be prompted by the questions you ask. Questions will encourage the storyteller to dig deeper into the story. When it’s over we will return to the main group where you can share the stories you have been told.
PLEASE BRING PAPER AND COLOURED PENS AND DOODLE AS YOU HEAR THE STORIES.
You don’t have to share them though it’s nice if you do. But drawing prompts your visual memory of the story. This is not an art competition its part of a process of stirring our imaginations, just give it a try.
DEVISING SESSION NOTES ON STRANGER ON THE PATH
PRESENT; Joe Mendel, Michael and Sonia Lawrence, Paul Fulton, Claire Edwards, David Jinks, Jill Scott, Kate Sargent, Richard Sylvester, Sally Sugg, Gilly Blaydon, David Brett, Julie and Bernie Madden, MJ Stevens, Alison Mackenzie, Lucy Edkins, Becca Maher, Jon Oram.
Jon talked about the idea of audience members being given a letter and on their journey they will meet a stranger (cast member). The audience will need to find out as much as they can about the stranger’s story, by asking them questions. The stranger may have nothing prepared and the questions will prompt a story.
We were then placed in break out rooms with members of the improvisation performance group acting as the stranger.
Jon did a practice run with MJ, Joe and David Jinks as audience members.
Jon(stranger) was a father looking for his son. His son had left home many years ago and until he had had a letter fairly recently there had been no contact. Jon carried the letter from his son (each stranger might have another object such as a key, a cup that would have significance). The letter was sent from The Happy Valley area. The stranger didn’t know why his son had run away from home when he was 13.
Group 1. Richard, Bernie, Becca, Alison.
Richard (stranger) had come to Happy Valley looking for gold. A friend had told him there was gold in the rock or in the water. He needs money to claim the love of his life, Esme. Esme’s father gave him 5 years to make his fortune so that he could look after Esme and would therefore be a suitable husband. Since then, he has been working hard having many jobs including looking after pigs. He now only has a few days before the 5 years is up so is relying on finding the gold in order to marry Esme. Esme’s father owns a pub, The Walnut Tree, near to Happy Valley. . Not many people know about the pub as its tiny. The stranger is not allowed to work there to earn money as he has been in prison for arson. The stranger revealed that he has not told Esme or her father about his criminal record so some of the audience became concerned for Esme and wondering whether the stranger was after all a suitable suitor.
Group 2. Paul, Lucy, Julie
Paul (The stranger) was very sad about the loss of his wife, Edith. He had met her when he was a DJ on a cruise. He had a dog called Wolf. The stranger had found a half written letter (from Jon’s son, reincorporation). Audience felt that maybe they should pop in and see the stranger as he was lonely.
Group 3. Jill, Gilly, Kate, David Jinks.
Kate (stranger) was a painter seeking inspiration. They pretended they were in an art class to enable them to look at the stranger’s painting. She lacked confidence; how could we make her famous? Maybe she could do a series of pictures. Gilly and Jill started drawing. It felt a bit like communal Art Therapy.
Group 4. David Brett, Joe, Michael and Sonia.
David (Stranger) was looking for his 3 friends. They had made a pact 50 years ago that they would meet now in Happy Valley. He had travelled from Australia on a steamship. He had broken his son’s arm so maybe he isn’t a very nice man? Maybe he was the problem rather than the rest of the family as he claimed? The bad apple in the barrel? They discovered that he and they were wearing kangaroo skin boots.
Group 5. Sally, Jon, MJ. Claire
Jon (Stranger). The stranger’s name was George who told a sad story. Thirty years ago, his father killed himself. In one of the rocks there’s a carving of the Frog Brothers Music Group, which his dad was a member of. George was anxious as his dad had buried a lot of money in a tin. However, he told George he wanted him to make his own way and then reveals that he has hidden treasure in Happy Valley and shortly afterwards kills himself. George has worked hard for 30 years as a butcher but has never found his way. He felt he was a disappointment to his father, and he is now the same age as his father was when he died. Something has motivated him to disclose to us, is he suicidal? I feel bad that I let him walk away.
The questioning of an improvisor Actor validated the idea that we could have improvised elements the involve the audience. We might need to think about how we set up the situation or brief the audience to find out all they can from the 'stranger' character. If we are to take the audience on a journey we next need to think about what roles they might play, whether they have a task, a mission, or a purpose for this journey.
DEVISING HAPPY HIGHWAYS
February 10th 2021
Participants: Claire Edwards, Gilly Blaydon, Gill Scott, Lucy Edkins, Kate Sargent, Paul Fulton, David Brett, Michael and Sonia Lawrence, Richard Sylvester, Julie and Bernie Madden, Phil Byrne, Suzy Phillips, Alison Mackenzie, Jon Oram, Becca Maher.
NOTES ON DEVISING SESSION "STORIES"
Jon talked about reaching out perhaps further than the play to different groups in the village by sharing stories and perhaps displaying them at shop counters, shop windows, delivering fliers getting stories into Rusthall Life etc. Suzie talked about the quirky tree they had at the RCA festival in 2017 people hung items and poems. Sonia spoke of a man called Arthur Tribe who lived at 15 Rusthall Road and died in 1961 aged 90. He had lived in the village all of his life and he loved the common. There is one particularly moving poem written when he was posted in North Africa during the First World War where he described memories of Happy Valley keeping him going. Sonia has since sent in the poem about Happy Valley.
Jon introduced the purpose of the session buy talking about the power and purpose of stories, why where and when do people tell stories? What situations encourage story telly? How might we deliver stories in the play; What situations can we set or recreate, from bedtime stories to Speakers Corner? Jon mentioned the communal bath is potentially where people would tell stories to each other. People would come here for health reasons, not unlike pilgrims to Lourdes. Michael had set some atmospheric picture of the baths. He sent another this week building on the idea of it being a story telling station. Sonia said that her son had excavated the baths several years ago down to the tiles, it wasn’t very big. They then filled it in again.
GROUP 1 Bec, Suzie, Julie
Grandparents passing down stories, sitting on laps. Imaginary friends. Folk tales, songs, rounds, ghost stories, stories around the fire; bonfires elicit story-telling and singing. There’s reminiscing, night and fire, sounds, smells. Morale tales, Victorian Struwel Peter, Johnny-Head -In - Air didn’t look where he was going so walked over a cliff. Matilda and the matches if you cry wolf (Matlida gets burnt to death). Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Grimm brothers travelled all over Germany to collect and preserve traditional tales. Fairy stories portrayed females in a particular way ie: goodness and beauty go together, Cinderella and the ugly sisters, she will be rescued by a knight in shining armour. Giving messages to girls on how they ought to be, conditioning women, propaganda. Greek myths and legends, The Odyssey, men are heroes.
GROUP 2 Lucy, Gill, Sally
When, Where Why?
WHEN: bedtime stories, one on one, comforting, fiction and real life memories. Around a table; eating, drinking, Bonfire; stories through song, walking with a friend through lockdown meaningful conversations.
WHY: Sharing memories, making sense of our past, connecting, sharing, bonding. Draw from memories. Draw inspiration from emotions, does it have to have structure? Can be spontaneous don’t have to go anywhere. Story cubes, pieces of paper with prompts.
WHAT makes a story? It has to have emotional content.
GROUP 3 Kate, Gilly Bernie
We tell stories when we have time. More time in lockdown. When travelling, train journeys, exchanging stories, getting to know people. Confession in crisis, truth. Lies/showing off. Telling untruths. Fake news, political narratives. Unintended consequences of stories. Families have different stories/different versions of events. Excluding and including information.
GROUP 4 Alison, David, Michael, Sonia
Dark winter nights, passing on stories, campfires, bringing people together. Sharing stories. Pubs, the more you drink the more outrageous. Sailors yarns, soldier’s self-glorification, heroism. Children want the same story over and over again. Familiarity is safe. Stories of your past become more important as you age, Stories keep people alive who are no longer here.
Super- heroes used to be Gods now they’re Spider man, Superman. Folk stories, fairy stories, children want frightening stories. Eastenders/Archers/Shakespeare. Does it have to resolve? There are a limited number of basic stories.
GROUP 5 Paul, Claire, Richard, Jon
Stories inspired by College/family reunions. Stories develop into gossip. Future stories, fortune tellers. Churches/religion hopes and fears for future. Folk songs, letter writing. Dog walkers exchange stories about their dogs. First dates, interviews, interrogations. Hospital beds.
Invisible Theatre – rehearsed / improvised scenarios happen spontaneously on trains, busses in the street; the audience don’t know it’s been prepared.
Alison/ Belgian refugees Mayor and mayoress from a village outside Antwerp came to Tunbridge Wells with their extended family in 1914. They lived in Nevill Park and decided to come here as she liked Thackeray. They walked in Happy Valley. Both died in 2015 and there was a huge funeral as they were so well respected.
Looking at ancestry, who do you think you are? Reciting in military costume?
Phil talked was asked about Chimney Sweeps, they supposed to be good luck at weddings. Story is that King George was on his way to a wedding when one of his horses got spooked and a chimney sweep saved his life so they became a lucky symbol. The Queen and Prince Philip had a chimney sweep at their wedding.
The idea of story cubes was put forward.
Jon wondered about situations when we would be less likely to tell stories – short bus and train rides, in an elevator, just approaching someone in the street – this would feel weird. Situations that encourage stories – interviews, interrogations, First Dates,
`Gossip and Chinese whispers, telling tales out of school (splitting). Somebody mentioned imaginary friends.
The idea of Travelling theatre groups was added to the mix.