At our full day devising workshop we explored ideas through costumes. Costumes are transformative - they make us feel differently, help us adopt different roles; give us confidence and permission to be other than ourselves. It’s a perfect medium for devising.
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
So far in the process of ‘discovering the play’ our 4 heroes have been defined and have begun their journey, stepping through the threshold between this world, the one they know, and a different and unknown world of the Stone People. To move the story forward there were a number of things we wanted to develop and discover in this session:
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.
Listening to previous discussions in the devising workshops the idea of their being spirits in the rocks, not least the Stone People has become very strong in everyone’s imagination. Our civilization of Stone People is very much like spirits’ and there may be others, in trees that are quite different; we should allow for others. I (Jon) pointed out that this is very close to the beliefs of the Australian Aborigine. We don’t want to appropriate the Aboriginals belief but I think we can extrapolate a simple idea to serve the play and the story we want to tell, and that is of the world and everything in it being ‘dreamed’, and continuing to be dreamed. The ‘Creation’ was not a one off event but the start of a continuing process. So maybe we can have ‘The First Dreamer” who dreams the land seas, the plants. During the Dreaming the first creator made men women and animals, declared the laws of the land and how people were to behave to one another, the customs of food supply and distribution, the rituals of initiation, the ceremonies of birth and death which are required to be performed. They hold and practice their belief so that their own Dreaming is ‘pure’ and a period on a positive continuum embracing past, present and future. So our Stone people continued preserve life on earth for us. They live in secret places, out of site. Other spirits may live in the trees, trees and water holes; others in the sky as natural forces such as wind, rain, thunder and lightning.
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.
we finished the day thinking about how we move through, air, fish through water and how stone people might move through rock, perhaps it would need to be be fluid for them. We covered a group laying on th ground with parachute silk and simply asked them to breath more deeply, the material is very sensitive to movement. They were then asked to find their way out of the silks but to move very slowly, almost imperceptibly. This may be a possible image for the birth of the first dreamers.
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.
16th APRIL DEVISING WORKSHOP _ WORDS
We started the workshop with the following ideas of what we knew, what we needed where our heroes walk through the first Threshold on their journey.
WHAT WE KNOW OF THE ORDINARY WORLD
Time and Location of our story: Today 2019 Toad Rock, Denny Bottom, Rusthall; possibly also Bulls Hollow or Paisley Street.
Back Story of the area
The area was once the bottom of a freshwater Lake.
The area around Toad Rock was once a prehistoric ritual site. There has been a cluster of finds belonging to Mesolothic people who lived 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Springs and water were venerated at that time; there is a stone circle directly behind Toad Rock. Nigel thinks man may well have helped formed The Toad, as it is so different from any other natural rock formations. There is what Nigel calls a
uterine canal (birthing passage to life) cut through the rock.
There are two unique erosion lines worn by feet - one line is deep cut by hobnails Victorian and contemporary footwear, the other outer line by soft leather or bare feet Medieval The tracks go right round and through the passage - through the narrow end and out through the wider. It does suggest a ritual walking through. The graffiti on the walls has many layers, the lower layers now lost by the contemporary carvings. The oldest that can still be seen are possibly Medieval. Rusthall was originally called Hungershall. Medieval quarrying took place around Toad Rock; it involved splitting stones for stone circles etc. There is no clear evidence of Victorian quarrying. Bull’s Hollow possibly
In VICTORIAN 1900 the barrow existed on maps. The stone circle may well have been a barrow not necessarily for people but certainly they covered the stones.
THE ARCHETYPES WE HAVE MET OR LIKELY TO MEET
1. THE HEROES/ SEEKERS
Archie (R. H. C): Graffiti boy
Matilda: schoolgirl climate change campaigner
Mr Woodcock: Commoner
Sophia: Woman Elder
NOTE: The HERO represents the ego - the part that separates from the mother, considers itself distinct from the rest of humanity. A HERO is one who is able to transcend the bounds and illusions of the ego. But first they are SEEKERS and are all ego. They are searching for identity and wholeness - to become a complete integrated human being.
Descriptions of where the Heroes are- I’ve taken some license in the relationships between them. This can change or develop.
MATILDA is leading a local campaign to protest government inaction on climate change. They are expressing anger, fear and disappointment that adults have not acted. Across the world schoolchildren have taken part in 24 hours of climate action. 1 million students are said to have skipped school in more than 2,000 protests across 125 countries The student movement has been inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, now nominated for a Nobel Prize. She kicked off a global movement after she sat outside Swedish parliament every Friday beginning last August. There is lots of evidence that Climate Change is not only happening but we have only eleven years left to reverse it making it possibly the most urgent crisis the world has yet faced.
MATILDA WANTS the world to come together as a people of the blue planet and save themselves.
MEANWHILE Brexit is taking everyone’s energies and resources while the planet is out of kilter moving fast to the cliffs edge. Everything is in fighting, division and separation. The children aren’t being heard, people continue their lives paying no accounts to the dangers; there are millions of climate change deniers many among our leaders. The urgent policies that politicians need to make are not vote winners so they do nothing.
SOPHIA is a widow and a Village elder. She has a special project; she is chair of the Protect the Rocks Committee, a group of volunteers whose mission is to keep the rocks clear of litter, and brambles to encourage indigenous fauna and wild life.
SOPHIA WANTS and strives for Harmony, which is why she lives on Harmony Street.
MEANWHILE the country and the community are divided about their relationship with their neighbours Britain is fighting wars of words with Europe and local people are more and more living separate lives. There are young people within our tribe drinking on the rocks, breaking bottles, making noise late into the night and spray-painting graffiti.
ARCHIE (“GRAFFITI BOY”) is an orphan, he is angry at the world in general. He doesn’t know what to do with anger,
ARCHIE WANTS his parents back. No one understands. He needs to be heard, but doesn’t have the words. Words are useless.
MEANWHILE He recently found a box of spray paints in his dead grandfather’s shed - he’s making his mark with them. He’s making them on the rocks that his Grandma loves so much. He knows it’s working, he hears the grown ups talking angrily about “Graffiti Boy’ it makes him feel proud like he’s a super hero. No-one knows he’s graffiti boy.
MR WOODCOCK has lived a long time. He is the archetypical Grumpy old man. He lives frugally. He lives off the common. He gathers wood and knows all the edible plants. He keeps himself to himself mostly. He’s against everything. He’s against people, cars, politicians, kids. Outsiders, change, graffiti, loud music, dog shit, cats, The Protect the Rocks Committee, electric street lights.
MR WOODCOCK WANTS to be left alone.
MEANWHILE: There’s the people, cars, politicians, kids. Outsiders, change, graffiti, loud music, dog shit, cats, The Protect the Rocks Committee, and electric street lights
SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WE WANTED TO KNOW TO MOVE US FROM MEETING THE HEROES TO CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.
How do the audience meet our heroes?
What do the audience need to know about them at this point?
How do we let the audience know what they need to know?
What are the Heroes flaws?
How do we put the Heroes in the right place at the right to to cross the threshold?
Who are we likely to meet on their way to and at the threshold??
Is SOPHIA our MENTOR and MATILDA our HERALD?
What is the first?
Is there a Guardian of the Threshold and is s/he an ally an enemy?
Is their any resistance from the Heroes to cross the threshold?
Who resists and how/ why do they go through?
WHAT WE DID IN THE WORKSHOP
The notes from this workshop will be translated into a draft scene. Below are pictures drawn by Scott of the improvised scene. Matilda writing on protest boards; Archie preparing to spray graffiti on the rocks; Matilda, Mr Woodcock and Sophia confront the Guardian.
April 2nd 2019 our devising workshop focused on a form for developing a plot line. This is somewhat in advance of the 'Composition workshops when we select and shape devised moments into a play. Right now we are still in the devising frame of mind but it's useful for people to know the process of composition because I think it will help them identify what might be most useful to remember from our devising sessions. I'm asking people now to make drawings or some other forms of aide memoir of 'moments' in the devising workshops that most captured their attention. A drawing with a title is the most useful and immediate. These then might help compose a storyboard later on.
"The Hero's Journey' is a helpful guide to finding characters and developing a plot. Joseph Campbell presented the original concept in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Christopher Vogler has since both simplified and provided new insights in his book “The Writer’s Journey’. A memo he wrote about the form when he was working for Disney studios spread throughout Hollywood and has been hugely influential with such as George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg. It’s really a description of the elements that exist in every story ever told. It not intended as a formula and we shouldn’t use it as such but it does name elements of a story and archetypes that will be of use to us.
Want More on The Hero's Journey?
Watch the short above or try this other You Tube Link below to a little film with some interesting viewpoints, illustrated throughout by a group of Children.
LEGENDS OF THE ROCKS & WHAT WE KNOW
The Hero's Journey is one that takes us from the Known World, our everyday life into the Unknown world, in our case the world of the Stone People. In this narrative model this is what we know about the The Ordinary World (1) and what is beyond in the Unknown World when we Cross the Threshold (5) :
The Ordinary World- What we Know (1)
Time and Location of our story: Today 2019 Toad Rock, Denny Bottom, Rusthall; possibly also Bulls Hollow or Apsley Street.
The area was once the bottom of a freshwater Lake.
Nigel Stapple believes the area around Toad Rock is a prehistoric ritual site. There has been a cluster of Mesolithic finds. Mesolithic people lived 6000 to 8000 years ago. Springs and water were venerated at that time and Nigel believes the site was so venerated. He believes there is a stone circle directly behind Toad Rock; In 1900 the stone circle existed on maps. The stone circle may well have been a barrow not necessarily for people but possibly for buildings. There is also a passageway behind Toad Rock where there are 2 levels of erosion one possibly caused by bare feet and sandals and the other by modern day harder shoes form the 1800’s onwards. There may also be a semi stone circle below Toad Rock; it’s so large it can only be seen from above. Nigel thinks man may well have helped formed The Toad as it is so different from any other natural rock formations. Rusthall was originally called Hungershall. Medieval quarrying involved splitting stones for stone circles etc. There is no evidence of modern quarrying. Demand for stone started in 1650’s. Qualified archaeologists have overlooked the site. Wellington rocks were heavily quarried in the 1800s so the hotels on Mount Ephraim would have a better view.
The New World -What we know (6)
Stone people are born as stone and over time they become flesh. The stone people have to go to ‘birthing places’ (areas of exposed rock) to find their children. Stone people can be born in rivers and oceans when they will reawaken as water creatures. Sometimes they will be dug out trees that grow out of the rocks. Toad Rock is a sacred ‘birth place’ that was once covered by a fresh water Lake and many years ago the stone people were born as water creatures, fish, newts and frogs, until the lake dried up. The Toad is an ancient God of the stone people and a symbol of their past lives.
Women are obliged to dig for babies, “they’re waiting for us”. Their mothers are destined to find them; they know and recognise their own baby. Families might consult ‘Finders’ who sense where the mother should dig for her child in dousing and birthing ceremonies when the ‘Finders encircle the mother holding long dousing rods they beat ground and do ritual passing of the rods. Children and parents are destined to find each other. When they Stone people die they become stone and return to the earth retaining their knowledge and memory of past lives.
When the woman digs for a child she might accidentally split it so she then has to give it back to the earth where it reforms over several years. Stone people have a time when they must return to the ground, they are reluctant to go back as they remember what they call “the long wait”. They return to earth to absorb the collective knowledge of all the rocks. The earth is therefor imbued with intelligence, knowledge and wisdom far greater than our own
When rocks return or reawaken after the long wait they will have changed form, and come back as sparrows, animals, men or women. Stone people always return older and wiser than in their previous lives, they only age underground. In their final return, as toads, they are the eldest they will ever be. Toads are the highest order because they are returned heroes prepared to sacrifice themselves for the Tribe. They are therefor sacred - a life to be diligently protected. The death of a toad is a warning that life on earth is under threat, that the world is poisoned.
The Stone People live in a different dimension to us, they inhabit the same ground but beneath us. When we bury our dead we place them closer to the dimension the stone people live in. They lie there sleeping and the Stone Women tend them. We are oblivious to the stone people but to them we are dark shadows and our actions are impinging on their world.
When the Quarrymen of our world started removing stone they removed many of the Stone People’s ancestors. The stones the quarrymen took were used for building Tunbridge Wells so many stone ancestors lay trapped in the building.
And then the Toad Stone* was taken. Since which time the no stone person has been reborn and they are fast diminishing in numbers.
Among the recorded Victorian names of rocks is The Bloodstain, known to other sources as the Bleeding Rock. It is generally understood as a spot where dripping water left an iron stain, but no site fitting this description can be pointed out today. It needs to be found. It could mark the place where the stone people’s spiritual leader was split.
Another fact: From ancient times people associated the fossils with jewels that were set inside the heads of toads. The toad has poison glands in its skin, so it was naturally assumed that they carried their own antidote and that this took the form of a magical stone. They were first recorded by Pliny the Elder in the first century.
Could it be one and the same stone?
Many of the leaders followers wear a mallet round their necks in memory of he who took the stone. The Stone Tribe pays annual homage to the Toad Rock on the middle day of they year. He is their greatest hero about whom many stories of bravery are told of his previous lives.
If the bloodstone was returned, perhaps it may reawaken the stone people and if the fleshlings were to revive their long lost ritual of dressing the Toad and talking to the rocks perhaps the stones may share their wisdom, and by listening to the earth we might save it.
We have started learning how the stone people talk to each other
WHO IS OUR HERO?
One of many questions we may want to ask is who are contenders to seek adventure and travel to the world of the Stone people? And for why or for what do they seek? Please discuss. Better still come to our next Devising Session