Practical at Purple Haze with Lynn
Finally having the full and complete script of ‘The Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel’ we quickly read through it and saw through any mistakes that there were. Even though complete, there were still a few mistakes to correct like: brother is #2 and sister is #1 but they had been switched later on in the script, or where it says that mother says “Mother!” where it is clearly one of the siblings. I have researched what names we could use for the three siblings and for the first two siblings i suggested: Joey and Chloe, Bill and Jill or Holly and Wally. For the third sibling I suggested: Jacqueline, Philomena and some other name that I can’t currently remember. In the end everyone decided that Chloe, Joey and Philomena were the best ones; I agree. We decided to see how we do if we just ran through the script while performing. I was incredibly confused and lost at the beginning but got more and more into character and things got easier. I’m happy with the blocking that we did; I think most of the blocking is done as well. If we all knew our lines we would now have an actual performance… except without the props; we also need the props. I think making the donkey poo pennies and laying the table will be the hardest parts. But we still have a few more days to make sure everything is done so I think we’re fine, except for the fact that we will have to carry all the props with us and I don’t know if we will be able to.
Our character work started off with us lying on the floor and relaxing every muscle that we had completely. That is the first level of tension. Afterwards we had to contract every muscle in our body but very, very slightly so that we reached the second level of tension. The third level of tension involved us getting up to our knees with as little effort and muscle movement as possible. As we stood up and started to walk around we were in the fourth level of tension. Moving as if we might miss the bus is the fifth level. Having to find a bomb that might go off is the sixth level of tension. And finally the seventh and last level of tension has us in a completely tense body. So tense that we can’t even move.
The 7 Levels of Tension:
Exhausted or catatonic. The Jellyfish. There is no tension in the body at all. Begin in a complete state of relaxation. If you have to move or speak, it is a real effort. See what happens when you try to speak.
Laid back – the “Californian” (soap opera). Many people live at this level of tension. Everything you say is cool, relaxed, probably lacking in credibility. The casual throw-away line – “I think I’ll go to bed now”.
Neutral or the “Economic” (contemporary dance). It is what it is. There is nothing more, nothing less. The right amount. No past or future. You are totally present and aware. It is the state of tension before something happens. Think of a cat sitting comfortably on a wall, ready to leap up if a bird comes near. You move with no story behind your movement.
Alert or Curious (farce). Look at things. Sit down. Stand up. Indecision. Think M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) or Mr Bean. Levels 1 – 4 are our everyday states.
Suspense or the Reactive (19th century melodrama). Is there a bomb in the room? The crisis is about to happen. All the tension is in the body, concentrated between the eyes. An inbreath. There’s a delay to your reaction. The body reacts. John Cleese.
Passionate (opera). There is a bomb in the room. The tension has exploded out of the body. Anger, fear, hilarity, despair. It’s difficult to control. You walk into a room and there is a lion sitting there. There is a snake in the shower.
Tragic (end of King Lear when Lear is holding Cordelia in his arms). The bomb is about to go off! Body can’t move. Petrified. The body is solid tension.
Afterwards we walked, sat, talked with other people and just interacted with objects in a few different ways a character could be.
Firstly we were all eager. A character trait that makes us move a bit quickly and a bit excitingly. I would say this is about the fifth level of tension. Then we had to switch into a lethargic person which was really hard because having to go from a level five to about a two is a complete change in pace; moving about as if you’re asked to do a task and will but just woke up and really don’t want to. Then a bold and brave person walk through the room. The room was filled with confidence as we all started walking quickly and almost like the eager one except instead of walking slightly unsurely and maybe looking for something, it was as if we had a purpose – this was about a level 5 or 6 in tension. Finally how would a stupid or dumb person move and act? He would, in my opinion, spend a lot of time doing things that we do instantly and asking questions that we know the answer is obvious, maybe almost childlike. It’s about a level 3 in tension but feels like a 2.
After knowing more or less how characters move when they have what traits and knowing the levels of tension we decided to apply that to our characters from ‘The Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel’. The three siblings we decided that Chloe and Joey would move quite normally maybe a level 3 while Philomena would move in a 4 or even 5. The goat would move in a level 5 at least but more like a level 6 because she is just so energetic and playful. One of the donkeys, the magic one, is like a typical donkey that would move in a level 3 of tension while the other donkey, who is just a regular donkey that’s actually quite uninterested in everything would move more like a level 2. To finish up just a few of the characters we had the people from around the world show us how they would move. Ryan, the American, would move in a level 5. Justin, the Australian, would move in a level 5 or 4. Mia, the Indian, would move in a level 2 because she is very Zen. Ines, the Spanish dancer would move like a 6 nearly even a 7 because of how serious they look when they dance.
Overall this was one of the most productive character lessons we’ve had so far in my opinion I’ve learned a whole lot about how tension can define a character and I will surely apply this whenever appropriate.