A Trip to Mars
Our first step after finding out what we were doing as an acting group was to find a plot taking as inspiration Jurassic Park and Godzilla with a black and white silent movie twist to it. We gathered into two groups to throw in ideas and then combine ideas from both groups. By the end of the session we had come up with a plot draft:
5 explorers and their robot step down from their space ship. They encounter some strange creatures who, at an unheard signal, all scamper away in fear, pointing offstage and miming a spider. The group finds some cobwebs with regular sized spiders of which they are not afraid. Then, the legs of a massive monster spider appear and capture a couple of the company. The robot saves the rest by distracting, then zapping the spider. The remainder get quickly back into the ship. As the space ship ‘leaves’ the spider twitches back into life.
We had to cast who was going to play what part so with a democratic vote we decided that these would be the roles:
First Lieutenant: Justin Glenister
Captain’s daughter: Mia Hoy
Scientist 1: Jess Bellamy
Scientist 2: Eren Kucukkaramuklu
Robot: Will Rice
Alien 1: Ryan Smith
Alien 2: Ines Gomes
Alein 3: Sabrina Tiberi
Props and design: Thalia Weavers and Liam Swain
For inspiration we watched the original and old trailers of ‘Godzilla’, ‘King Kong’ and the short film ‘A Trip to the Moon’, which we ended up basing most of our piece on.
A lot changed from the initial idea after rehearsing it and planning things out more. Our first progressing step had been developed into this:
Then we changed it again because of staging for the appropriate theatre type and it turned out to be much better:
(Unfortunately it’s not a YouTube link so you’re unable to watch it unless you’re a member of the page)
I was assigned to create the soundtrack that goes along with the piece. A big difficulty arose for me when I found out I won’t have internet until the day before our show.
I managed to make the soundtrack for it even with the problems as I got James to convert songs that I found on YouTube to mp3 and transfer them to my pen. Then by choosing from 9 different music pieces I put together a single backing soundtrack combining 3 of them. First I listened closely to which parts of the music pieces would go best with which parts of the video. While watching the video I played some of the music on the background to see if it’d fit. After a while of cutting songs and shortening them and mixing them together I found that I’d use “Shake That Thing” for most of the video, then “Be My Valentine” for the small spider bit and the big spider appearance, ending it all with the ending of the song “The Limehouse Blues”. I had to do all of this also considering that the video I was timing on didn’t have our robot’s entrance because Will wasn’t present on the day.
Finally being able to rehearse to the soundtrack we found it not too difficult to adapt so that everything would be well timed. Everyone loved the soundtrack and the little bits where we had to time things rested upon us and our responsibility.
As the day of performing approached I realised I still didn’t have any black trousers and black shoes that would fit the period. I did search in Tweed for some but there weren’t any – or if there were I couldn’t find them as that place is a complete mess. I ended up having to buy some myself because the bother of asking people around for some that would fit me and they would have some to spare was too big. Also, having my own ones means they would fit me well and I would have them for next time.
Tech and Dress
The first big problem I had was that I didn’t give the soundtrack in to the production arts team. I had time to do it but I completely forgot. So our tech rehearsal was wasted as it wasn’t rehearsed to the soundtrack. Afterwards I went to transfer the song from my phone to the music usb stick. Unfortunately we could only rehearse this again in the dress rehearsal next day. The dress rehearsal went great but afterwards when we were given feedback we were told to make it much more melodrama-like, which was expected as that’s the kind of feedback we kept on getting.
On both shows we managed to perform it well I think. The only problem was during the first night where a member of the cast left a chair on stage which remained there during our performance. Everyone ignored it though which was the right thing to do and I think some people of the audience might have even thought that it was supposed to be there. Afterwards I took it off stage since no one was assigned to do that, so I took responsibility.
The only last thing I am slightly disappointed about is the ending of this piece which I blame on myself as I don’t think I timed it well enough on either of the performances. I have timed it well about once or twice in rehearsals but unfortunately I couldn’t do it on the night.
A Hopeful Date
I had not watched the movie yet so I decided to watch a few clips of the movie first to be able to work with my partner, Lauren Dunning, as soon as possible.
On our first meetup we struggled to come up with an actual idea for how we would perform this piece because we didn’t want to just recreate exactly as shown in the movie, but also didn’t want it to be a spoof. We wanted something different and so we brainstormed some ideas for what we could do. The most prevalent ones were:
- Switching roles. After some more thought we knew that the phrase ‘I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her’ had to be used because it was so iconic and it doesn’t work as well the other way around.
- Changing the relationship. The possibility of us already being in a relationship came up. Maybe we were in one for a month? Maybe for over a year? Quickly we realised that the way the script is structured we couldn’t have a relationship. We could change the script – and we did for a few things, but this would require drastic changes in script which we thought would drift too far apart from the movie.
- Changing the setting. This is the one that stuck to us the most. We thought about what kind of setting did we want and my suggestion was that it could be in a restaurant as that’s where people would go on a date or when they need to talk to someone. Could have been a coffee shop but I felt the need for something more sophisticated.
We then decided to rewatch the movie so we could have a fresh memory of what happens in it and how to better recreate it.
Starting off with the planning for what would happen in the scene we wanted to go back on the script a few lines so that it would include a third character ‘Martin’, the bookshop assistant to become the waiter in the restaurant.
Having done all the research on the script together on which lines we wanted and which lines we could change, Lauren rewrote all of the things we wanted to use in an organised fashion which we later on altered even further:
At first we thought of using a table and chair exactly like the audience would have to give them a feeling of being part of the restaurant. Unfortunately, after talking with the tutors we discovered there weren’t going to be any extra tables left so we will have to use whatever tables are available for us to use. I am thankful now that we didn’t because neither the chair nor the table that was used for the audience were suitable for our piece. I suggested that the lighting would be a warm restaurant feel and Lauren agreed. We were going to get a background sound of people talking in a restaurant, but I think that would have been too distracting. We staged it in a way that for half the time people would see mostly my face and the other half people would see mostly Lauren’s face.
Only after having all of this done did we start blocking it as if for the actual show. By the time we started we already knew most of our lines and since Will couldn’t be with us Ryan Adams stood in for him which made Will question himself if he was ready enough for the show since we had done it with Ryan but not with Will. We decided to keep Will anyway since he was the one we assigned to do this with.
Lastly a tutor wanted to see what we had done and polish up some of the things. With her help we were able to reposition ourselves on stage for a better audience view and managed to implement an ending which makes people laugh instead of stare at me just sitting at the table alone. It now had me regret saying ‘no to your kind request’ and bang my head on the table while I say ‘damn!’.
Everything was ready but I still wanted a little something to make it feel more like a restaurant. That something were menus. I went to the library and printed out two identical menus that I found on google. Menus however have a certain shine to them and are not just floppy pieces of paper. I thought of gluing coloured cardboard at the back but Alex Ray had a laminating machine which he offered to bring in so I could laminate the menus, and so I did. As a waiter Will is also bringing in a ring notepad and a pen to make things a bit more real for himself.
Tech and Dress
I found a shirt in Tweed that will fit the character perfectly and a tutor said that she could bring a cardigan to match that shirt, which was much appreciated.
During the tech rehearsal the outcome of events was that the table would be set by the previously performing group because if it was either me or Lauren it wouldn’t look appropriate to the scene and Will was already setting up both chairs and the menus, we had to trust on that group to set the table at the right angle.
I can say that this piece went well, but there are always faults that I find and things I’m not happy about myself. What could have been improved was my British accent, for sure. On the time of performing the table was set in a different way both nights which made us have to adapt to it being in a different way all the time and that made for an awkward end of scene every time where me and Lauren would stand at the utmost back of stage, hopefully being seen by some people.
On the second night of performing my voice had become much lower and I was coughing so much. I was able to not cough on stage and hold it in, interestingly I do think my accent was slightly better on this night.
Bond Is Captured
A torture scene had to become a spoof. For some reason it was always referred to as a James Bond torture scene even though that was never mentioned, we did do it in a James Bond style though and immediately cast Justin as Bond.
The first thing that is usually done when a new idea needs to develop is brainstorm things that could make it expand. We decided to brainstorm things that people find annoying because that’s what we’re going to use as torture. With some contribution from tutors and fellow colleagues we got this list:
- Repeating name over and over again
- People talking to you in an annoying voice
- Holiday photo albums
- People trying to sing
- People who have too many cats – crazy cat ladies
- Women and handbags getting in your face all the time
- People paying for things slowly
- Pointless texting
With all of this in mind we gathered the ones we liked most, developed on them a bit and made a rough draft of a plot:
Starting with Justin’s casual day going through his annoying bits: someone showing a photo album forever; odd text messages; stuck in queue at supermarket due to someone taking too long with change. At the end, both torturers come together to actually physically torture the person and he does not react because he’s had worse.
In a session where I had free time I made a draft for our staging and started writing a rough script. That’s how it all begins, with drafts and sketches.
The next times we got together (which was fairly often compared to some other pieces we had to work on due to the three of us being in the same pathway – acting) we made more progress, inevitably. In one session we changed the route the plot was taking which went from straight up trying to be funny torture into a ‘this is actually torture, don’t expect any spoof’. Which also made developing things much easier because the ending now isn’t going to be us actually torturing him because we already did actually torture him. We got new ideas, our personas and their character names, props, some sketches and a completely developed story line:
“Nikolai sits in chair waiting for Bond. Steele brings in Bond tied in a chair. Bond refuses to give in missile codes so Nikolai orders Steele to bring the device. Steele brings in trolley with cloth over album. After album torture, Bond still doesn’t give information so Steele tries the phone torture, which also doesn’t work in the end. So we prepare the final torture which is the lady in queue. Take Dave off and laugh maniacally.”
There was a lot of discussion in order to decide the name of Ines. At first we thought something jewel like would be cool; Diamond or Emerald. With suggestions from the tutor and Ines’s indecisiveness she ended up being: Ocean Steele.
On my free time at home I wrote the speeches for the script following the story and later on in the library wrote it as a proper script and printed it out:
The last part of the script had to be changed because tutors didn’t think it was appropriate and wasn’t as funny as it could be, which I agree with after seeing the change.
Another free session that I had I tried on a suit that a tutor brought in specifically for this scene. It was the perfect type of suit for something like this, it didn’t fit too bad either so that’s what it was going to be. I also wrote down all of the costume, props, lighting and staging that we would have:
A lot of the things written there weren’t exactly as portrayed and some props didn’t see the light of day… like the lamp.
During the week before the show Ines was ill so me and Justin had to decide on a replacement for Ines in case she wasn’t able to be in on time. I vouched for Chloe Sheehan who said she’d do it if Ines wasn’t in but she ended up passing her role on to Crystol who Justin found as a volunteer. I am fine with that but he could’ve asked me before assigning her to be the replacement. In the end we didn’t need one anyway because Ines was in the Friday before show week.
Finally we had an opportunity to run the whole piece with Ines and some props. We had trouble finding a space to rehearse in though because media students were also doing something in some spaces we had to rehearse and other groups occupied other spaces. Once we did find a space to rehearse we nearly knew all our lines and blocked it in a way that was ready for tech rehearsals.
My final obstacle was getting the props that we still didn’t have: Eyepatch, gems and learning how to do scar makeup. In the end, we decided not to use any of those things. We had an eyepatch and we had the scar makeup, but the eyepatch hurt Ines’s eye somehow and the scar makeup wasn’t looking good enough.
Tech and Dress
In tech rehearsal I still didn’t have a real album. Thankfully that day Thalia also helped make real pictures to put into the album that had me edited into the images at the beach and next to a palm tree. Then the next day Justin DID have an album that he could bring in and wasn’t just saying ‘yeah, I’ll bring it in’. He could have brought it in earlier but the dress rehearsal went fine with the newly made album.
I had a tie to go with that extravagant suit but wasn’t sure on whether to use it or not.
I ended up choosing to not wear glasses, or contacts for that matter as I realised my eyes got too tired and it was a bit too bothersome to wear them for the show. So yes, I did see kind of blurry during the performances but it’s alright because I didn’t really need to see that well for any of my performances anyway and for ‘A Hopeful Date’ I had glasses on. I also chose not to wear the tie in the end because wearing it made me look too formal, instead I was looking for more of a ‘this is my casual wear’ suit. And I think I captured that pretty well.
Justin in the end wasn’t tied to the chair either which made things a lot easier for us in terms of moving into the backstage.
The first show went really well I thought but after the feedback that was given to us the line “paying only in clubcard vouchers at tesco’s” could have the word “tesco’s” removed or put before “only in clubcard vouchers” to make it even funnier.
The second show however, even though improved, I think, it had me in my completely wrecked voice. Which for some people who didn’t know me probably made it better because the voice sounded more evil in a way.
Million Dollar Baby
Katie and Becca were rehearsing this piece when Ryan noticed that they didn’t have a referee. I volunteered to be one and so 5 days from the show I was given a new role. There was no decision making here for me in terms of how the piece would go because I wasn’t supposed to be in it even. All I do is introduce them and roam around the ring being a referee. I was slightly worried for the costume as I don’t have any black and white shirts but having looked into what the piece was about I saw that the person who was a referee was actually just wearing a white shirt with a bow tie which is perfect as that’s very similar to what I’m wearing for the piece I am in after.
Tech and Dress
A troublesome dress rehearsal because they didn’t really know their dance all that well but thankfully for me I just needed to interfere in the moments that I was meant to.
For some reason this was the scariest piece to perform. I was shouting to introduce them and I was the first word, there was no queue for me to start talking either. Lights are on and as I walk from the chair that I set up into the middle of the stage everyone awaits me to speak. Frightening to think that the second night my voice was complete garbage by the end. Thankfully it was still somewhat usable at the beginning of the show, which is when this is performed.
The second night of this performance was also much, much better because after the dancers got feedback and rehearsed it with a tutor on the next day we managed to improve it so much, I think. Not only in terms of dance but in terms of timing and stage managing as well.
Shaun of the Dead
This was a piece that I was asked to perform in as a replacement for Tom Foulger. I would have performed this if he hadn’t come back just in time to learn the things they had changed in rehearsals with me. I did know this piece as if I was in it though. I could have performed it at any moment.
At first this was a great idea but unfortunately we only had about one week to work on it which wasn’t enough time to organize things and coordenate all of the movements. So it was dismissed. However it was nice working on it anyway, it is sad that we lost quite a lot of time rehearsing it but it was an experience.
To organise the amount of people that were in this into a story telling movement piece with coordinated movements and a good enough flow for a show, one week is not enough. There were a lot of disagreements as well because there were people from the three different pathways and everyone liked to work differently.
This was without a doubt the best thing I’ve performed in. I haven’t performed in much, but this was the biggest thing. I had my first tech and dress rehearsals ever with the making of this show.
I think the staging worked perfectly. We could have done it the boring proscenium arch way but that’s a type of stage that doesn’t make people feel included in the slightest. A cabaret style variety show with this kind of stage is in my opinion the most efficient. A variety show is the best way to give everyone a chance as well. I felt like the main character in most of my pieces, probably because I also had a lot of responsibility for putting the piece together so it could work so when I actually performed it it felt like saying “look what I did!” There is always something someone will enjoy with variety shows too, I think they’re great. If you don’t like dancing, then there are so many other things for you, there’s bound to be at least one thing everyone will like.
This commission was extremely enjoyable. Not only did I feel like the main character, I got to play so many different roles. I got to feel myself change with every costume change that I did multiple times and I got to feel that character as a major influence on the performance.
I do think a lot of the people who were new to this kind of thing, like me, were too nervous and stressed. Some people had this as their first show performance ever and coping with getting something wrong is stressful for them. I can understand that, but having done improvisation and having had some experience in that I felt like I could deal with any situation that went wrong – like the chair that got left on stage. I knew someone had to take it or else the next act would also have it on there, so I just did it.
There is much to be learned from a show like this, it’s experience and that’s never wasted. Time managing and organisation is the most important thing when it comes to projects with little time to put together. It’s not easy to find all the people you need and gather them in one place, there is always that one person who’s missing but with dedication and patience you can still get things done.
I now know that costume changes aren’t that scary unless they’re extremely quick, and even then there is always a way to manage it. I have learned that when it comes to the actual show people find ways to cope with anything, they find ways to make things happen because you don’t want to be the person that ruins the show for your audience.
Finally I want to say that working with people from other pathways is a pleasure. Even when it becomes chaotic when there are too many people and too many minds set to do one thing the way that they want, it’s still enjoyable when the fun parts come around. I have become closer to some people who I wouldn’t have had that much of a chance to interact so personally. If you give people a project and a deadline it will make them interact and socialise to each other even if they have not talked before because that’s what the task requires them to do in order to complete it. It’ll make them speak about the project, it’ll make them speak about when they can meet and what’s stopping them. You’ll get to know more about that person and that person will get to know more about you and what you’re capable of. You will make new social links, new friends, new memories – and if you already were friends, well, your friendship just became a lot more special.