From early January it was all steam ahead to start to make our shows for the Gala in March. Over the Christmas break, the team had come together with all of the ideas and material the young people generated and began to piece it all together. There was already some really impressive stuff, so it wasn’t difficult to put it all into a skeleton ‘script’ for us to follow once we got into rehearsals.
With so much great material, one of the biggest challenges was making sure that everyone gets their fair share of stage time and that their ideas are included as much as possible. In the past we spent the first two weeks doing an audition workshop and then auditions for the characters in the shows, however, this year, because everyone created their own characters that we used as a basis for our stories, there was no need… however, that also meant that sometimes the character had to change a bit to make sure it fit in with the story. One thing that is so brilliant about our members is their openness to doing things differently, and that they genuinely care whether everyone is happy. This means that they are really good at making compromises, including each other and being generous with each other. For some this meant playing a different character to the one they had developed, or having their character made into a pair of characters, or suddenly being really mean when once they were nice (or visa versa!).
Although, sometimes, good teamwork, just means that everyone gets involved – even the other tutors (they didn’t stay for the push-ups though!)
Enhancing Creative Skills
After our research and development (aka R&D) in the Autumn we had come up with a solid framework for our stories. This meant that our challenge then became about filling in the gaps: i.e. the scenes, what is said and what actually happens moment to moment. All of our members have had some experience of improvising scenarios, so this part came fairly naturally to many, however what is more of a challenge is to make the scenes have clear structure that feeds into the story. This is much harder!
Our Senior members, worked in a particular way to help solve this. Their show, Trails of the Paragons followed the lives of three young women, the characters having been developed through a group activity called ‘Role on the Wall’.
These three stories were divided roughly into three main scenes each: beginning, middle and end. Because we had co-created the characters and loosely plotted things going on in their lives in the Autumn, we were all able to share the job of devising the actual scenes for the show. Each week, three groups of actors and a director (members decided for themselves who would be the director each time), would take on one section of each character’s story. Using the skeleton script as a guide, they would make their scene roughly, come back with the whole group and share the ‘work-in-progress’. The group would then give their feedback and ideas for things to develop. The different scenes would then be rehearsed again to incorporate the new notes. These groups rotated each week to explore different character stories. This meant that in the end everyone knew all the stories and had contributed to the entire piece.
This made our rehearsals later in the process so much quicker! Once it was established who would play what, we were able to jump in and take up the scenes, finesse, give direction, polish… and add our more ‘theatrical’ unifying narrative in – the Paragons, who are half God, half Human and play a hand in the fates of the human characters on earth.
By the time we got to putting our songs and choreography into the scenes, we all knew really well what was going on and felt really confident in our characters and that their narratives all made sense.
This year’s gala, instead of being in a West End Venue, was at the Sarah Siddons Theatre at City of Westminster college – as lovely as it is to be in a West End theatre, what was brilliant about this year, was that we could have bits of set for our shows and had a tech day to spend plotting the lighting which was such a privildge. Usually in the past we had been working on another company’s set so we had just had to make the best of it withough moving or changing anything – having more production elements made such a difference!
Everyone was nervous, but they needn’t have been – they did a fantastic job! Our audience feedback says it all:
“Really impressive especially because they wrote the script themselves!”
“Fun and interesting for big and small. We wanted more because we loved it.”
“It was very creative and inspirational!”
“This was a very inventive production. The very young children charmed the audience with their creativity.”
“My 1st time enjoyed it very much. I’m coming back again. They all did a great job!!!”
“It was very good as it helps the kids to get confidence as well as keeps them from mischief.”
“What an amazing experience – such fantastic performances – speechless. This work must continue.”
And of course there must be photos! (Many thanks to the brilliant Greg Veit Photography)