Our ext for this term was a play called “Blood Brothers” written by Willy Russell and set in Liverpool. I knew the story beforehand and so had an overview of the story and characters. Before we started to read the script we did a rainstorm about Blood Brothers to put together what we knew. After reading the script through in class I realised there was a lot about the show that I don’t know, my first impression was that the play was very true to the modern day society in terms of class and the judgement of character and the stereotypical perceptions of people.
I though Willy Russell managed to write a really good story which had a good story line but showed some down to earth truths about society and the families of that era. My favourite part of the script was the kid’s game; I liked it immediately by just the words because I felt it really portrayed the immaturity and energy of young and carefree children. This is shown when Linda makes up the excuse of the bullet being ‘stopped by the bin lid’; this highlights the quick thinking excuse that children are able to come up with to avoid losing a game.
In my opinion Willy Russell is a great writer because he is able to convey a lot of depth and meaning to the words he writes without making them blindingly obvious. Overall I find “Blood Brothers” a great script because the plot is deep and tense by also incredibly touching to the audience. We also went to se “Blood Brothers” stage show at The Phoenix Theatre in London, and was performed by the Ambassador Theatrical Company. My first reaction to the theatre was that it was really small but also really cosy and welcoming.
The colour theme win the theatre was deep red velvet which immediately made me think of suspense and drama and this was enhanced by the eerie red lighting cast on the gauze. I also liked the fact that the audience formed the fourth wall which was occasionally broken by the actors as it made me feel that the characters re interacting with the other characters and you. I thought that the set worked very well, because although you can see graffiti in Mrs Lyons room but it doesn’t matter because you know that it’s not representing a real house.
This makes the set minimalist but very effective, I also liked the fact that there is an off-world set such as Mickey’s house and the field in the countryside. An initial thought that came to me was that it was difficult t see emotion clearly on the characters face when sitting in the dress ring. Set: The first stimulus that was used in preparation for Blood Brothers was a self made drama piece about fate and destiny. My initial response to this was anxiousness because Fate and Destiny seemed like a very wide subject however we started to plan it out with a brainstorm of general ideas.
We chose the idea of a tour around a castle with an archaeologist wanting to steal the stone tablet of King Arthur. We brainstormed the idea further: Brainstorm: While devising the script I was conscious that the subject was very much like “Blood Brothers” with the running theme of fate. To create the characters we used thought tracking and a bit of hot seating to discover why our characters were there, this helped us create a deeper understanding of our characters which in turn enabled us to give a truer performance.
The thought tracking was used at moments when our group got stuck in devising our piece, by using this technique we were able to analyse what our characters might be doing according to personality traits. For example, as a group we couldn’t work out how my character and the archaeologist were connected within the story and by reviewing both our characters and discussing as a group we were able to create the connection.
We asked questions such as ‘What is the archaeologist doing there? ‘, ‘Why am I there? ”, and ‘How do we know each other? I personally created my character by going through situations and circumstances that my character could be presented with and what her reactions would be. What would she do if the archaeologist asked for the Tablet, which character would she confide in? I think all of these techniques helped our group to develop our characters because we could get used to the acting with the suspicion of fate and how it affects the story. From his stimulus I learnt that introducing fate into a story increases the audiences need for answers because there are different views on fate and destiny and whether it is true.
We staged our piece of drama in a natural approach however we added a comic twist to keep the drama light. To do this Jacobs character was quite goofy and over exaggerated, he showed this by deepening his voice and walking duck footed. We used a sound collage to add variety to our drama and to build suspense. We used sounds such as eerie whines and blowing winds to create a feeling of a haunted mansion that is spooky. We used physical theatre to actually create the tower that the stone tablet was in. We used this to help the audience visualise the scenery and to recognise that the setting is in a tower.
We used chairs t create height in the tower and our bodies made the wall, by arching our hands we could show the dome of the arch. This circle shape tower helped us in our acting because we could use the tight space t our advantage. My character and the duchess trap the archaeologist in the tower; the acting was made more believable because Jacob really was in a confined space. Without a real enclosed space Jacob would have to pretend being trapped which could seem unrealistic. All these techniques contributed towards the effectiveness of the drama.
Our second task was to create an alternative beginning to the “Blood Brothers” script. At first I thought it would be very easy because we had something to work with; however I found it quite challenging because it was hard not to use ideas from the show in London. We wanted to keep parts of it the same to keep the feeling of the show; however we wanted to change some bits to improve it. For example, we wanted Mrs Johnston to face forwards than backwards so the audience can see the emotion in her face when the narrator is telling the story about the two brothers.
We also had the chorus run on from upstage left during the song because we felt that the beginning of the song was too emotional and it was not right to have he stage filled with chorus actors because it would spoil the scene being created by the song. The narrator sat at the front of the stage just in front of the fourth wall line to give the audience the feeing that the narrator is also watching the show rather than being in it. He sat very casually with one leg drawn up and the other hanging down over the front of the stage. This gives an impersonal feel and indicates the narrator is not a character in the show.
Once he crossed the fourth wall line he entered the story and was no longer watching it, he was in it. In the show Willy Russell staged the narrator standing up and Mrs Johnstone facing backwards, I think this was used by Russell to show that the Narrator is telling the story. The fact that Mrs Johnstone is facing backwards could indicate that she is in denial about something or is ashamed to face forwards. We can interpret the cause of this by the characters and props on stage, for example there were two bodies o stage at the beginning of the show. The audience can link the bodies to the grief of Mrs Johnstone.
I felt this was a good stimulus because it showed us that by changing the tinyest detail the scene can take on a whole new meaning. It also made me realise how well thought out the show actually is. Set: The third stimulus was an enactment of the “Our Sammy” monologue; this helped me to remember what it was like to act like a child and their immaturity. This was helpful because I sometimes forget the minor details that make the acting more believable. We tried to emphasize the line “But I’m not I’m nearly eight! ‘ by saying the line as a chorus and increasing the tone of our voice.
We did this because the poem is centred on the fact that Mickey wants to do the things that Sammy does. We drew importance to the line by stressing the word ‘not’ and ‘nearly’ because they both suggest it is unfair and mean for him to be left out because he is only seven. We felt that this stimulus was effective because it showed the relationship between rival siblings and younger ones idolising older brothers and sisters. As a group, three of us played Mickey and Jacob played Sammy, by using three of us to pay Mickey we could alternate lines and say the line “But I’m not I’m nearly eight! in chorus to emphasize it.
We used a louder voice and whined while we said the lie to imitate a child whining at their mother because they feel it is unfair. We used physical theatre to portray the line ‘without arms, or legs or even heads’, we decided to use physical theatre to vary the acting in the monologue. By physically removing the arms, legs and head of the woman it can show the immaturity of Sammy and his fascination with drawing ‘nudey’ women. To create the physical theatre we had to think of ways to safely lift up Bee without hurting her or us as well as her being able to lift her legs up.
We decided the best way to lift up Bee was to link our arms under hers and behind her back, that way she could be supported fully and have enough room to bend her legs. We wanted to actually remove her legs because we thought that elaborating the monologue is a childlike thing to do. It also helped the audience to join in with the children’s sense of fun and immaturity. We were also able to do this by exaggerating the spitting movements; to really exaggerate this Jacob pretended to prepare to spit but in a large manor.
He pulled his arms back and stuck out his chest as he prepared to spit and threw himself forwards with a lunge when he spat at me. This showed the behaviour you would expect of a small child and by doing this the immaturity of Sammy and Mickey really showed through. The last stimulus was to make three tableaux of the Johnstone and Lyons family, we already knew the general behaviour and activities the two families would do and so we just had to elaborate on that existing knowledge. As a group we decided that we wanted the three scenes to show the same activity between the two families, it would enable us to compare the two families.
Our first tableau showed ‘family play time’, for the Johnstone the children were playing and fighting outside and Mrs Johnstone was scolding one of the children but not in a serious way. Some children are playing shooting games by using their hands to make toy guns and using imaginative shooting poses such as standing on one leg and shooting underneath their second, this captures the essence of youthfulness and imagination. We decided that Mrs Johnstone wasn’t really telling them off because she found their silly games quite amusing; to show this we made Mrs Johnstone stand with her arms crossed and leaning in one hip.
This stance showed that in a different situation Mrs Johnstone could be very angry with her children however her facial expression changed the interpretation of the scene. She was smirking slightly in mock anger at her children which shows she is a laid back mother. On the other end of the spectrum there is the Lyons family who are very proper and socially correct their family time is reading books together. We chose this activity because it is deemed socially acceptable as a past time, Mrs Lyons is reading to Edward from the sofa and Mr Lyons is reading the newspaper.
We wanted to show Mr Lyons as a professional business man, we did this by him sitting in an armchair with his leg crossed over the top of one another to show masculinity. The second tableau depicted a family meal time and like before the two families are extremely different, the Lyons are eating politely with correct cutlery and civil manners. To show this we arranged the chairs in a neat order and directed the actors to sit with their legs still, their arms tucked by their sides and miming holing their cutlery in the correct fashion.
All this helps create the impression of upper class society. The Johnstone family are the complete opposite of the Lyons, we used body positions such as throwing food and talking with their mouth full to show bad manners at the dinner table. We mimed throwing food in an exaggerated form to show the silliness of children. This shows the audience they are uncivilised children whose mother has not raised them properly because of her class. Although this may not be necessarily true we felt that this was the social message that Russell was trying to get across.