A Beasts’ Eye View
A Beasts’ Eye View
by Owen Liggett
Vince – “So it’s really exciting. It’s a Latex body suit that has three heads and three actors inside. It moves crazily… like… like… the snakes on medusa’s head. The audience is going to be able to see the soul of the trapped prince trying to claw his way out of Beast’s skin.”
Me – “Right. Ok. (another, longer, pause) Wow. Erm… How are the actors going to be able to walk in this… suit?”
Vince – “No idea. They’ll figure it out.”
Me- “Do you think there’s a possibility they might just fall over? I mean, six legs might get a bit confusing, no? I mean, I have seen professional actors complain about just having uncomfortable shoes.”
Vince – “Well, we’ll see I guess. I’m sure they’ll manage.”
And so they did… not only did they manage, but they actually brought to life one of the most bizarre, and physically demanding costumes I have ever come across. Clearly Vincent Warren, director Lawrence Boswell’s Beauty and The Beast, had a lot of very well placed faith in his students.
It is no mean feat for a Youth Theatre Company to work as an ensemble, and undertake a script that was originally written for the professional actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). But to see them go further and take ownership of their performance, have the confidence to make their own personal artistic choices, and create vibrant, dynamic characters, was truly quite astonishing.
An important focus within this production was choral work, and an inspiration for this was the traditional Ancient Greek Choral style. This style works primarily with the idea that no one is independent and singular, and that the construction of an image is developed through group choral collaboration. This concept draws upon three aspects of performance; acting, movement, and voice. This assisted in the direction of many scenes in the performance, including ‘Journey to the Countryside,’ where the ensemble creates the illusion of a working, moving wagon, and even the imitation of a fall from the vehicle caused by a bump in the road, and ‘The Rose Bush,’ a scene depicting malicious shrub enchanted to ensnare all those who try to pluck a rose from it.
Another aspect of the performance was its use of music and voice. Vocally we challenged the company to think about how their voices could be combined as an ensemble, and in turn, how harmonies could be employed as means to add dramatic tension to a particular scene. The entire company worked very hard to bring out these moments in many points in the play, including the ‘Locket’ song and ‘Over Land, Over Sea.’ This enabled the company to challenge themselves and engage with the contextual and dramaturgical meaning of a scene through the use of music and voice.
Furthermore, with a story like Beauty and the Beast, that is so universally familiar, it is imperative that the story was told afresh and with renewed energy. The cast had to put their own stamp on a very old tale, and their characters had to be portrayed with as much clarity as the colourful illustrations that we can see when opening a storybook. Through the development of an elevated state of naturalistic expression in the rehearsal process we encouraged the company to be as expressive and as lively as possible. If you take a look at the picture below, you can see an example of how they were able to elevate facial and gestural expressions in order to compose a collaborative image of strange and quirky emotions.
The physical elements of the performance were co-designed by Rebecca Wong and Jonathan Daly. Due to the abstract nature of the piece, there were many scenes that called for the use of physical theatre as a medium of expression to convey the action within a scene. A particular moment of physical theatre was the Father’s Horse scene, which depicted the long sojourn of Beauty’s father, Jean Louis, across Europe. In this scene the chorus worked together to construct the horse, mountains, assailant wolves, and even a galley!
An important focus of the choreography was to retain the abstract qualities of the depicted images, as oppose to an attempt to realise them literally. For instance, rather than having the performers form an image of the shape of a horse, we looked at how an abstract depiction of a horse can be conveyed by embodying the movements of the animal, and incorporating this into a set physical score.
“Adam joined DSHK in September 2016, and it’s amazing for us to see how much he has grown in both drama skills, and stage confidence over the last year and a half. Adam has participated in three performances so far, and each time he has enjoyed the experience of learning, growth, and facing challenges with the other DSHK members. All these learning opportunities and skills are invaluable, and so are the happy memories that these experiences have brought. Thanks to all members of DSHK!” Said one happy parent, and we look forward to hearing from many more.
GET IN ON THE ACTION!
Auditions to join DSHK Company will be held on the 6th of January.
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Edited by Jan Brink and Jonathan Daly