Dramaturgical Analysis of the Final Performance

‘As It Appears In Dreams’ was built upon the essences, emotions, and narratives of the core characters of Chekov’s ‘The Seagull’ in an exploration of artistic identity. The performance, existing within what we as the creators felt to be an ‘artistic purgatory’, raises a core question of what it means to be an artist, allowing the audience to experience such questionings in a state of immersion that presents a particular character’s perspective. For this reason no two experiences, or ‘journeys’, will provide the same audience experience, and in turn each journey deserves its own dramaturgical analysis, as well as an overarching one. For this reason this analysis is divided between a brief overall dramaturgical analysis and a more detailed, specific one for the ‘Trigorin Experience’, the aspect of the performance I created.

Overall Analysis

The performance, due to the projects prescribed limitations – its occurrence in Regent’s Park, its sound basis, the element of gig-theatre – meant that an overall cohesion occurred. However each journey was designed so neatly with the specifics of the character who informed it, that each bore traits entirely of its own. In turn, to discuss the dramaturgy of the piece it seems clear to highlight the measures taken to inform a continuous experience between each journey and the finale.

Aesthetically the finale took on aspects of various performances, such as the red boats from the Trigorin experience, and the bottles from the Masha experience. The key continuation however was found in the undertaking of character essences by members of the finale, this being in some cases clearer and smoother than others. The passing over of the underskirt between the Arkadina Experience and the Arkadina embodied in the finale (Celeste Combes) creating a linear structure within their piece that their audience observed, so they could follow the metamorphosis of the traits of the character they had embodied or followed. Moreover, the essence of Masha (Audree Barve) was almost guarded by the members of the Masha experience, who stayed close to her bar, and undertook tasks of serving drinks alongside their counterpart. Some crossovers were more subtle, such as between the two Konstantin’s, one who held the space and the other who controlled it as their production (Reka Pavel and Matt Powell respectively); others were without are clear connection, but this could arguably be a portrait of the dreamlike quality of much of the experience; because as an audience you only participated in one piece, aspects of the finale were totally unexplained, much like parts of dreams that appear nonsensical or totally irrelevant.

In interpreting other dramaturgical decisions made within the finale it feels difficult to speak of them, as much of the piece I was not party to, and did not have a hand in making, and so am not at liberty to discuss.

 

Trigorin Experience Analysis

It seems somewhat ironic the depth and magnitude of our piece and all its layers when so few people experienced it. Nonetheless, our piece held a coherency and consideration I feel greatly proud of, especially dramaturgically.

Firstly, the element of the game and its recurring presence came from an understanding of Trigorin as a man; he thirsts for power over his artistic life which he entirely lacks, and yet he plays with people on a personal level, for no purpose other than to fulfill himself. The game became overarching as well as present on specific levels, and my own role within the piece adopted the persona of the ‘game maker’; in a way Trigorin sometimes appears I was omniscient, always appearing at points of importance for guidance or concern, and then providing the obstruction at the end of the piece, one that puts the audience of the defensive.

The introduction of following Conor within the piece provided the incentive for audience participation; he represents that which is desired, but is just out of reach. For us Conor embodied the lost youth of Trigorin, but in developing the script this became less explicit, leaving interpretation open, so that Conor could embody whatever the specific audience member desired.

We introduced elements into our audio and into the reality of the piece to enforce the ideas of a dreamworld. In the opening of the script reference is made to “having followed him [Conor] into sleep”, while the chessboard used in our piece, presenting only one piece, was to aid in forming an undertone of the eerie and otherworldly. We used various textures in the sound to add to this.

Finally, the use of the origami boats was an indirect reference to Trigorin, as a character who is referenced to spend much time by the lake fishing, within The Seagull. The boats and their close placement to water throughout the journey was a subtle tie to this element of the source text, but also provided a platform for us to add a textual element to, this again being a direct reference to Trigorin’s art. The poem written that was formed on the notes could be read in two ways:

Only traces of me remain
                                             Fading
                                             Fading
                                             Fading
                                                         Into days
                                                        Into lovers limbs and strangers faces
                                                        Into empty pages

Or as follows:

Only traces of me remain
                                 Fading into days
                                 Fading into lovers limbs and strangers faces
                                 Fading into empty pages

This decision to construct a poem in two ways was to give the audience autonomy in how they themselves would write it. Though no reference was made to this during our piece, we made enough notes to ensure the audience could keep them, with the hope they would go and re-read them, finding their own meaning within them. We felt this to be a was to open the question of artistic identity back into reality; to give the audience member themselves tools to form their own piece with its own meanings.

Movement Reflection

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It seems awfully hard to reflect on only movement from this term and the year as a whole, when I feel I’m always moving. It’s ingrained in all I do; I’m not a person who really knows stillness well. If there’s one thing I want to reflect on, before I go into actual detail on the actual movement topics of this assessment, it’s how grateful I am for movement this year. I think my body has always felt a little alien to me, something other. I have fought it for a long time and in so little time I have not only come to terms with it, but found its power. Something I think is quite special.

Very little of my part in the immersive project was movement focused, which was something I really struggled with. Even during the performance week when we hurriedly adopted a process for filling the space in the finale, there was no energy in it. I feel I am a person who works hard even when the work feels stilted or empty, but such last minute planning came a lack of care, at least on my part if not on others. I have come to realize in all my work I like structure, a prescribed period of time, and mutual understanding that these retain their body, and I am aware I need to work on this to better my ability to cope with sudden stresses or changes in the rehearsal process.

So on the note of working with ensemble connection, I didn’t feel that this term. I think we lost a lot of what we were aiming for, for more reasons than anyone cares to admit. But I won’t deny the moments I felt those connections during this term, such as the afternoon of the intimacy workshop, and in other parts of the year. I have come to feel that for all the individuals in our room movement is a place we can find a level playing field; in movement sessions I rarely notice the tensions or natures of the people, only the sensation of gravity and the bodies cooperating with it. So although this term hasn’t truly built the ensemble we hoped for, I think to an extent we partly had it anyway.

Exploring space has been one of my highlights of my growing movement practice. Space, in my mind, is only known through your body and the sensations it produces, and though our piece didn’t incorporate choreographed movement, I spent several mornings in Regent’s Park waiting for Conor and discovering what it feels like to dance, specifically, in an outdoor space. Height and travel become limitless, which as my interest in contemporary broadens, really excites me, and I envision (and hope) some of my work will take place outdoors to further discover how we move in a seemingly limitless space.

Observing and engaging with Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints was a highlight of term two for me, and I really wish we’d had more time on it. Stripping back movement to passage through an arena-like square and then adding in new considerations gave me a new process through which to approach movement-creation. In much of my interest lying in dance stripping back in not always a first approach, but it really allowed me to consider how to instigate purpose in movement, and to discover how tempo, gesture and repetition can better enunciate a character, narrative or emotion than textual work can. I enjoy working through the elements of viewpoints when dancing or teaching dance, particularly in a warm up, and I am working to adopt its processes in developing movement within the play In Addition that I am working on over the summer.

The intimacy workshop was hugely enjoyable, though like much of this term, too short to feeling wholly engaged in the process. The distinction between personal and professional really interests me, because in the arts it often blurs, and finding balance between work and artistic endeavor is far more difficult than many anticipate. I find the approach to dealing with intimate scenes that Ita has developed so interesting, and such an invitation to make an experience always seen as awkward not only less daunting, but enjoyable. It has also made me consider how I in acting or performing, may learn to deal with expression some emotional truths of my own, to bring power to my performance. I think there’s something to be said of introducing an intimacy process on yourself, to find a balance between yielding experience as a force for expression, and unearthing things that we are not prepared to confront. Nonetheless, even in our rehearsals of In Addition we have began to adopt an openness to approaching physical contact and movement, to ensure the comfort of myself and Lewis (the other performer). This has made the whole process more enjoyable and less challenging.

I feel this is now extremely long and winding, but I just want to finish on a note of gratitude and a look to the future. This has been the year I have undertaken the least dance ever, and yet somehow I have found my moving body, as I coin it. I think there’s something to be said about how in confronting yourself, you find comfort in your own skin, and for that I am so humbled. Now I look forward to developing a dance and choreographic based practice, and seeking new journeys in which my seeming ‘short dancing life’ doesn’t feel like a limitation, but a strength.

Immersive Project Reflection : Week Eight

Have you enjoyed this term?

Hello.

It feels nice to meet here, considering most of the entries in this journal are back-dated. But here we are, in the present. I feel about this journal how I’ve felt about much of this term – frustrated by the lack of effort I’ve put into it but at the same time so detached from it being in a form I don’t like. This is samey, devoid of any of the creativity of my other journals. I get it – I understand why we’re doing it this way, but at the same time it has zapped a lot of the fun out of journalling for me.

This term has been a little like that. Though I’ve enjoyed parts of it – particularly working with Conor – some elements of the term really took away the joy of creating a performance. Not all of it could’ve been helped or controlled, and I am a believer that some things are meant to happen.

But more to the point, I’m glad they did. You learn a lot from making work you don’t really like. It’s actually probably more useful than making work you do like. Yes it lacks a creative enrichment, but it’s not entirely without it. More to the point it’s the other things you gain that make the experience worthwhile; perseverance, working in a team, self-motivation. The list is actually pretty endless.

For me, this term was about finding the joy in things that aren’t for you. And yes, you could argue this isn’t school, and we should be doing things we enjoy. But with something so specific as Performance Art or Design For Stage you’re never going to please everyone. Imagine how boring it’d be if you did. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and learn what it’s like to build something beautiful out of something that’s ultimately grey. Building out of hatred is far easier than building out of boredom.

And I think we managed it. I think it collapsed and rose and did all sorts of strange things but I made something I’m proud of, and something that makes me proud of all those people. Fundamentally I’m so happy for all the generous and loving people who have come into my life through this, and for all the people who came before who’s love I have built upon. I wouldn’t want to be in this industry without that, and to me that’s the best thing this term could have ever provided.

Would I make immersive theatre again?

It’s hard to say. It’s not where my interests lie currently. And I wouldn’t have made it the way we did. But I could be persuaded. Never say never and all.

Shows Two and Three : Week Seven

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This photograph makes me laugh so much. Thank you Dad for calling my sweet eating so ‘Kate Moss’.

The matinee, like so many second shows, was a little downturn. I was fit to collapse by the end of our piece, and the finale lost the previous night’s energy.

But then Mum and Dad came, and they got to meet Audree and Jamie and Wunmi, and the day was glowing, and there was a lot of smiling for no reason, and that made it all so much lighter. We were all exhausted and a little done, but there was some peace in this day.

The last show was wonderful, it was exactly what I wanted it to be. Rada, our audience, loved ours. When i approached her during the piece she looked so afraid of me, so apprehensive about the end coming, and it was as though the words she’d been listening to had fused with her own mind. It had worked, after all.

Show ends. Mum, Dad, Wunmi. Izzy and her beautiful smile. So many people. A cold cider on my cheeks. The get out. The room coming apart. Uber to school. Flight cases and Ana’s birthday. Pub. A decision to not go out. Macdonalds till 1am with Aoife and Matt. Crying on the way home. Sparkling.

Show One : Week Seven

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This was my favourite night. Our audience member, Thembe, was wonderful. He seemed so into it, so absorbed in the story. And then the finale became its own being. Communication was what we’d been missing, and we found it on this day, and I think there was a lot of joy in that.

Dress Run – No Audience : Week Seven

We’re still pretty mad about this.

We worked SO HARD. SO DAMN HARD. I don’t think we’ve ever been so excited as we were when we shared our piece with Andrea and Duska this afternoon, and they told us how much they enjoyed it, and that they thought we’d really taken the brief and made it our own.

And then we didn’t get an audience member for the dress run.

I’m not really that mad, I wasn’t even at the time. I think my gut instinct told me we were fine, because we didn’t need to change much, because it didn’t really matter. In the end making a performance for one meant it was always completely unpredictable. You couldn’t count on anything. And so whether we had an audience on wednesday or not, it didn’t necessarily prepare us any more or less for the real shows.

It felt ropey, but as though all the things that went wrong were fixable. And we had time now, nothing else to think or worry about, we just had to build it up.