Performance at Farnham Castle - Sample Essay

We chose Farnham Castle because it provided us with an historical site and a wealth of information. Its an attractive site with the community and the performance space is unusual offering us an alternative area to explore different styles of theatre for example; Walkabout journey and procession. We wanted to devise an historical drama based on characters who lived at the castle and use the unusual architecture to our advantage. Our intention was to provide our audience with historical facts but also entertain them.

There are areas that provide hidden spaces from the audience such as the well and the ruined turrets. The high wall provides enough space for costume changes or to hide the cast from the audience. The imposing steps leading up to the keep would create a creative and ideal route for the narrator to lead the audience up to the keep. The different shapes, levels and textures at the keep would give a perfect atmosphere to create scenes by improvising using the genre of physical theatre. The open space in the keep gave the feeling of being exposed to the elements.

These elements did inspire the devising process. The large space also gave the opportunity for a large audience to get involved. The space did have its down points however. It didn’t have access for disabled audience members. There were obviously health and safety issues for the cast and the audience. Because of the stairs up to the keep we found it hard to get scenery to the keep. This problem however could be rectified by using symbolic props and nearly bare stage using Epic Theatre forms. However the space didn’t limit our choice of theatre styles because many different spaces could be created.

If when we perform it rains the audiences enjoyment would be affected and costumes would get ruined. On a windy day our voices would be harder to understand for the audience because of the wind. Mime could be incorporated into each scene as a universal language in this case. This shows the performance space that we were working with. I think that we have endless choices of theatre styles that we can use in this space. The use of epic theatre would only help to communicate the intended message of the scene. Research was critical for our piece because it helped us to understand about the keep and its purpose.

Because our piece is site specific we needed to know the history of the castle to devise our piece. There were three main areas that we researched these were historical facts, theatre styles and their forms/practitioners. When we researched the history of the castle we learned of many historically famous people who had lived there. This was our stimulus for our piece as we decided that the contents of each scene would be about different people who lived at the castle. We all researched different theatre styles so that we could discuss all the different options in class.

The space at the key is amazing so to use it to the full using the technique journey would allow this. There are three different categories which we explored to find the best for our performance. The first one in which the whole audience follows the actors, who travel through a series of different scenes, much like a static play in a range of locations. The second tactic is where the audience moves to watch scenes in places without necessarily being led. The third possibility is the ‘magical mystery tour’ in which audience groups of limited numbers are guided by the actors through a series of staged advents.

We chose that the first option suited our performance best. We watched Lea Anderson’s piece ‘Flesh and Blood’ which influenced us to create gestures for the plague scene in the form of a dance. We are constantly using Brecht’s technique of doing everything in front of the audience and not hiding it for example moving from one scene to another just simply walking in front of the audience. All my research was from the internet because I find the internet easy and quick to use however after I learned the facts I went on to further my research in the local library.

There are different styles of outdoor performance however not all of them could be used in the space we chose to use. ‘Outside the theatre building’ is one but we couldn’t relate this to the space of the key as its supposed to be directly outside a theatre. ‘Site specific’ which is a performance specific to the site that it is performed at, this is the technique that we used because we wanted to entertain and educate our audience. It is crucial that we continue to further our research so that we can develop the characters so that the performance is realistic.

Our piece is episodic due to the historical narrative and time frame. Because of our research a wide variety of forms were used in each of the five scenes, and there were obvious influences from the practitioners we have studied. The research we did helped us to understand what content would work best in our piece. The influence of the practitioner Lea Anderson appeared in two scenes of our performance. These two scenes were the Morley scene and the Plague scene. Her key influence was actions that represented feelings and emotions. For example looking up in the Morley scene meant looking to God.

Techniques of Brecht’s were used in all of our scenes. As we have been studying Brecht’s work for over a year he has become more of an influence on the whole class. This meant that numerous techniques of his are used throughout the performance. The influence of the practitioner Tavener can be seen in the Morley scene, we used chant/chorus to create the atmosphere that we wanted. We used the technique of victimisation from Bruce in the plague scene and the Execution of Charles the 1st. This was to create a sympathy feeling from the audience. Each scene was constructed in a different way using different ideas.