Lou’s Group – ‘Trouble in Shapeopolis’
Personally I thought the idea of this piece had the groundings of a really good TIE piece, however I feel that the group didn’t use these to their advantage in any way, whether that be because of the short time span we were given to devise, or another logistical reason, and therefore the piece didn’t reach the potential it could have.
Firstly, their idea of personifying each of the shapes they were teaching about was a really good technique to engage an audience of small children, and make the idea of learning more fun and accessible to them. Often children have a better chance of remaining focused and therefore absorbing the information if their are characters or a narrative they can easily connect to and follow and thus provoke more of an interest. I imagine the children would be able to remember the shapes better by attaching a name of a character to them; for example in this case when trying to remember the circle they could think back to the name of the character ‘S-phia’ (which sounds like a combination and a pun on the name Sophia and the 3D shape Sphere). The only thing I worried about is that it might cause some confusion between the 3D shapes and 2D shapes and the differences in these and the names they have – as at this age (Key Stage 1, Year 1) the children will only be learning basic 2D shapes such as triangles, squares and circles, so we must be careful of this.
Another thing I really liked about their devised piece is the use of repetition. It is well know that kids need repetition in order to absorb any information and that it is a tool used by teachers, parents, and in all forms of children’s entertainment as a way of getting a point across and ensuring the child remembers the content. Therefore, the way in which Lou’s group repeated over and over again the properties of each of the shapes and got the children to join in with counting each of the sides in turn, joining in with them, was a really good way of getting the information to sink in.
Once again, I am unsure of whether this was because the group ran out of time when devising, however they failed to follow their story through after introducing the characters and their situations, which made the rest of their piece turn into more of a traditional lesson rather than a TIE show. For example, after setting up a rough outline of the problem and the idea that the Mayor of Shapeopolis was going to resolve it, they set up a clear indication of where and how the story could progress, however instead of following this through and embedding the learning into a narrative, they simply abandoned this idea and simply recited and presented the information. While they did this in a very child friendly and animated way, taking on board the necessity of changing tone and pitch of voice to engage children, it wasn’t TIE in the traditional sense.
I thought the way Lou used her voice was really engaging and completely appropriate for TIE; it was clear that she had taken everything we had learnt in our voice lessons with Lynn as she had adopted a more singsong tune in her speech pattern and varied the pitch and intonation of her voice to make everything sound far more exciting than it was! Although if she did this in everyday life she might sound patronising, it was completely right for this performance and audience, and despite the fact that the rest of the class were the audience (rather than the Key stage 1 kids) it didn’t come across in this way at all, instead it seemed completely right and fitting to the piece – so much so that as an audience of teenagers we still accepted it and went along with it. Another area of praise is the way in which Lou directed her speech and questions directly at the audience. This meant the children would have felt more included and engaged and part of the story, as well as making it more exciting and personal to them.
An area that I thought let them down was actually a crucial part of their story, which unfortunately I believe would be far too confusing and complicated for such a young audience, who are only just learning the basics of these shapes. One of the main parts of their story line was the fact that all the shapes got mixed up and in the end the shapes magically turned back into the shapes that they once were. Although I love the idea of the storm mixing up all the shapes in shape world, I think it would be so easy for a child to confuse the shapes and be lead to believe that the shapes are linked in some way or that the properties of each of the shapes can vary. Although for us (an audience of teenagers) this seems very basic and easy to comprehend, I can see how this concept may be confusing and potentially get in the way of what we are ACTUALLY trying to teach them. If the group did want to proceed with this idea, perhaps it would be beneficial to think of a way to simplify this or use the narrative story or the characters to explain the fiction of this in a clear way.
My Group – ‘The Missing Triangle’
I was really pleased with the outcome of our devising process and the way my group worked together to achieve what we did in such a short time. If I look back now I can see I was probably the main driving force behind the idea and may have been slightly headstrong with the ownership of my ideas and forming the characters and narrative, but this is only because the other members showed interest in the concept and were also eager in pursuing the idea – however I stand by the fact I would not have have taken such a strong leadership role if my company members were not happy with the concept or didn’t feel it was the right path to take. When it comes to formulating ideas I am usually pretty good at quickly conjuring up narratives as generally I have a very vivid and creative imagination, so I know that during the devising process of doing TIE this will be a skill I can offer to the group. I believe that it is important that one learns not to become too obsessive over controlling their ideas though, as I have learnt that over time it is evident the ideas may develop or the other actors may wish to change the characters in various ways or have there own concepts that they want to intertwine or add. This can sometimes be difficult when you were the driving force behind an idea as it can often feel personal to you, however I know it is important to push past this – and this is something I need to work on over the next few weeks. Luckily, this was not a problem during this particular project as the people I was working with were more than happy to be led by me and follow the ideas I proposed and generally had the same creative thinking as me and so we developed ideas together without much friction, however this is not always the case.
I thought that the way in which we managed to embed the educational part about the shapes into the narrative instead of randomly bringing it in out of the blue, or the other extreme of just making it solely about the learning, was a really strong asset to the piece and worked in our favour. Although I do think it is important that we go away and actually make sure the facts we are using are accurate and at the right level of basics for the age group and that we are also using the right terminology and language that the children will be taught as otherwise it will just confuse them and conflict anything the school teaches them in class.
I think as a group we did well in adapting out voices and performance style for the young audiences expected for TIE and started to find a level at which to apply this, so not to appear patronising. As we explored in voice lessons, one tends to use a much higher, tuneful and varied vocal pattern when talking to children to ensure that you can keep them engaged – and I think each member of the group did this well. We also started to think about addressing the audience directly (which is a key component of TIE), however collectively we found this hard as there was no young audience to do this to and it all felt very hypothetical and think we can do this more once we have worked on it and highlighted the places where this might be appropriate.
As a piece I think it really has the foundations of being a really strong TIE show, once all the logistics and plot is carefully thought out properly. There is so much more we could do with the plot in regards to embedding maths and learning skills in order for the children to get maximum use out of the show, and this is something I will take further in my own time.