In today’s lesson with Erica we continued to work on our Improvisation and naturalistic character portrayals through the party game. Prior to this lesson we were give the task to create a character type for a specific member of the class, ready for an exercise in today’s class regarding characterisation and creating believable personas. I had the task of creating a character that James might be able to play and came up with the following: A Postman called Pete, who is in his forties and lives in a one bedroom house in Shropshire alone with his cat. I gave a brief idea of the type of personality he had by mentioning that Pete doesn’t get much social contact other than when he delivers the mail to the villages and therefore he uses this as an opportunity for a chat and often spends far too long talking to the post receivers but fails to read signals as to when people don’t want to talk. He is close to his mum and often goes round to his mother’s for dinner in the evening or he stays in and catches up with his favourite television show, ‘countryfile’ and eats his dinner (that his mother has brought over for him to heat up) in front of the television. I know the description I gave James was very specific, however I thought it was important to give a very visual image of the characters daily life and personality traits by using examples of situations as examples, as it makes the character seem more genuine and believable rather than a stereotype that is largely superficial. Lou created my character and gave me a short description of her on paper for me to work with. The character was called Ali; an 18 year old babysitter, who loves caring for other people but is often extremely patronising to others, even if they are older than her. While the character description wasn’t as detailed as the one I gave to James, I felt that it provided me with sufficient information to build a clear image of the type of person she might be and actually felt like she had the qualities that fit together to make a believable ‘type’ of person many of us could recognise in our everyday lives. I was hesitant as how I was going to portray this character in the party scene without appearing like I was over doing it and performing a stereotype rather than a realistic and believable person. Luckily, Lou had a character that had social anxiety who was a similar age and so we used this as an opportunity to build a connection between our characters that would give us a purpose in the scene and a chance to portray our qualities. In real life someone who likes looking after people (Ali) is likely to be friends with someone who needs looking after, which in this case is Lou’s character, Millie.
Other characters that had been created for the game included:
- A 30 Year old woman who hated the fact she was getting older, and who was a heavy drinker. She is also manager of monsoon. This was written by Josh for Hannah.
- An 18 year old male who had just seen his 13 year old sister kiss his best friend whose 19. He has mood swings and can be relaxed one min and snap the next. This was written by Hannah for Jack.
- A farm girl who isn’t influenced by popular culture. She is in her late twenties. This was written for Emma.
- A female with strong political views, who was sacked from her work place due to verbal abuse regarding her need to express her view on other people. This was written by James for Leah (however it was adapted by Erica for the game).
Erica decided that the ‘party’ would be set at Hannah’s character home as it is her 30th Birthday and felt obliged to have a small party even though she really doesn’t want to. As expected, some of the characters created were difficult to fit into the logistics of the party as the age range of the characters were so diverse and in real life probably wouldn’t find themselves in the same location, let alone the same party. This made it difficult to always give genuinely believable and mad the scene feel quite unnatural a times. Nevertheless, we decided on reasons each of our characters would be invited to the party before we started the game, to try and insinuate how they might be connected in one way or another.
Erica decided to stop the action and rethink some peoples characters as they weren’t working in the scene and didn’t seem believable as quite frankly in real life those types of characters wouldn’t mix and had no reason to be at a 30 year old’s birthday party! We decided that we would all have new characters and this time they would all be the same age (so not to complicate things) and would be roughly the age we are now, as it fits our casting better and therefore the performances we give should be more realistic and believable. I found this round far easier and felt that everyone relaxed more and were giving more truthful performances rather than simply ‘acting’ and presenting that type of character rather than actual becoming that person and thinking about how they would genuinely act. I felt that my acting in this was naturalistic and minimal and could have been a recording of a real person in that situation. I think this is because I had things I could relate to and could interact with the other character better as I knew how my character would react (she’s popular and looks up to queen bee so much and wants to please her all the time).
I found this lesson key as it showed me how easy it is to make the foundations of a scene just by allocating characters and then improvising around a set scenario or scene idea. Just by throwing together a mix of characters we were able to create a snapshot of action that captured each of these characters in a realistic setting.Especially by the time we had finished the second round, where it was my character birthday party, where a narrative had even started to clearly develop as well as indications of the relationships between the characters. This showed me how useful the technique of improvisation can be when devising theatre and also how important characters are in driving plot and developing a piece. When working on the Final Major Project, this might be a good exercise to think of using when devising as it makes sure the characters are at the centre of the whole piece.