Performance Reflection on Safina AL-Hayat

On the 5th of November 2015, I went to watch a performance called “Safina AL-Hayat” meaning life boat in Arabic, performed at London’s Oval House. Created by Stella Barns (a founder member of Refugees and the Arts Initiative) and Paper Project, a company consisting of migrant artists that collaborate with MA students from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Paper Project creates performances that explore the issues and experiences of migration, specifically, young children who are trafficked and the racial issues that follow immigrants that migrate from under developed countries.

The performance in which I watched was focused around resent events in Syria, with thousands of Syrians fleeing the country due to political and cultural issues that was/is destroying their home.  The performance included audience participation, when the actors started to hand over origami boats. When the boat was opened up, stories of current events were displayed giving information on issues that need to resolved as they are distorting a country.

Once the performance had finished and I started to reflect, the reading ‘Drawing a Line’ wrote by Stella Barns came to mind. The reading touches upon how the performances are based on true stories in which the refuges have faced and the emotional and physical struggle that the refuges would face when leaving their home. I came out of the performance feeling emotional and physically attached to the characters portrayed because it made me think of the stories that my granddad had shared with me and brother’s when we were younger. The stories were about when he immigrated over here to get away from Yemen, and the issues that affected him and his family.

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Week 10: The end of term

Todays Applied performance lesson was taught by guest lecturer Dr. Dominic Hingroani who introduced the class to “Theatre for Young Audiences”. Dr. Dominic Hingroani began the lesson by asking the group to think of three discussions in which we thought distinguished difference between the terms “Theatre for young audiences” and “Theatre for education”. The group I was placed within, began to discuss what education wasn’t and the limits it has on the younger generation. We discussed how Theatre and Education has the potential to work in different educational settings such as; adult educational centers, centers for those with disabilities and mental health. Whereas, for Theatre for young audiences we discussed the different age groups you may work with and how facilitators or educational leaders adjust their process to teach that particular age range.

Moving on from that discussion, we were asked to discus in our groups the games we played when we were children. Games such as, British bulldog, tag, stuck in the mud were shouted out. The game that I used to play a lot when I was a child was “Stuck in the mud”, we used to run around the field and when we were tagged, we had to freeze and wait for someone to crawl underneath our legs. Once someone had crawled underneath your legs, you were able to move again. My group had similar childhood games, which we all reminisced when we had no care in the world about the state of our clothes would have been. When Dr. Dominic Hingroani called the class back together, we all discussed how the games had the same set of rules that we had to follow

Moving on from this, Dr. Dominic Hingroani had lead us through an activity that was to be done on an individually, we were instructed to find a place in the room to sit and collect two piece of paper which was located in the centre of the room. Once we were settled, we were told to explore the process of ripping one of the pages. In the next stage of this activity we were asked to fold the paper, experimenting with what we could mould through the simply act of folding. In the final part of the activity we were asked to practice scrunching the paper in our hands.

The final part of the lesson, Dr. Dominic Hingroani introduced the class to a performance that was performed for a class of six year olds. The performance wasn’t a tradition theatrical performance in the sense of staging and massive staging, but a very simplistic set that represented a forest. With minimal setting and soothing lighting, the actors moved around the stage performing movements that connected with music. The performance was non-verbal; movement was used to vocalise the intended message of the performance. This performance allowed the young audience to create their own story and explore their own creativity rather than being told a story line. At the end of the performance, the element of audience participation was included as the children were invited to collect the acorns that has dropped from the sky.

 

The lesson ended with a reflection on the information provided by Dr. Dominic Hingroani. The discussion allowed the class to discuss the difference between “Theatre for young audiences” and “Theatre for education” in much more depth from the information we had learned from the presentation and activity games.

Narratives of Community

The reading ‘Narratives of Community’ taken from ‘Making a Performance: Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices’ wrote by Emma Govan, Helen Nicholson and Katie Normington, begins to explore the utilization of devised theatre to help shape communities and challenge the social injustice.

The interaction between professional theatre practitioners and community-based participants, help the individual participant’s life develop. The reading mentions that the collaboration helps improve the cultural democracy and bestows towards the process of social development.The process in which the performances are created, community-based experiences are the format that deliver the community concepts. Their stories or opinions are not reframed, rewritten nor re-interpreted to fit the audience’s ideologies on theatre.Within the chapter ‘Memory and community narratives: authenticity and metaphor’, Emma Govan, Helen Nicholson and Katie Normington begin to discuss Paulo Freire’s theory on community contexts. Paulo Freire suggest that this theory allows the community to come together to share identical experiences and as a whole, be heard on the political effects that hinder their own psychological and social benefits.

When creating a performance through the personal memories from communities, the authenticity of the narratives can make the experience knowledgeable, memorable and even insightful.

Impossible Audiences: The Oily Cart’s theatre for infants, people with complex learning disabilities and other young audiences who are primarily non-verbal

The reading ‘Impossible Audiences: The oily cart’s theatre for infants, people with complex learning disabilities and other young audiences who are primarily non-verbal’ written by Tim Webb from the book ‘Theatre for Young Audience’, begins to explore how we can make theatre for young audiences who suffer from any form of disabilities. The specific young audiences with disabilities that are mentioned within the reading are: People who can’t hear, people who can’t see and people who become anxious when encountering new people or situations.

Oily Cart Theatre was formed in 1981 in London, this theatre company consisted of Claire de Loon, Max Reinhardt and Tim Webb. Inspired by “Theatre Kit” one of the first company’s in England to take young audiences seriously, Oily Cart Theatre wanted to create performances for children aged three to five.

With the negative pre-conceptions that surround young audiences, such as short intention span, having limited language skills and the ability to sit and watch, theatre companies were deliberately avoiding the young audience.

Taking into consideration the negative pre-conception’s (stated above) Oily Cart Theatre company were successful when performing for the under fives. Devising a piece that used themes, theatrical languages, live music and vocabulary that can be understood from the young children.

The chapter ‘Making theatre, not therapy’ within the reading, discusses the type of theatre that Claire de Loon, Max Reinhardt and Tim Webb produces within their company. Oily Cart Theatre produces theatre and not therapy, generating performances that are audience participatory and suitable for any person with a disability. Performances that allow young children with disabilities to participate and leave the performance with a new sense of self-awareness, self-confidence and self-capability. Not to disregard any help that carers and family offer, but to have the knowledge to be able to look after themselves.Therefore, Oily Cart Theatre tackle everyday situations that can stimulate and evoke a reaction.

Theatre for Children and Education

The reading ‘Theatre for Children and Education’ wrote by Matthew Reason taken from the book ‘The Young Audiences’ begins to distinguish the difference between ‘Theatre in Education’ and ‘Theatre for Young Audiences’. Even though both approaches towards education share similarities, there is a clear difference on what both methods delivery to their young audiences.

With both methods approaching young teens in education with a performance format, the element of play is perceived as an enjoyable activity rather then a way in which they could learn.

Theatre in Education (TIE) is an approach that allows young audiences to participate within a series of workshops, playback and forum theatre, which then could lead to a theatrical performance. Where as, Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) is an approach that brings forward a performance, either consisting of theatre, dance, music and physical theatre. With this approach, the performance is already structured on topics (cultural, political or health & safety) which help guild and teach. Children are smart and emotionally complexed as audience members. Challenging their intelligence shouldn’t occur but, to help shift patterns of distress by helping greater their knowledge on different topics.

The reading also mentions that Theatre in Education (TIE) is an educational tool as it is a format that incorporates active audience participation. Theatre in Education utilizes skills to bring together links between content and either academic or life skills. Incorporating theatrical practises and procedures to aid learning within personal, social and health education.  Stimulating the young audiences mind to have empathy and to inspire self-reflection.

Matthew Reason writes that theatre is an effective method when used within education, it is a fun communication activity that allows information to store. Theatre is slowing becoming a way in which we can facilitate different subjects across the entire curriculum, due to how everyone perceives theatre.

Drawing a Line: A discussion of ethics in participatory arts with young refuges

The essay ‘Drawing a Line: A discussion of ethics in participatory arts with young refuges’ wrote by Stella Barnes taken from the book ‘Participatory Arts with Young Refugees’ begins to explore the work of practitioners who create work to show the story of refuges. The created performances are based on true stories in which the refuges have faced, whether this is within their own country or the country in which they reside.

Stella Barnes also touches upon the sudden increase in performances that engage with participatory arts with refugee/asylum issues, due to the recent global political context.

The reading explores the emotional discomfort that an audience member would feel, when watching a real life refugee story performance. Stella Barns gave an example in which see witnessed, illustrating that she felt uncomfortable watching as the performance was real life stories, so all the the emotion and trauma was real. Not only was the emotion pure, the way in which it is delivered and set out in the space was able to trap the audience members.

When creating a performance that would help make awareness of the suffering, that the refuges have gone through, Stella barns questions “what is the agenda in which the director wants to avail”. Is there a point in which making awareness becomes just a performance, do we only become attached because the performance is participatory?

Week 8

In today’s Applied performance lesson, we were exploring ‘Theatre for Development’ with guest lecturer Sheila Preston. Opening the floor up to the class, Sheila Preston had asked if we had any game in mind in which we could warm ourselves up with, the game that we all decided on was ‘Stick in the mud’. The version we played in class was that, if we were tagged you have to create a still image which then the person who is risking be caught we have to create the image in front of you and you will have to count to five. During the game we were instructed by Sheila Preston to think of ways in which we can develop the game, so that we can explore different means of drama. By doing this, the invited rules like slow walking when you here someone shout ‘slow’, when you here rewind we would have to walk backwards and if we would here fast forward we word then have to walk really fast paying attention to our peers and surroundings.

Once we had finished warming ourselves up, Sheila Preston invited the class to have a discussion on what we thought a facilitators role would be within that exercise. As a class we started discus the differences in roles, facilitator and mainstream educators, we spoke about how a facilitators role is to support a class by asking questions like ‘how can we improve this game’ and ‘What different elements can we involve within this activity’. A facilitator would ask question that are reflective and inspire a response for participants to become involved. Moving on from this discussion, we began to explore the work of Sheila Preston within ‘Theatre for Development’, when working with countries that are going through development.

Sheila Preston started her presentation by discussing the terminology of “Development” and how it may refer to countries suffering from social, political and economical issues. Theatre for Development helped form the terminology of Applied theatre, laying the format for other forms of practice to develop. Theatre for development focuses on helping countries transform, helping countries locate issues that prevent them from evolving. The term ‘under developed’ attached with development holts the process in evolving due to the ideology that undercurrents.

Sheila Preston began to discuss her own Theatre for Development (TFD) projects that focus on the counter-cultural approach to their workshops. She identified how it reframes the process of learning to make it more dialogue, consisting of a collection of the political agenda. Referring to the ‘Banking System’ and its references to education. The banking system is a term used by “Paulo Freire” to critique the tradition education system. Meaning the way in which students are used as an empty vessel for the educator to store his knowledge. Where as, the workshops produced within Theatre for Development encourage equal learning between the facilitator and participants.

The final part of the lesson consisted of, Sheila Preston discussing the Theatre for Development projects that were implemented in Zimbabwe. A project in which Sheila Preston had taken over to Zimbabwe, we began to discuss the issue in which she faced by being a white woman who teaches. The village in which Sheila Preston resided in, consisted of woman who originate and are passionate about their community.  As many forms that fall under the umbrella of Applied Theatre, the project was to help train the woman in the village to be able to facilitate to eventually produce theatre on issue that effect their community. The utilisation of drama in this project was to encourage dialogue that would help equalise gender imbalance in that community. The facilitators that participated insisted the woman to debate issues that they find hinder the community in growth and peace, to then be used as a performance.

To end the lesson, the class had the opportunity to reflect and to start discussions on which they felt weren’t covered enough.