An evaluation of the ways in which ideas were communicated to the audience
Our piece had several key ideas behind it. We wanted to present a piece to educate about drug use, in a way that was different to the methods currently being used – and to a slightly older audience. We felt that the currently methods of education and were not working as they were biased towards the negative side of drugs. We aimed to show the audience both the positive and negative side of drugs. We did this using ‘Epic Theatre’ format, having several running ‘story’ have having quick changes to and from each ‘story’. Each ‘story’ was given a certain amount of scenes.
We wanted to show a positive scene, a negative scene and a ‘turning point’ in which the drug user decides to go into rehab. We felt that the audience would then get a brief understanding of the story within a small amount of time. They would also be provided with enough evidence to make a decision on the issues brought forward through the production, questioning the legality of drugs, questioning why people use drugs and questioning the education about drugs. Some scenes, which began as a positive, warped into a negative effect of drugs.
For example the “Row Your Boat” opening sequence began as a calm and relaxing ‘positive trip’ however it turned into a ‘bad trip’ and the user quickly became frightened. This was also used in the pub scene, in which everyone began as friends but the relationship ‘soured’ and when confronted about his drinking problem the ‘alcoholic’ became violent. This was used to show the volatile nature of drugs, that things can change at any minute and they are therefore unpredictable. One scene that was completely different to the others was the ‘Saturday Night’ scene.
This scene was the only one to directly compare the effects of two drugs – alcohol and marijuana. The main idea behind this scene was to show weed as a positive and alcohol as a negative and to question the legal state of both drugs. There were two different versions of this; the first version produced to the year 10’s was an overly comical scene, which contained parts that seemed irrelevant to the idea behind the scene. We received feedback sheets from the year 10’s that provided us with ideas on how they saw the scene.
They responded in the way that some of the group had ‘feared’… whilst they had said that this scene was their favourite it was clear that they had enjoyed the scene because of the use of the words ‘Pizza’ and ‘Bong’. It was obvious that most of them had not considered the scene as a comparison between weed and alcohol, challenging the legality of the drugs. For our final performance we decided that the scene needed to be ‘tidied up’. Our idea was fine but the ‘communication to the audience’ was poor, as they did not get the message we wished them to think about.
We changed the scene by removing some of the parts that may have distracted from the main point of the scene. We also decided to use lyrics from the song that formed part of our stimulus as a script from our scene, splitting the lines between the characters and removing or replacing lines if required. We still retained certain actions, that were found funny by the year 10’s, but kept it to a level that did not distract from the main point and idea behind the creation of the scene.
After speaking to members of the audience we were satisfied that our message had got across to them. When using ‘Epic Theatre’ it is important to set the scene, so that the audience gets an idea of where the scene is set. We used the transitions in-between the scenes to create the setting. For example, creating a Saturday night ‘soundscape’ of voices, as detailed previously. We also made sure that our postures and voices changed in order to create different characters. The audience would then associate certain characters with certain settings and ‘their’ drug.
When reading the feedback sheets from the year 10’s we saw that this was perhaps not very clear at times. For our final performance we ensured that our characters and actions were well defined in order to differentiate between characters and stories. After speaking to those who viewed our final performance it was once again clear that there had been a better understanding of the different stories, and which characters were in each scene. The performance also helped us make some serious decisions as to which scenes were effective and which weren’t.
For example ‘Go Away James’ which was Ellie’s bad LSD trip involved myself, as James, walking around the edge of the stage, slowly advancing on Ellie, during this she would be pleading with James to leave. James then suddenly leapt towards her, at which point there was a ‘snap’ back to the reality of the situation with James pleading with Ellie to ‘wake up’. However the feedback from the year 10’s was quite negative, as they had difficulty understanding what was happening. We also felt that the scene dragged on for too long and slowed down the entire pace of the production. It was for those reasons that the scene was cut.