In what ways was the stimulus material developed through the drama process
The teacher stimuli, in which the class was given to explore, were a range of articles, based on the real lives of murderers, some of whom, are still alive today, serving their prison sentence. The murder stories had a theme of surrealism, exploring issues of teacup poisoning, which was the method used by Graham Young to kill several family members and work colleagues and the life of Mary Bell who was a child murderer at ten years old. All of the murder stories have a shock factor to them and go beyond normal killings.
Mary Bell’s story for example, allows for the exploration of psychological reasons for her spontaneous murders. The stimulus used created discussions within our group about the running theme of our own play. We decided to use ideas from the stimulus, for example, the psychological issues in Mary Bell’s story and the absurdist methods of murder. We debated over whether to ingrain comedy into the horrific nature of the play, to show a twist of genre and atmosphere, however were worried that this could have the effect of limiting the absurd, surreal and serious nature of the play, which was our desired theme.
Therefore, we left the comedy out of the absurd scenes and instead, used it for naturalistic scenes, such as a police interview. This was because we felt that a more successful and humorous result would come out of modern day, natural acting, with a comic twist. Alongside our discussions, we explored the stimulus of Mary Bell’s story, using role-play. This lead to a possible story line being created, which was to be about the life of one girl, (created from Mary Bell), before and after her murders.
However, it was decided that instead of using one protagonist as a murderer, we would connect three characters’ backgrounds, to portray the same stimulus. This was decided because it was felt that the other characters needed a stronger role. Furthermore, the story of the play needed a fuller outlook on murder, therefore achieving the desired message: that for some people spending a life in prison, is not deserved. For instance, Geoffrey’s (one of the main characters) background reveals him to be an innocent human being, highlighting the injustice of courts in the world we live in today.
This innocence juxtaposes with another main character, (influenced by Mary Bell), that has guiltily committed several murders, however, linking in with another of the play’s messages; that the crimes were due to psychological, childhood unrest, which is expected to gain the audience’s sympathy for this guilty character. The stimulus conjured up a range of images, which could be used in a drama. The story of Mary Bell influenced ideas to use imagery of a young girl’s troubled past, including episodes with her abusive mother, which we altered to Father, due to the group member’s preference.
The imagery would include flashbacks from the character’s life, showing how such neglect and abuse has led to a disastrous outcome. The absurd stimulus also led us to the ideas of using horrific images, such as flashbacks to the scene of crime and images which link in with the absurdist stimulus, for example, a rape scene at the alter of a church, juxtaposing innocence with darkness. To explore the stimulus, the class used a range of activities. As a class, we participated in hot seating, where each individual would, in turn, play a character from the chosen stimulus.
This device benefited our play because it produced an insight into the backgrounds of each character from the stimulus and also influenced ideas on story lines, as participants had to craft some of the characters’ background, thoughts and feelings. In the hot seating activity, I played Mary Bell as a child. This required thoughts on movement, voice and posture and therefore, has aided our group with our ideas of a final character being a child murderer.
When working on the child scene we have focused on the thoughts of the character, based on the hot seating activity, to gain effective characterisation. While in our group, we also used the activity of role-play. Using the stimulus, we developed a scene with each of us playing temporary characters from the story of Mary Bell. The scenes in which we explored involved issues from the protagonist’s childhood, for example bullying at school and rape by her own father. They also involved images of Mary in prison as an adult giving her own thoughts on her murders.
This activity has produced ideas to use a prison scene in the performance, leading to our decision to use three main characters and their backgrounds. Also using role-play to explore the horrific stimulus, we came up with a rape scene in a church. This involved repeated rehearsals, each time editing the acting until we had achieved efficient characterisation, meaning and message. This scene required a director’s role for participants who were not acting and produced set characters by analysing who best fit the role.