Analysis of a physical theater performance – Under the Influence
The theatre was in a plain building hidden from the road by flats. The entrance was very informal. You went in and stood in a small foyer waiting for the performance to start. There were posters up on the walls promoting the ‘Legs on the wall’ company and there were programmes available. This made me look forward to seeing the play and the pictures made me wonder how each particular pose was fitted into the play. The floor was very interesting. It was painted with some kind of gothic patterned and was very dramatic and bold. When went into the performance space our entry was informal.
We weren’t given specific seats and stewards didn’t show us to seats. The performance was indoors and the seating was raked. The stage was raised but this didn’t seem to make the atmosphere formal. There was a proscenium arch and visible stage lights. The set was very plain, there were corrugated iron boards at the back of the set. There were large lights hanging down into the performance area. These were decorative shapes. Household lampshades of striking colours like orange, red and yellow. This made the atmosphere more exciting and I began to feel very apprehensive.
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As well as the lighting lifting equipment was on show. This was for a trampoline, which was raised and lowered, as appropriate during the play. At the front of the stage there were also two microphones, one on each side. There was music playing throughout the play. I noticed this in particularly at the beginning. The music was very rhythmic but unusual. There was a strong beat by some kind of drum and over the top was a very twinkling piano or maybe even a flute. This was a very unusual mix of sounds and was very unexpected so added to the atmosphere by bringing a sort of eerie element.
The performers themselves were on stage when we entered and the curtains weren’t closed. There were wearing ‘gym clothes’ (cycling shorts and leotard tops). When I walking they were practising some amazing moves, showing off there amazing strength and sense of balance. The house lights were dimmed very slowly over about a five-minute period so you hardly noticed the difference until it was almost completely dark apart from the stage lights. The performers practising lulled me into a false sense of boredom as I found myself sitting there saying, is this it? This is so boring.
It was hard to pinpoint when the play started as the performers carried on doing what I took to be practising and then they started to talk. They were directing the others and changing bits. At first I thought that this was a sort of pre performance sort out but then they started having an argument. They walked up to the microphones and started to carry on their argument over the loud speakers. This was when people began to accept that the performance had started and there was hush in the audience. The actual performance though had actually started when we walked in.
The themes of the play were very subtly introduced. They were about, love, life, sex and relationships. There was also an element of peer pressure and also a stereotype reversal and promiscuity. The stereotype reversal came in when a woman was very pushy and forced a man to have sex and then just threw him aside and went on to the next. This was not what is usually expected. In our society you would expect the man to be pushier and force himself on the woman and then ignore her afterwards so this was quite unexpected. The man was on stage first.
It seemed to the audience that he was rehearsing a play, as someone kept prompting him and he mad a joke about it being to dark to see the script. The woman then came on. She pulled and pushed the man behind the corrugated steel panels, where the man capitulated to her sexual advances. After they had finished the woman stood up, completely unchanged and lit a cigarette. The man then got up looking very flustered and with his trousers around his ankles. She walked off and he pulled up his trousers obviously feeling like a fool for having thought that she really liked him and was interested in him as a person and not just a body.
It was very funny the way that Lucia (the woman) put on a kind of ‘manly’ attitude. She did this by walking with her shoulders further forward than normal. When she stood she was very slumped. After she had had sex with the man she had a cigarette and strolled off, leaving the man behind. He was shocked that she was leaving him and he came across as very nai??ve. This would normally be more suited to the female. The rehearsal theme at the begging of this scene was supposed to represent the man conscience.
When the man said that he couldn’t see his script, it might have meant that he couldn’t see what to do very clearly. His conscience tried to prompt him but to no avail. There were many relationships added into the plot. There was a marriage relationship and also there was the continual relationship between the people and their consciences, their controllers. This was showed using puppetry which got across the manipulation message clearly. They used puppetry right at the begging. There was a woman on stage and a man. They were sitting next to each other on chairs at the back of the stage.
Then their consciences came on in the form of the other actors. The male conscience decided that it would look good if the man put his arm around the woman. He got the man to do this by doing the movements with his own arm and the man did exactly the same movement at exactly the same time. The woman’s conscience thought that this movement was too obvious and stereotypical of a young couple. She decided to get the girl to move the man’s hand. She did this by the same method as the man had. There was a little fight between the to consciences and the movements got stronger and faster.
The music speeded up and the lighting became more intense. This all added tension to the atmosphere. Finally after a couple of minutes of fighting the consciences seemed to loose the power and the two ‘puppets’ stopped responding to what they were told to do and there was a loud noise and everyone on stage started doing some amazing, fast acrobatic movement. This showed how people could be manipulated. Another relationship that came up was the relationship between a newly wed couple. The story was told in the flashback, as it started out in past tense.
Lucia was on stage with the spotlight on her only. She used the convention of direct address to tell the audience about how she had just got married and how her and her husband had gone out and bought new crockery. The lighting then went up fully on stage and the couple went into a quirky, funny little sequence of passing the crockery around and around each other. Their actions and loving glances made them look like a very happy, in love, kind of couple. The movements we all very vivid and quick. Once they had got out the plates then they sat down to eat, using the trampoline as a table.
This was the end of this scene. The theme changed completely and focused on a different plot. Ten minutes or so later we went back to having Lucia in the spotlight addressing the audience. She was saying that she was bored of the same old crockery, and the same old routine everyday. Her body language suggested that she was depressed as she was standing in a very slumped over manner. They then went into the same routine that they had done earlier. The man was still making very vivid movements and had a big grin on his face. Lucia on the other hand moved much less.
She moved very slowly and acted like she knew what was coming next by getting ready in advance, for example if the man was going to hand her some crockery she would put out her hand ready to receive it. She also used her body language to tell us that she was bored by hesitating sometimes. She wasn’t so eager to stare longingly into her husband’s eyes. This showed how the relationship had gone sour with the passing of time. Lucia had obviously expected something more, to progress but the man was obviously a very simple man and was pleased with the way things were.
He could tell that Lucia was very bored with the relationship and tried some very funny, idiotic things to try and get her to laugh but this just seemed to make her even more angry. He tried using his plate as a car wheel and driving around. This was hilarious to watch but Lucia kept a stony resentment on her face. There was then another break in between the rest of the scene as there had been before. When the plot returned, Lucia was standing on stage and there was a voice over of her saying that she was going to kill herself and wear nothing but the crockery.
She said that it was going to get his attention when she lay on the front lawn with blood coming out of the corner of her mouth. Lucia then got onto the trampoline and it was raised to the ceiling. When it came back down the light lashed off and then a couple of seconds later came on and you could see Lucia wearing nothing but the crockery with a line of red blood coming out of the corner of her mouth. The voice over became the only noise and said “You should have seen the look on his face”. This sentence was repeated a lot of times to really emphasis the point.
This showed the end of a relationship. Lucia hadn’t felt complete in the relationship. It was a very drastic act but showed clearly what happens when couples don’t communicate. Sound effects were used to great effect the whole way through the performance. There were some really loud fast ‘city’ beats and one effect that really stuck in my mind was a sound off breaking crockery. This was used when a newly wed was so depressed at the way live was going she killed herself and lay on the grass in front of her house wearing nothing but crockery.
The sound effect made the scene that little bit more real and sent shivers running up and down my spine. The performers costume was typical to the late teens early twenties club scene. The women wore short and very brightly coloured dresses all the way through the play and the men wore plain trouser and tight tops. The dresses were made out of very flexible fabric and so were very easy to move in. The length was also good, as there was no material restricting the movement of the legs. The trousers had been reinforced at the seams so that the men could do their physical moves easily.
The stretchy T-shirts also were more practical for them to perform in than dangling, baggy shirts that didn’t give to allow for the extreme movements. The text is original and isn’t an adaptation of another play or story. It was a contemporary piece. The sub text was about the sexual experiences of young Australians. I thought that the text was very clever as the words used were very carefully chosen and nearly all of them had some sort of sexual innuendo or double meaning. The director used a lot of conventions including direct address.
This was used when the performers spoke directly to the audience, for example when one performer asked us if we had se her shoe. There was also a lot of dove tailing, which was used to great effect. This was when two people spoke at the same time, saying the same thing. They also used a montage, which compiled things from other productions. There was the trademark ‘Physco’ squeaks and also there was a little speech that was taken from grease. Another convention used was manipulation. This was a very common convention is the performance. The characters were moved like puppets by the other characters.
This was used to great effect and created an impression of what the person was thinking or what their conscience was saying to them/telling them to do. They also used the convention of mime to emphasise points and as well as those they used narration and recorded texts. The recordings were used very well, as you couldn’t tell when it was a recording and when the characters were talking. The only way you found out was when the character on stage stopped talking and the voice carried on. The rhythm of the piece was very fast. I never got bored and something new was constantly happening.
It wasn’t really a continuation of one story but lots of different experiences all rolled into one. One actor that I thought did particularly well was a very confusing character. Veronica Neave portrayed her. She came on stage at every so often and asked the audience if they had seen her shoe. She was wearing only one shoe. She came on stage and used direct address to ask the audience about the where abouts of her shoe but then it came up on a pedestal at the back of the stage. She ran up to it and it disappeared and she stood on the pedestal.
When she was on the stage she began to tell us the fairy tale of Cinderella. She started of by telling us the story normally and then sex related words kept coming in. It was a kind of thought tracking, a constant flow of conciseness. She started to jerk her body in accordance with her words and this was very comical to watch but also gave us a clue to the relevance of the shoe. I interpreted the shoe in two ways. I thought that it could have been to symbolise her virginity. The words and body movements were to symbolise her having sex and therefore losing her virginity.
I also thought that the shoe could represent love. She had been searching for love all her life and when she finally saw it she went to grab it but it disappeared and she was left with an illusion. I thought that the Cinderella story line was used to make you think of how you were when you were younger and how you expected all men to be like prince charming but when you finally find what you think you have been looking for it doesn’t turn out like you had once expected. This was shown by her changing words. She seemed to be doing this subconsciously as every time she had a pause she corrected herself.
I thought that this was a very clever way to get across their message. She created dialectic very well with this little ‘speech’ and it was very hard hitting and came across to the audience very clearly. It was also hugely funny to watch as her jerking movements and her spoonerisms and swapped words were very funny too. I really enjoyed going to see this play. It showed a whole new side of drama that I had never come across before. I found many of the conventions used intriguing and useful in getting across a point. I thought that the piece was very well done and was a very good length.
It kept a good tempo throughout and it really held my attention. I found many of the movements and conventions very inspirational and will certainly be trying to include this side of drama from now on. I think that it is particularly useful for hard hitting issues such as sex, racism etc. I found that you can use your body as a tool and it isn’t only useful in drama when you want to portray a fight scene etc. I think that it was definitely worth while going to see this play as it has really opened my mind to new interpretations of performing.