Emerging Perspectives Company | Devising Techniques| Louise White

We’re now starting to get to the meaty part of devising our piece, so we had a very full day ahead!

We started with a couple of writing exercises where we had to think of a character and decide what they like to wear, where they work, what their personality is like… etc. We then had to think of a second character and do the same for them. We then created a scenario where these two characters would meet, deciding how they might interact and what their impressions of each other were.

Writing exercises

The second writing exercise was more self-reflective. We were given the task of writing down what our 5 senses – taste, touch, hearing, smell, sight – were picking up in that moment.

We moved on to creating still images that depicted truth and lies, first individually, then as a group and finally creating a moving tableau. There were some really interesting images conjured up that potentially could be used in our devised piece.

Next, we told each other stories about truth and lies taken from our own lies. We then had to pick one of the stories and create a narrative for it. We admittedly got a little side-tracked and instead we managed to note down the common themes in our stories, such as stealing, and feelings of shame, embarrassment when caught, and the thrill of getting away with it… writing narratives is hard – apparently!

Looking through past pieces...

We moved on to looking at all our past material – used in other sessions – which had been placed around the room. We were asked to pick out common themes or images and bring them together as a group, to see which ones fitted together. We decided that the connotations of colour, masks/make-up, and song lyrics were images that had come up a lot in our past sessions. After deciding on these, we were asked to put these images, and pieces from previous sessions, in an order on the floor – in the hope that they could be turned into a narrative. This was hard! There were a lot of different creative voices and it took a while for all of us to get our heads around the narrative being created, and also having to agree on what should go where. It was eventually decided that it would be best to come back to it after lunch, but we did managed a provisional title: S(he) Be(lie)ve(d), and a tag line: A couple are stuck in their own dystopia.

Creating a narrative
After lunch, we continued to create a narrative for the pieces we’d picked out. Eventually the story looked a little like this:
A man attempts to commit suicide in a lake, but is saved by a woman, who then accompanies him to hospital. In hospital the man reveals he is unhappy in life but lies about the real reason why. As he rests and sleeps, a transition happens and we follow the woman’s story. A more abstract, almost dreamlike, sequence follows where there is a ‘seesaw’ of control between the man’s story and the woman’s. There is a tug of war going on between their existences. The man decides to take action to stop the conflict and decides to become a woman. We learn he was unhappy and had tried to commit suicide because he couldn’t face to struggle of being a man, but wanting to be a woman.

Devising scenes...
We then improvised the scenes and made bullet points of any interesting or fruitful happenings. We also experimented with how all of us could be involved in a story which essentially only had two characters. We pondered on the idea that all of us could become the characters at any one time, and this could be balanced by scenes where perhaps only two of us are onstage.

Mirroring actions...
We then experimented with mirroring and moulding each others faces to see how we could realise the notion of masks and pretending to be someone you’re not. Looking at the conflict controlling the woman and man’s stories, we tried the shuffling execise that we did as part of the Forced Entertainment Masterclass. We also discussed the potential of smearing our faces with colour – a mask, but not necessarily make-up.

Louise White, Performer, Emerging Perspectives Company

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