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Devised Work Challenging Established Ideas Of Drama Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 2068 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Foremost, it is important to establish what is meant by the devising process. The devising process is an approach; an approach undertaken by a whole Company, in creating a performance of some kind. It focuses on the long process of exploration allowing “…the performers to free their imagination and bodies…”(Complicite, 1). Each branch of the process develops from play and improvisation, instigated by games and exercises.

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The more traditional and established ideas of conventional drama, focuses upon the often “…patriarchal, hierarchal relationship between playwright and director” (Oddey 1996, 4). The practises of conventional drama therefore rely upon the interpretation of the playwrights text, and the handling of the text by the director and actors, and how this then becomes realised on stage, through a “production process in a theatre building” (Oddey 1996, 4).

Historically, Post War British theatre has rooted its practises with the play text and playwright. Thus the emphasis has always been upon the relationship between the writing and the performance. However, as an alternative the devising process offers a collective creation of theatre, rather than the importance being solely upon the writer. As Oddey states “Devised work or the process is more of a response and a reaction to the playwright-director relationship”(Oddey 1996, 4). Yet it is still met with a sub-genre perception in terms of theatre form, with the only reason being, it has not been “constructed in the established…way of making theatre – from playwright, via director and actors, to performance”(Oddey 1996, 4).

Surely the devising process should be accepted as an approach nonetheless than traditional approaches in theatre. For even though it takes the opposite view, inevitably challenging established ideas, its purpose is not in replacing traditional forms but instead creating a new path where artistic endeavour can be expressed. The devising approach allows different forms and mediums to come together, rather than the focus being on traditional text-based performances or the exploration of naturalism. It reveals an inclination almost always towards the physical, surreal, and the abstract and is often instigated by a conceptual genesis that potentially eventuates in to its own language of “non-verbal forms” (Oddey 1996, 5).

This was definitely found true during the semester, in which our focus was on devising our summative performances. Initially, after receiving our stimulus, of Hansel & Gretel, we were encouraged immediately to start working on our feet. We participated in games and exercises that seemed to be far from the outcome of any performance. However, the utilising of this process enabled us to experiment from scratch and help initialise our final ideas. For example, the use of balloons and toys incorporated into the games we played helped establish the foundations for our final piece.

Abstract notions certainly grew out of these games, where we tended to explore the space using our physicality rather than prompts from a premeditated script. Physical expression seemed to grow out and become the dominant form, whilst experiencing the devising process. However, there were still concerns about the approach and whether, in comparison to the traditional forms of drama, the outcome of our piece would be just as relatable and comprehendible to our audience. Thus it carried the unknown risk of whether we would be able to actualise our ideas into a tangible creation.

All dramatic form encompasses a certain amount of risk. However, it is appropriate to comment that through the experience of this module, Devising encounters the highest factor. This probably stems from creating something initially from scratch that revolves potentially around the physicality of the body, more so than the written word. Furthermore, as Joan Schirle states “There is no guarantee that the best ideas will emerge…or that the simultaneous contributions of numbers of people can unite in a work of power and vision”(Schirle 2005, 91). During our summative projects, we had to combat this barrier in particular, as effectively as possible. Everyone wanted to see their own vision realised and sometimes this meant it was difficult to maintain a calm composure and not bombard or pressure others into taking on your idea. On the other hand, we found holding back was just as detrimental. We discovered that it was important to determine the balance of vision, enthusiasm and acceptance and respect for others and structure our rehearsal processes by this policy, so that we could utilise our development time successfully.

Another factor that suggests the Devising process carries more risk than other art forms is the developmental time allotted. Of course with any approach, traditional or alternative, there is a finite amount of time to explore and create. Still the traditional approach uses the script, which potentially dictates every aspect of the production, therefore assumingly making work the more easier; for example, the characters, the set, the length of the piece have already been decided, to name a few. However, the devising process can be infinite to an extent and therefore challenges the established approaches as aforementioned. For it is not bound by a play-text, but instead, is a process of un-layering and exploring a world of tangents.

Yet with this supposedly new found freedom of breaking away from the traditional rules that are laid down within script work, there was still a “…reluctance to compromise personal artistic ideals”(Schirle 2005, 91). I experienced this certainly within our group, where there was an overwhelming concern of what others might think. I found this frustrating as it wasn’t related to the task at hand, of which was to create a comprehendible piece of drama. It was more about the testing of barriers, and how others would react to ‘new’ drama. Surely drama, conventional or alternative, aims to provoke, disturb, question or consolidate thought, for its audience, for society. This timorousness towards the devising process, probably instigated by entrenched traditional approaches, seemed to echo the words of Raymond Chandler “There is no art without resistance from the medium”(Schirle 2005, 91). Devising is an approach that challenges traditional forms of drama through its ability to constantly redefine performance. It entices us as artists to formulate new technique’s to communicate our reflection to society.

Upon reflection of the process of our Devised work it was interesting to experience a new way in working with drama. We saw our initial idea of Hansel and Gretel encounter many tangents along the way. There was a constant battle of vision after vision, which led us down far away paths. However, working through this maze it was always important to come back and realise the aims and the outcome that we collaboratively wanted to create.

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Within the process of devising, the many tangents and themes that can potentially be discovered, was at times overpowering. Trying to incorporate too many ideas, in such little time, was almost an impossible feat. In comparison to established practises of drama, this approach was much more challenging. For example, a script in some respects has done the ‘legwork’ for you. It has been carefully constructed and planned with a vast amount of time in perfecting it. Within the devising process there is no initial structure of which to fall back on, therefore making the struggle for ideas to be realised on stage or in performance that much harder. Nonetheless it does provide the opportunity, in contrast to established approaches, to be boundless in creativity.

Furthermore, within the devising process, the initial genesis of a piece can be changed and its original intention significantly altered. Throughout our summative piece we encountered such a happening. It came to be justified in changing the intention of our piece to reflect a specific theme, food. Initially, we wanted to recreate the Hansel and Gretel story, with the incorporation of different forms of theatre, and the exploration of many themes. However, due to time constraints, it became clear that the focus on one particular theme would be more appropriate. It was through discovery in games and exercises that we came back to the relatable theme of food. Throughout the rehearsal process, we tried to re-create this, and eventually came back to our fairytale, interweaving its plot line through our performance. It was then realised that “…the problematic relationship of writing to devising cannot be ignored”(Heddon 2006, 110). In comparison to traditional approaches to drama this conundrum is practically non-existent (Heddon 2006, 11) and therefore the decision to incorporate a director figure head, of which we would all take turns at, was undertaken. This benefited our piece positively as we were able to gain an objective insight in to the work we were creating. In hindsight we perhaps needed more of a figure head to aid the process in devising our final piece. We discovered how easy it was to lose track of our vision and it was always beneficial to have someone listening in to make sure we didn’t lose focus or stray too far away from our vision.

In terms of my personal development I feel the devising approach as a process, has enlightened me to the endless possibilities of interaction between different forms and mediums of drama; that necessarily wouldn’t take place using a Shakespearian text for example. We did decide to explore different forms of drama, and considered naturalism and realism as one of the routes to explore in our piece. However, due to the physically expressive nature of our piece, it did not fit well, suggesting that introducing more traditional forms of theatre wasn’t going to work in this type of performance.

The practitioners that our group were mostly influenced by were the theatre companies whose expressivity lay in physical theatre. For example, Frantic Assembly, and Shockheaded Peter were a great inspiration to our group. We specifically looked at Frantic Assembly’s production of ‘Stockholm’, an interesting collaboration that interweaved amazing physical scenes around food. It was through this inspiration that we came to create unison movements that would achieve the effect of being both shocking and mesmerising to our audience. Shockheaded Peter was influential in inspiring our costume and makeup designs. Their fun and fabulous use of masks and elaborate makeup, juxtaposed with sometimes ‘normal’ outfits, engaged our group in creating a similar contrast. We particularly wanted to overindulge the face, seeing as it is such a prolific body part relating to food, and create it as the centre of focus for the audience.

There were times during the process where we experienced low momentum, simultaneously stumbling across a ‘devisors block’. At times this was bitterly frustrating, as we were all significantly aware of time constraints placed upon this process. In restoring our motivation, we went back to our roots, to become invigorated. This encompassed researching and reflecting on music, art or drama that we felt was inspiring to us. It worked very well, as more often than not a quick emergence into such creativity produced a flash of thought that provided a way out of the darkness.

In conclusion, it is clear that the devising process has initiated a change in my concept of the ‘text’, expanding it to various forms of media, of which can all equally be as successful as a written piece. Furthermore, I have fortunately been able to gain a new skill set, enabling me to develop another way in approaching material. The process has been both a flexible and fun approach that has helped to initiate the breakdown of barriers between colleague’s and the material presented to us at the very beginning. The journey has been one of discovery and opportunity, opening a new spectrum to the world of creative expression.


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