Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Evaluation:Section Three

Final Play Evaluation

As a creative adaptation in a physical theatre style, I feel we have successfully got across the dramatic intentions of the piece, which were isolation and for the audience to empathize with the characters. We have done this through the use of movement, music and a range of physical theatre techniques. I feel that the audience are able to build a slight relationship with the four characters we look at which are Rose, Miriam, Lucy and Frances, although we only briefly look at these character's the content we use within each section allows the characters to gain the sympathy of the audience. I feel we have incorporated a good balance of physical theatre techniques which include chair duets, two tag and a range of movement. I also feel that the 'Dream Sequence' adds a kind of surreal section to the piece, contributing to the physical theatre style.

After collecting feedback, it became evident that the audience thought our piece was unpredictable which was the idea we were aiming for. We wanted to avoid any cliche within the whole piece. We also got that the audience thought that the piece had a good story line and the emotions portrayed weren't constantly the same, they said the they enjoyed the way the piece started quite light hearted and got more serious and upsetting towards the end of the play. Audience's also commented on the originality of some of the scenes. For example, the 'Sketch Sequence' was thought of very highly by the audiences, people commented on that they had never seen anything like this before and it was a really good use of physical theatre, they also commented on how light hearted this section was and how it gave the piece a happier more cheerful feel. Another section which audiences thought was really effective was the 'Miriam Section' simply because it made them feel uncomfortable to watch because the repetition of the word Miriam and the jerky, tick movements made the section visually uncomfortable, which was the intention of this section.

I am particularly pleased with the overall feel of the piece because we portrayed the story in a successful way, as well as making the piece very physical. I ensured we did this by referring back to the resources I found originally in the beginning. After every section we created, I went back and analysed if it involved enough physical theatre techniques. One section which I feel was changed the most was the 'Dance Scene' to begin with it was a straight forward couple dance, however I referred back to a dance workshop which I had previously participated in, which involved a physical theatre trust lean section. I incorporated this within the dance to show the dependency of the each person within the couple, because the idea of this section is where Rose is talking about her heartbreak and how she loved this one and only man and he left her for someone else, highlighting her isolation later on in her life. Adding the physical leans and falls created this intention successfully.

Self Evaluation

Before this piece I had very little previous experience in physical theatre or in directing, so the experience as a whole was quite new to me. To help myself become more wise in the two area's I did quite a lot of research in order to ensure I was able to be as successful as I could be. Also none of the group had any physical theatre experience either, so in order for them to become more aware with the style I created a visual presentation which involved a brief description on the physical theatre style, video's of physical theatre created by Frantic Assembly's, DV8 and Push, and also my idea's for creating a piece. The group said they found this really helpful. By doing this I helped nourish the groups knowledge and this allowed us to get on straight away creating idea's.

I didn't really struggle with creating initial idea's and managed to create material straight away because of the research I had previously done. The biggest challenge I was faced with was the range of personalities within the group however I over came these by giving equal opportunity to each of my actors and playing to all of my actors strengths.

As a director I have grown in a number of different area's which involved giving each of my actor's constructive criticism in order for them to improve. I would watch each section and write notes on things I picked up on and I fed back to each of my actors individually in order for them to improve positively.

I also learnt how to contribute idea's clearly in order for my group to fully understand the dramatic intention I was aiming for. When beginning to devise idea's I found it quite difficult to vocalise my intentions, I had all the idea's but being able to explain it was a bit of a struggle. This is where I found asking for help to explain was a good idea to ensure my idea's were addressed correctly.

Also right from the beginning I was quite strict with my group ensuring all of them were there for rehearsals and gave 100% all the time. This showed very successful in our overall piece because everyone constantly knew what they were doing.

Overall, I feel have improved a lot from when I first started directing the piece and I have not only gained a better knowledge of the Physical Theatre style, I also understand what it is to be a director. I have gained better communication skills throughout this process and built a strong relationship with my group, this was a great aspect of working as a director. Another thing which I have improved on is working under pressure, as the group strongly relied on me throughout the process and came to me with any issue's they had.

Group Evaluation

It was really important as a director to find ways of getting my cast to create and perform at the highest level each of them could. I knew I had a range of abilities and experiences within the group and I wanted to ensure they were all performing as a group at the same high standard. Building teamwork and trust was some of the early work  I undertook and this also helped me establish myself as a leader of the group, setting standards for professionalism in the rehearsal room. This is some of the work I needed to think about with each of the actors.

Joseph Mellors:

  • British & American Accent
  • Never done physical theatre before and needed some confidence building.
  • Synchronisation 

Hannah Lambell:

  • Showing emotion through physical movement & non naturalistic ways 
  • Multi rolling
  • Physical movement through transitions  

Georgina Eaton:

  • American Accent 
  • Working in the physical theatre style
  • Synchronisation

Livy Thompson:

  • Showing emotion through physicality rather than vocally
  • Synchronisation 
  • Learnt to take criticism on bored
Laura Thompson:

  • Worked on using facial expression in order to show emotion
  • American Accent
  • Working in the physical theatre style

Matthew White:

  • Gained a developed understanding in physical theatre
  • Gained more confidence
  • Contributed strong idea's

Hannah Jeffery:

  • Stronger accent gained
  • Showing emotion through facial expression and body language
  • Timing and synchronisation 

Heath And Safety

There were various health and safety concerns that arose when rehearsing which were addressed.

  •  While working in the physical theatre style, rehearsals were physically taxing on the actors so it was important to use an effective warm up to ensure that whilst doing lifts and any vigorous movement the actors didn't injure themselves.
  • Another aspect we were careful with was that during the early stages of doing lifts, I got the group to practise with mats around them just in case in the early days of doing the lifts there was a fall.
  • One thing I constantly reminded the group of was the spacial awareness of others in the group. This was also to avoid any accidents whilst rehearsing the piece. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Development Overview: Section Two

2/12/13 - 13/1/14

I started by introducing my group to the whole story behind 'Awakenings', I did this through a visual presentation and speaking about what I had found. We discusses the content behind the book and the film, which lead to the decision that we preferred to do an adaptation of the book rather the film. This was simply because the book gave us significantly more to work with and expand on. The group and I then went on to discuss initial idea's and began to devise movement straight away. We decided straight away that we weren't going to work with words at all for the first couple of lessons, this was so we could develop the physical side of the things in more detail.

I got each person in the group to pick a character from the book and develop a character profile for each chosen one. This was so we had a insight to a range of different characters and their stories. From this we all sat down and shared idea's on how we could expand on the information found. I decided that maybe we would pick three or four characters to focus on, simply because looking at all seven would have put us at a disadvantage because it wouldn't allow the audience to build any sort of relationship with them. By doing the character profiles it allowed me to pick out certain little things which I could make physical movement out of. One of the first things that really stood out for me was a hand sequence which 'Rose R' had as part of her everyday lifestyle. I automatically linked this back to the work of 'Paper Bird's' production of 'On the other hand', I thought this could be something we could work with later on.

Another of the things I picked up from my own research was the idea of being controlled by this illness, so I took this as my initial starting point and began creating movement around this idea. I took the idea of chair duets and expanded to fit with the whole group being involved at the same time. I had three people sat on a bench being a representation of the patients and the other four standing in the gaps behind the bench as a representation of the doctors or the illness. I then came up with a sixteen count sequence in which they either did in sharp unison or in canon, repeating different sections. This was a really good starting point and allowed the group to branch off further idea's.

After creating the group 'chair duet', I had the idea of inner/outer personality chair duets. This involved everyone being in pairs except one person. After pairing the group off I then ask them in their pairs to come up with a ten count sequence. I gave them this stimuli: " The person on the left, you are the inner person however you are on the outside looking in, you annoyed and frustrated with yourself because of your lack of mobility. The person on the right, you are the outer person, the person with the illness who is unable to move, speak or make any communication with anyone." I then left them to come up with the counts and after seeing them individually, I got them to do it at the same time. I also asked them to repeat the sequence three times, each time getting more and more angry and frustrated, and once they'd finished I asked them to stand and just scream.
Here is a video showing this sequence:

I carried on working with the idea of restricted movement, and began to work on a floor sequence that implied the idea of the drug, L-DOPA and it's effects. This involved all the group lying at various points on the stage, facing different directions, moving in unison. I choreographed this movement carefully, to re-enforce the idea of this drug.
Here is a video of this sequence:

We established that when it came to speaking sections of the piece, american accents would have to be used in order to convey the adaptation correctly. So we spent a few lesson's watching video's on Youtube, learning how to speak with various american accents. This was really useful for the group so they were able to get a good idea of how to expand their vocal range in order to recreate a strong american accent.

In my free time, I began to look for further inspiration to help the group and I develop further idea's. I did this by watching a wide range of physical theatre pieces online. Watching these various video's gave me some understanding of how to go about making certain activities and movements slightly more physical but not in such a stylised way. I took away a few small sections from various video's I had watched and introduced some of them to the group to try. One of these things was a really nice lift, which involved some being threw into the air with the support of the rest of the group around them. When we tried this it worked really well and we definitely could use it at some point in our piece. Also I found a really nice drag which involved some pulling someone else as they hooked their arms under the other persons arms and slowly started to walk. When Livy and Joe tried this it worked really well, however we weren't so sure this would work for the style of our piece.

We spent a few weeks creating these various sequence's before starting to think of a set structure, this allowed us to become familiar with the kind of Physical Theatre piece we would be continuing to create. By doing small sections of physical movement it gave the group and I potential starting points for piece as a whole.

After showing the rest of the class the small sections we have developed, we received some very useful feedback which helped us come up with the starting point for our piece.

20/1/14 - 10/2/14

We all sat down as a group and discussed idea's on how we would start the piece. I'd had an idea to use like a interview kind of technique to begin the piece. We played around with the interview idea, manipulating the idea of 'hot seating', we did this with people being patients, doctors/nurses and family members,  until we had the idea of using Oliver Sacks. I then remembered a video that I had previously watched which was an interview with Oliver Sacks on the BBC. This involved Dr Sacks explaining the effects of the disease and the drug L-DOPA on the patients. I thought this could be a good way to open the piece with a little bit of explanation of the stimuli of the piece.

With this idea in mind we decided to use the opening of the video to start the piece. Instead of the video being visual through projection I thought it would be more effective as a voice over as the lighting mimicked a old projector by flickering. We created a six count sequence which everyone would do (except the character playing Oliver Sacks) whilst the voice over was happening. Each person starts on a different movement and it continues till the person is back to the move they originally started with. Once the track had cut, I then thought (Oliver Sacks) Joe could step forward and begin to speak about the ticks that patients had.

I got the other six to stand in a semi circle across the middle of stage whilst Joe stood down stage right. I thought it would be effective if they cut him off mid sentence by saying 'I got a question" in unison. We tried this in a number of other ways before deciding this however this was the most effective. Then I got Laura to say 'What about Rose, did she have any ticks?" then the whole group carry on repeating the word 'tick' and flinching their head and hands, while Joe begins to respond to the question. As he explains the tick to the group, Livy acts it out behind him. When he had finished I got the whole group to join in on the sequence at different point and finish together. This worked really well but took a while to get it perfectly synchronized.

Referring back to my original research, I discovered a section in the book which stated all of the patients felt completely isolated from the outside world and I thought this would be a good idea to explore. I had this vision of Livy (Rose) being central and the rest of the group talking around her, implying that every day life was just going on around her but she had no control over anything in her surrounding. I got the volume of the random chatting to rise to the point where everyone sounded as if they were shouting and Livy fell forward and the chatting stopped suddenly, and a deep breath pod shock helped to emphasis the fall.
Here is a video of  before we go feed back.

After showing the group this section we received some critical feedback on how to improve. From the feedback we got that the idea itself was a really good idea however it looked too cliche and predictable. So we decided to play around with levels and aesthetics of everyone stood around Livy. I 

  • everyone turns 
  • 8 count duo sequence
  • minipulating sequence
  • tried voice over of Rose's husband - didn't work
  • floor sequence
  • two tag 
  • Liv's monologue - airplane - dance- love life - sketch

17/2/14 - 20/3/14

  • Chair duet - What are you thinking about rosy?
  • Added Grid
  • Repetitive Miraim - ticking
  • Lift 
  • Dream sequence
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • Matt & Laura - Inspired by Frantic assembly 
  • Hannah and Georgie - monologue & visual representation
  • Ending Heartbeat 

*made dance more physical
- took out unnecessary speech
*took away throw lift

24/3/14 - 1/4/14

Before Previews we made slight changes to the order of the piece in order for it to flow better. We sat down and made a running order of the scenes as they were and discovered some bits didn't really link. The 'Rose' section which originally ran as : Plane, Dance and Heartbreak then into the Sketch section, didn't really make sense or continue with the impression we were trying to achieve. So we decided to change the order so the audience understood properly how we are wanting them to feel. We put the Sketch section first because it's really light hearted and Rose is talking about the happier times in her life, and the Dance and Heartbreak was put after because it has a more sad and depressing tone and it links with the isolation created in the Grid section and the two tag which comes after.

25th March: Previews



  • Various volume on the surround talking
  • Developed the transition between talking in to plane - made a plane visually -added more lines - economy "y'all want some nuts" - first class "champagne ma'am"
  • Counting altered - more random 
  • Dream Transition - slow motion - backwards movement - more surreal feel
  • Added Oliver Sacks revisit - what is sleep paralysis?
  • Refined two tag - more emotion - longer gaps - build up 
  • Altered Sketch - made it more precise and light hearted 
  • Took out heartbeat at the end - too cliche 
  • Created a ending to sum up the whole piece

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Research & Initial Idea's: Section One

Directing: Awakenings                          

Our chosen styles are creative adaptation and physical theatre, we have selected these styles in order to portray our adaptation of Oliver Sacks  ‘Awakenings in a theatrically effective and emotionally engaging manner. It will involve going exploring the real life stories of patients who suffered ‘Encephalitic Lethargica’ otherwise known as ‘sleepy sickness’ which was a neurological disease. This 100’s of people to remain in a state of sleep paralysis for months, even years in some cases. We are going to be looking at the effects of L-DOPA, the drug that brought these people back to life.

The key aspects of a creative adaptation are:

  • Ensuring that the performance catches the essence of the story and making sure the moral of the story is upheld whilst changing a few different elements to the plot or/and the context.
  • Taking a one dimensional piece and re-creating to become a three dimensional performance.

To ensure we achieve these aspects successfully we will focus on utilizing the text but also having different inputs from other sources such as online video’s and DVD’s. We will also imaginatively adapt the story of a hand full of different characters in the book, to create a sense of pity. We will do this through a number of different physical sequences to show the lack of ability these people possess.

The key aspects of physical theatre that we will include in our piece are:

  • A huge part of physical theatre is making simple things such as speaking and moving very non naturalistic, another way to look at it making it look uncomfortable to watch, things people aren’t usually faced with on a daily basis. To ensure we for fill this, everything we do in the piece I will question as to whether it can be performed in a less stylized way. E.g if something is being spoken, I will add such things as repetition of words or little movements to contribute what they are saying.
  • My adaptation will be mainly movement driven which means thats the ‘story’ will be told through visual movements rather than long spoken elements. We will use things such as chair duets to represent the ‘inner & outer’ of the characters, this may also involve two-tagging to show how the characters are feeling. 
  • A lot of choreographed movement will be used throughout the duration of the play because it will help represent the similarities of the amount of movement some of these characters have.
  • We are also going to encourage the audience to use their imagination, because we are going to use very minimal props. E.g. some characters are in wheelchairs, instead of using the actual wheelchairs they will use their bodies in order to imply they are using a wheelchair.
  • The piece will be principally devised using their bodies and faces rather than with speech, setting and props.

Our first dramatic intention is to create sympathy for the characters, this will be done through their restricted movement sequences and the way in which they respond throughout the play. I want the audience to build a relationship with the characters as we recreate their lives, showing how hard it was just to get through each day. I also want the audience to feel slightly uncomfortable whilst watching the piece, because the piece is touching on some very sensitive issues such as disability and death, the way in which the actors will portray this will be uncomfortable to watch. Another dramatic intention is isolation, I want the audience to recognize the fact that these characters are being kept away from the rest of civilisation living in the institutes that were built for those suffering the disease, they were kept from the outside world and often their families would abandoned them as it was too much work look after them.

The productions I have seen has influenced some of the idea’s that  I am going to include in the piece. In the ‘The Secret Agent’ there was a synchronized sequence which involved movement of just the eyes, I think I could include this somewhere in the piece to represent the lack of movement the characters have. Also in ‘On The Other Hand’ there was a repetitive sequence used throughout the production, I am also going to involve some form of repetition as I think it will be a good visual representation of the characters inner thoughts.


  • Awakenings by Oliver Sacks
  • Your Handy Companion To Devising and Physical Theatre by Pilar Orti
  • The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre
  • Awakenings

Website Links


  • On The Other Hand - Paperbirds
  • The Secret Agent - Theatre O
  • Frantic Assembly

Friday, 22 November 2013

Awakenings: Oliver W.Sacks


Book Plot 

Awakenings is the remarkable account of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen in a decades-long sleep, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, “awakening” effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of these individuals, the stories of their lives, and the extraordinary transformations they underwent with treatment. This book, which W. H. Auden called “a masterpiece,” is a passionate exploration of the most general questions of health, disease, suffering, care, and the human condition.
The revised 1990 edition includes new essays on the making of several dramatic adaptations ofAwakenings, including Harold Pinter’s play, “A Kind of Alaska,” and the feature film, “Awakenings,” starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.
Dr. Sacks on Awakenings:
“Awakenings came from the most intense medical and human involvement I have even know, as I encountered, lived with, these patients in a Bronx hospital, some of whom had been transfixed, motionless, in a sort of trance, for decades. Migraine was still in the medical canon, but here I took off in all directions–with allegory, philosophy, poetry, you name it.”
 Praise for Awakenings:
“Experiences so strange that they are difficult to conceive are not limited to travels up the Amazon or to the Moon, but can occur within the confines of the human head…This long sleep and sudden awakening to a strange new world…though so alien, have an immediate power to grip the imagination. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that through this book we live with the dead, brought back from the past…The book is an extraordinary compound of clinical observation and, one feels, deep understanding of the plight of these people…One senses in the author a passion to communicate his discoveries with all the power of his intellect, knowledge and deep compassion–so that we may “awake.’”
– Richard Gregory, The Listener
“This book is a neurologist’s account of his experience with a so-called miracle drug from the epidemic of sleeping sickness which swept the world in the 1920s. Dr. Sacks writes beautifully and with exceptional subtlety and penetration into both the state of mind of his patients and the nature of illness in general….Compulsively readable…a brilliant and humane book.”
– A. Alvarez, Observer
“It makes you aware of the knife-edge we live on.”
– Doris Lessing
“This doctor’s report is written in a prose of such beauty that you might well look in vain for its equal among living practitioners of belles lettres.”

– Frank Kermode, Daily Telegraph

Film Plot

In 1969, Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams) is a dedicated and caring physician at a local hospital in the New York City borough of The Bronx. After working extensively with the catatonic patients who survived the 1917-1928 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, Sayer discovers certain stimuli will reach beyond the patients' respective catatonic states; actions such as catching a ball thrown at them, hearing familiar music, and experiencing human touch all have unique effects on particular patients and offer a glimpse into their worlds. Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) proves elusive in this regard, but Sayer soon discovers that Leonard is able to communicate with him by using a Ouijaboard.

After attending a lecture at a conference on the subject of the L-Dopa drug and its success with patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease, Sayer believes the drug may offer a breakthrough for his own group of patients. A trial run with Leonard Lowe yields astounding results as Leonard completely "awakens" from his catatonic state; this success inspires Sayer to ask for funding from donors so that all the catatonic patients can receive the L-Dopa medication and experience "awakenings" back to reality.

Meanwhile, Leonard is adjusting to his new life and becomes romantically interested in Paula (Penelope Ann Miller), the daughter of another hospital patient and begins spending time with her when she comes to the hospital to visit her father. Leonard also begins to chafe at the restrictions placed upon him as a patient of the hospital, desiring the freedom to come and go as he pleases and stirs up a bit of a revolt in the process of arguing his case repeatedly to Sayer and the hospital administration. Sayer notices that as Leonard grows more agitated battling administrators and staff about his perceived confinement, a number of facial and body tics are starting to manifest and Leonard has difficulty controlling them.

While Sayer and the hospital staff continue to delight in the success of L-Dopa with this group of patients, they soon find that it is a temporary measure. As the first to "awaken", Leonard is also the first to demonstrate the limited duration of this period of "awakening". Leonard's tics grow more and more prominent and he starts to shuffle more as he walks, and all of the patients are forced to witness what will eventually happen to them. He soon begins to suffer full body spasms and can hardly move. Leonard, however, puts up well with the pain, and asks Sayer to film him, in hopes that he would some day contribute to research that may eventually help others. Leonard acknowledges sadly what is happening to him and has a last lunch with Paula where he tells her he cannot see her anymore. When he is about to leave, Paula dances with him, and for this short period of time his spasms disappear. Leonard and Dr. Sayer reconcile their differences, but Leonard returns to his catatonic state soon after. The other patients' fears are similarly realized as each eventually returns to catatonia no matter how much their L-Dopa dosages are increased.
Sayer tells a group of grant donors to the hospital that although the "awakening" did not last, another kind — one of learning to appreciate and live life — took place. For example, he himself, who is painfully shy, decides to go ask Nurse Eleanor Costello (Julie Kavner) to coffee, many months after he had declined a similar proposal from her. The nurses also now treat the catatonic patients once again with more respect and care, and Paula is shown visiting Leonard. The film ends with Sayer standing over Leonard behind a Ouija board, with his hands on Leonard's hands which are on the planchette. "Let's begin," Sayer says.

Video Links