The tower block: developing devised work reflecting a theatrical style
This scheme of work takes students through the planning of a devised piece of practical work that fulfils the demands of the AQA A2 practical exam. It reflects the development of a Physical Theatre style, but, it can be easily adapted to reflect any style appropriate for DRA 4. The aim of the scheme of work is to encourage students to think imaginatively about how to create a journey on stage, and thereby understand the importance of transitions and their contribution to the overall effectiveness of a piece. It also enables students to create large amounts of work quickly.
This scheme encourages the development of a planned rehearsal schedule which allows teachers to set achievable goals relating to preparation marks. Most importantly, it reflects the need to demonstrate understanding of a specific theatrical style. Too often students approach their A2 practical exam thinking that it is just an extension of their practitioner-influenced AS exam, so Artaud-inspired AS students create Theatre of Cruelty-style A2 pieces, but allow their work to still be dominated by Artaud. Peter Hall-inspired AS work becomes naturalistic at A2, but is still mostly Peter Hall influenced.
I think the fundamental difference between the two practical exams is that, in order to demonstrate a fully integrated style of theatre, students should be recognising the contribution made to that development by a range of practitioners. Therefore, in order to provide my students with the best knowledge of physical theatre, we build on their study of Artaud at AS by introducing them to, in detail, Steven Berkoff. We also work with Splendid Theatre Company through their productions and physical theatre workshops. We include physical techniques associated with Grotowski’s Poor Theatre and the students see a production by Frantic Assembly and then attend a workshop with them. Finally, we go through revision of the Greek Chorus, which we previously studied through Antigone, in order to link Berkoff’s work on ensemble to material the students have already studied, building on skills learned at AS.
In this scheme, students go on a devised journey up through a tower block, during a supposed disaster outside of the building. The journey involves a movement upwards through the tower block, and the students are required to plan the journey and encounter a series of characters on the way. The development of the journey and the approach to characterisation must reflect those practitioners that they have studied, allowing research to be carried out that forms part of the Supporting Notes documents. The development of the journey upwards, towards the climactic moment as they reach the roof, becomes a series of targets where they can show their work, demonstrate specific physical and vocal techniques, and gradually integrate those techniques so they clearly move past the idea of a practitioner study into a well-rounded demonstration of a theatrical style. Each floor represents a practitioner’s style, until they reach the top where they create a scene integrating them all into a piece of physical theatre.
During this journey, characters will be created who suffer from a specific type of phobia, which impacts on their ability to interact with others. There are some phobias suggested here, but obviously teachers can adapt and change these according to the needs of their groups.
Personal, learning and thinking skills
- Developing physical performance skills
- Research into particular practitioners/styles
- Experimentation with audience position
- Building experience of devising
- Pair and ensemble work
- Building minutes of practical work quickly
- Developing devising skills and creating plot.
- The Theatre and Its Double by Antonin Artaud
- Artaud by Martin Esslin
- Steven Berkoff and the Theatre of Self-Performance by Robert Cross
- Towards a Poor Theatre by Jerzy Grotowski
- The Frantic Assembly Book of Devising Theatre
- The Director and the Stage by Edward Braun
- Access to a production by Frantic Assembly – the Digital Theatre archive has Frantic’s production of Lovesong in its database
- Workshops by Splendid Theatre Company and/or Frantic Assembly on physical theatre/devising
- ‘Five Truths Antonin Artaud’, National Theatre YouTube channel resource
- A copy of the film Alien using a clip from the sequence where Dallas goes in search of the alien through the air ducts of the ship
- DVD version of Steven Berkoff’s The Trial
- Antigone by Sophocles or any other studied Greek tragedy
- A clip of a Greek chorus, or modern Greek chorus in action.
Number of lessons: 4