Over this term, we have been looking at different eras and plays of those eras, such as Restoration Comedies. One area that we haven’t looked at was melodramas, therefore, the aim of this session was to talk about melodramas and get into groups to devise our own.
A melodrama is a piece of theatre which is over exaggerated, with the characters being exaggerated with songs often included. The task we were set was to create our own melodrama based off a story that Lynn told us of the history of Bury St Edmunds. This was the story of Arundel Coke who did not have enough money, however, his brother in law, Edward Crisp, did. He believed that when Crisp died, his wife would inherit his fortunes. Therefore, he hired someone to kill him, this man was called Woodburn, he was to kill him when Coke led Crisp outside for a walk by the great churchyard during a party. Crisp was attacked and the two men ran away, believing he was dead, therefore, they ran away. However, Crisp later turned up on their doorstep heavily disfigured, but alive, leading to Coke’s and Woodburn’s arrest and execution in 1721.
I was put in a group with Emma, Lou, Jack and Harry, we decided we would recreate the story, with Harry playing Edward Crisp, Emma playing his wife, Jack playing Arundel Coke, myself playing his wife and Lou directing. The main thing I learned during this session was to beware of the dangers of devising a melodrama, which was to not make it so overdramatic that it becomes a parody. We learned this while we were devising as quite often, we would go over the top and be too dramatic. In order to prevent this, we didn’t go over the top with using our arms and hands while exclaiming lines and didn’t exaggerate our voices too much. We contrasted the two characters, making Harry’s and Emma’s characters madly in love, while myself and Jack’s characters were more scheming and focused on killing Coke.
There were some pieces of movement which I put in that would be suitable for the melodrama, for example, after my character assumedly killed Crisp, I had a shoulder movement where I turned to an angle. This movement was to develop the evil personality that I had already created and got good reaction from the other group when we watched it.
In conclusion, we were able to work well as a team to create a melodrama which was not too over dramatic. I was also able to revise what exactly a melodrama was before we started devising.