On Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th May, the second year of Performing and Production Arts students, including myself, performed our show, ‘Saints and Sinners’. The show was created from being given only a theme and originally having to present ideas of drama, songs and dance to put in the show that would not go on for too long. However, although we were able to achieve this, we also created a story line around the chosen pieces so that they joined together, which was made through a thirteen week process.
At the start of the process I was worried about researching pieces to go into the final performance as the theme confused me at first. My initial thought for ‘Saints and Sinners’ was that we were only able to use actual Saints and Sinners, which I thought would then limit ourselves and not be able to show what we have learned over our two years. However, I was then reassured that the piece will not all be about that and the ‘Saints and Sinners’ theme meant good and bad people. I was then excited at the prospect at being able to join with the year group for our final show together. I was also excited at being able to create a show with only a theme given and a rough structure of having pieces, which would either be solo or in groups to perform. This meant that we were able to all present very different pieces, all which at the start would have a good chance of getting in the show. I then started researching my initial ideas to put into the show, for me, this was a tough process as I started to over complicate things, getting confused about what we had to put into the show. But after speaking as a group where we briefly discussed ideas that we had so far, I realised that they could just be songs and sections from a play. These are the two that I focused more on as over my two years here, I have studied on the acting pathway and have been in an acapella group over this past academic year.
When choosing my three ideas, I used inspiration from what I enjoyed and used a song that wasn’t a musical, which could work well with a scene that I devised the structure of. The idea was to have a girl who had been lured into doing bad crimes by someone who worked for the devil, as the devil wanted innocent souls. The girl would then be killed and the scene would be set in purgatory. This would have been exciting for me as a lot of work I have done at Conservatoire EAST has involved writing, so it would have given the chance to showcase that skill. I also wanted to use a playwright which I had studied in a session previously, Joe Orton. Meanwhile my third idea was from a musical, which I felt fit into both Saints and Sinners, they are a sinner because they are in prison, but a saint because they are trying to be on the path to redemption.
We then presented our ideas, one specific idea that was presented was more to do with the structure of the piece, which was to set the whole performance in a nightclub, which ended up being chosen for the final show. After a rough structure was put together, we then learned about the pieces being either acts in the club, or people talking. I was very up for this idea as a club in purgatory with the devil (who ended up being Saint Jimmy, an idea suggested by Jack), as there can be a split between Saints and Sinners, while some can swap sides, meaning that it doesn’t matter who they are, if they prove themselves, they either go to heaven or hell. Although none of my pieces specifically got into the show, they did create an influence to other choices being made. After the presentations, it was clear that all of the presentation ideas were strong, therefore, not everything would fit. Although none of my pieces specifically got into the show, they did create an influence to other choices being made. For example, after suggesting a piece by Joe Orton, it inspired ‘Mr Sloane’s’ monologue to go into the show.
As mentioned above, although not finalised straight away, the first draft of the structure was the show being set in a nightclub owned by Saint Jimmy, which was taken as inspiration from the song ‘Saint Jimmy’ by Green Day. We were grouped together where we were told about the initial ideas which had been put together after our suggestions. In terms of getting a show together with such a variety of ideas, this was something new for me, when it came to this, I had to keep professional and think of what would fit best for the show.
The pieces were then announced for the show the following week, one issue that was brought about from the presentation was that there was not a balance between saint pieces and sinner pieces, with there being much more sinner than saint. Therefore, some of the saint pieces are ones not put in any of the presentations in order to balance the show out, if we only used the ideas which we suggested, it would not show the overall theme well. I was excited to be paired with Sian to play Robbie in a section of Shopping and F***ing and would be performing a monologue from Saint Joan, by George Bernard-Shaw, who again, is someone we learned about in a session earlier in the year. As it took a while for the pieces to be announced, I then felt better about the show as we were finally able to start rehearsing. However, because it took a while, we then had nothing to perform for the work in progress, despite this, it was necessary to take time in crating the show, if it was rushed then it would not be at its full potential and there could be many flaws which would confuse audiences.
After being given the Shopping and F***ing section we made changes, particularly to some of the language, there were a couple of words in the original script which we have decided to change. The first one was changing “prick” and “c*nt” to “dick”, we decided to change “prick” as we felt that it would be an insult more aimed at a male, which wouldn’t work as Robbie will be changed into a girl so that I can play her. We also changed “c*nt” as it would be too inappropriate to perform to audiences, especially younger audience members. The other change we made was changing Robbie into a girl so that I would be able to portray the character truthfully, when deciding on a new name, I wanted to keep it similar to ‘Robbie’, eventually deciding on ‘Ruby’ as a suitable and similar name.
In order to play the scene truthfully, I had to carry out further research not only in the play, but the situation of selling the ecstasy tablets, meanwhile, as we also decided early on that Ruby would have taken some of these drugs, it meant that I also carried out research on the effects they have. By researching the fact that the user is on such a high on ecstasy, but can also be at their lowest point, I wanted to display both of those feelings. Through rehearsals, we decided to display the highest point mid-way through the scene, and the lowest point right at the end. Although this is how it eventually played out, I had difficulties at first on how to play Ruby and show the relationship with Lulu. In our first rehearsals where Josh offered to direct, we played on her sexuality as Robbie originally was in a relationship with Mark, however, although this might have fitted with the whole play being performed, it wouldn’t with the setting we chose and that particular scene. As there are other pieces in the show, we would not have time to establish that and make it fit well enough for the audience to remember. Therefore, after researching about the drugs, we started to play on that, which initially was difficult as I was struggling to finalise Ruby’s personality. I had been playing her as either angry or excited all of the time, it became a lot clearer after a session with a tutor where the suggestion of Ruby being an airhead was suggested, which really helped solve this problem. Because of it, I was able to play her as a confused character who did not know much, therefore, it would be normal for her to basically throw the drugs away.
By having her with this personality, what she is talking about along with her personality, it was able to create black comedy, which will make audiences laugh, but when they realise how dark the situation is, will feel guilty for her.
Another issue we had was Ruby’s relationship with Lulu, as we had not discovered why there are both in this situation, we couldn’t play it truthfully and we were not able to go full out when performing. Once the final script had been written, it became clear that Lulu had tasked Ruby to sell these drugs for her, which was able to show a different side to Lulu that Jimmy and the waitresses did not know of, adding to her flirty personality. Although we had been practicing with Lulu as getting worked up, we did not fully know why, however, this helped solve that problem, particularly with the link scene written earlier in the script to explain that Lulu has given her this task, but she cannot deal in the Saints and Sinners club. To improve, I think that we could have made a greater effort to meet up more times, this was an issue for me a lot through the project. Because we were a big group, there were days where we sat together but didn’t focus on the project, therefore, we need to be more strict.
Communication wise, I had a messenger group chat with Sian, Josh and Leah Sanders, who was our production arts member for this piece. From the start, we were effective at communicating rehearsal times, ensuring that we picked a time where we did not have a timetable clash. Because of this, we had our first rehearsal straight after the Easter Holidays, which we had before the work in progress, so when it came to that, we were able to state the progress we had made in the little time. However, as there were so many who had not had a rehearsal, we simply got up and explained our progress. This was better for me as at the time, we were not sure on our characters and needed more work together before we felt it was at a suitable state to perform.
When it came to communicating with Leah about a costume, I had informed her that I had found something, which I then showed her the next week, which is a costume that she approved of. This made the process easier as I did not have to worry about a costume. Although she is an airhead, there are also mentions in the final script about her very low status with the nickname, “skanky, lanky streak of confusion” being given. Therefore, the well done costume that I had planned did not fit, therefore, I kept the dress to joke that she made a slight effort, but wearing converses instead, also messing up my hair and putting dull makeup on, adding bruises in the interval with makeup. This, along with the confused personality and her going on drugs, really defined the character which I had struggled with at the beginning at the process. With this piece, I learned just how important the research is when helping with the personality and that if we are struggling, get help straight away to solve the problem, which we did eventually with a tutor. I felt that we could have gotten this help sooner as it would have allowed us more time to experiment with the character.
Saint Joan, for me was a different rehearsal experience to Shopping and F***ing, this is because it was an individual act, therefore, I would work on the monologue myself, without having to worry about clashes with other timetables. I decided to cut the monologue was because it was long for the time that we wanted the pieces to be, but also because some of the sections were not necessary. After researching the character and reading the play, I knew how to play her truthfully. In terms of research, I feel that there was an imbalance and that I spent more time researching instead of rehearsing. I need to remember in future to balance the two out and set a more strict timetable.
I had created a final version of the monologue quickly, so I could then start learning the monologue, which is something that I have had to do a lot over the past year for auditions. When it came to rehearsing it, I chose to do it alone, as I had all my research, so had my own idea of how I wanted to portray Joan, I also knew that I would be showing it to tutors so I could take on their feedback. As Joan is calling these people fools, saying their counsel is of the devil and wanting to be set free, I used that along with my research to play her as a passionate character who was angry at the situation she was in. When I started rehearsing, the piece did not change as I was receiving only positive feedback, the danger for that was that I would carry on and get over confident. Therefore, I gave myself feedback to further her character even more, with the aim to keep her at the level of the first time I performed it to tutors. Which I feel proved to be effective and I was able to keep that state of mind for the final shows, while keeping the character true.
My production arts member for Saint Joan was Alex, when it came to discussing a costume, my opinion was that we started communications quite late into the process, so Alex only had a couple of days to find something before he had to start work on getting sets in for other shows. He was also in charge of some of the main pieces, particularly Saint Jimmy, therefore, he would have focused more on that. Despite this, I take responsibility for the lack of communication between us for this piece as I knew of the other pieces he was dealing with and the busy couple of weeks he would have before the show. Therefore, I will learn from this and make sure that from early on, I start communicating and arrange short meetings.
Because of this, I had to find my own costume, although I was easily able to find something, this process was rushed and decided on show week, which went back to the point about communicating earlier to avoid rushing about. It also meant that I focused more on that than the actual piece. I need to make sure that in future, I fully read the monologue and decide on a costume that would be best suited to that character, not choosing something based purely on research, but that and the monologue.
Although communication within our small groups was important, it was also important that altogether, we communicated, not only on social media, but in person. We could then arrange full rehearsals to get the show together and towards the end of the process, arrange smaller rehearsal together so that others can state if there will be a clash. We held meetings where we arranged two run through of the whole show before the show week. Although I am glad that we were able to do a run through a couple of weeks before Saints and Sinners as it showed off the flaws in our script, it was also rushed, therefore, we had a lot to do in little time.
An important part to the thirteen week process was the action plans which were to be updated every week. It was difficult at the beginning as we had only been given the theme by that point, so a lot of it was vague at the beginning. However, for me, I was then able to see what the process would look like from the start, giving a vague idea of it overall. We were warned from the beginning that the action plan would not stay the same throughout, which I found out early on in the process, in terms of planning, I learned that in order for the show to work, I had to be adaptable and prepare for many changes.
The reason that I think I wasn’t able to keep up to date with my aims was the fact that I was in Bonnie and Clyde the week before. At that point, my main focus would normally be on the show I had the next week, but because I had Bonnie and Clyde, that had to stay at the back of my mind. This made me lack concentration, especially at the beginning of Saints and Sinners show week while I was still recovering from another major show the week before.
In terms of what I had planned following that, there were many aims that I had to keep putting back, such as learning lines and getting costumes sorted, particularly for Saint Joan. I think that with a busy schedule, I had put too much on myself at some points, however, what I want to improve on in the future is to try and stick to my personal goals on my action plans as much as possible. This is because there were some aims which I neglected or prioritised others over, which meant significant changes for the other weeks. But when it came to planning out rehearsals, I had put what I had aimed to rehearse, then communicating with Sian to see if it was possible, which it mainly was, therefore, when it came to rehearsals on Shopping and F***ing, I was able to stay accurate with that.
One thing that was very important was knowing the cue lines, I had created a crib sheet which had the section before my part, when to go to the doors and my cue line to enter. I learned that I had to be very aware of when I was going to enter because I would only be able to hear my cue lines from right outside the theatre. But I am glad that I was able to note this at that point, so that I could be aware for the show nights.
Evaluation of Shows
For Shopping and F***ing, I felt that I was able to remember my research on drugs and keeping in mind the personality, making her this character which no one else wanted to be around and thought was an odd character in the club. Our interlude scene was Ruby walking in with Lulu rushing over to state that she can deal in any club but here, we have a written section in that scene, however, myself and Sian did not follow the script that night and ended up going completely off script, while sticking to the main basis. Therefore, for the second night, I had to make sure that I went over my lines and kept on the script, as it was also important for the technical team as they relied on us for the cues. Another issue was that for this scene, a late decision was made for my character to enter with a can of beer, which could indicate what she had been doing and her lower status. I did not think to empty this before, therefore, I walked on stage begging for a drink even though I had an unopened can of beer in my hand. If this was added in earlier, then we could have added another section about Ruby wanting something a bit fancier. But we didn’t think to add this until Wednesday as we still felt that we could roughen up Ruby’s character. For the Shopping and F***ing scene, I was able to play Ruby the way we had rehearsed, but I think for the character and relationship between Ruby and Lulu, we could have gone a lot further. For the next night, I had the aim of amplifying Ruby’s character even more, without going too over the top. There was also something else which we had added after the dress run, which was Ruby entering in pain, I remembered to do this as I entered but forgot to as I exited, I will note this as I neglected to go over this note before to avoid this happening tomorrow.
As for Saint Joan, I was very happy with how the piece went, my only issue was that I had doubt in my mind over the monologue and had a fear of forgetting it, which although I didn’t threw me before I went on. Therefore, I can learn from this to keep a clear mind and go over the monologue during the day instead of a few minutes before going on.
When it came to the second night, myself and Sian had gone over the script and it showed for the second performance as we did not make up most of the scene. However, my cue line to enter is “I’ll go next time”, which Sian forgot to say, therefore, I only went on stage when I knew that she was not going to say this line, which left an awkward moment of silence. This threw me off slightly as that was the line that I was relying on to enter, if this happens again, I will not let the silence continue for as long as it did and I will react much quicker to the situation. I emptied the beer can out before entering so I signalled to that more during the scene, to let Lulu know that I needed a drink and didn’t have one, which made much more sense. When it came to the scene in the second act, it felt more rushed than Wednesday night, which I didn’t intend for it to be. I think that this was because I really got into the character and because I got Ruby quite energetic early on, I didn’t want that energy to drop. So I need to remember to keep a steady pace throughout and not get overly energetic, because it also meant that I fluffed on a couple of lines. However, unlike the first night, I remembered to enter and exit with Ruby in pain, walking in and out with a slight limp.
I kept in mind my own feedback for Saint Joan and did not think too much about the monologue in my head just before. This then meant that I could enjoy the performance a lot more and perform the character confidently, but not overconfidently in the way that I intended Joan to be. For both nights I remembered to involve the characters watching on the stage as it was a cabaret performance which they would all be watching. But I also had to keep in mind that this was also a performance which a public audience payed to watch.
For the final song ‘Rebel’, I had to remember to keep in character for Ruby throughout the show, not switching off as we all didn’t want to be just standing in the same position. Therefore, by this time, the ecstasy drugs were really wearing off, so she was more down about the situation, but not so down that I lost the energy in the character. I went up onto Jimmy’s platform in the second part for the song, which I wanted Ruby to do confidently to aggravate him. In order to improve this, I should have communicated with Jack more to get that across as he ignored my character going up on his territory. I feel that I got angry as Ruby and gave Jimmy angry looks, which I didn’t want to over play and go over the top on as the emotion would have been lost.
When it came to the performance overall, I feel that Wednesday showed that not everyone was confident with the script, although the storyline followed correctly, there were many lines which were cut out. However, we have to remember that the script was created for us only, therefore, audiences would not know what the lines were.
The idea of having a feedback sheet came for the second night, where, we were asked to post questions which we could then ask the audience on a sheet. The sheet with the feedback will be in my task 4 section, along with box office data.
The main purpose, which was made clear to us at the beginning was to show off what we had learned over two years at Conservatoire EAST. With Sian Joan, I was able to show off monologues and not only how to learn them, but how to perform them. I had to have the energy and emotion match the meaning, so to do that, I had to understand what the monologue was about and practice as I went along. There is always mention of too much shuffling that students do while they are doing a monologue, this could not happen with Saint Joan as I had planned early on to play her still. This would then show that although she was born into low status, she wanted to show the high status and power that she had created.
I had to remember for both pieces what I had learned in voice lessons, to maintain clarity, volume, pace and pitch throughout, while also varying my voice to keep it exciting for the audience. For Shopping and F***ing, although George Bernard Shaw is someone we looked at previously, we did not look at Shopping and F***ing. As we decided to make Ruby an airhead, I had to remember to keep my voice high, but also remembering to keep the volume high. As I felt that I did speak at a fast pace on the second night, I was worried that the audience would not be able to hear me. I also decided to have an accent, which is something we learned about in voice lessons as well, as I had worked on this chav accent before, I stuck with the one I knew would work.
In conclusion, the thirteen week period proved to be successful and we were able to not only chose pieces for our show, but to also use the theme and make our own story line from the pieces to fit with the theme. Research for me was key for these characters as they helped define their personality which although we struggled with at first, was able to determine with research and guidance. The main issues I had with this project was communication, particularly for Saint Joan and keeping to my action plan. But I was able to use skills which I had learned over the past two years, along with everyone else to create a performance which worked and made sense.