Sunday, 19 May 2019

Theseus and the Minotaur/The Odyssey- Week Two: 'Heroes, Gods and Monsters.'

Another busy week for our Chameleons! Yesterday our groups were exploring the many heroes, gods and monsters which appear in both 'Theseus and the Minotaur' and 'The Odyssey.' Given the importance of context for these stories (and our undying love for the mythology) we decided to explore the world surrounding Theseus and Odysseus's tales. We also got our Chameleons creating their own stories this week: it was all rather action packed. 

To kick off our morning session, we got the Chameleons playing 'what's in the box?' a game which involves passing around an invisible box, out of which each person must produce an object and then mime what that object is. It is a great game to get the imaginations going and we usually have one or two humorous items (such as an elephant, or very large snake). 

Next we had a look at some of the gods which appear in the story; Athena, Poseidon and Hermes to name some. The Chameleons had to think about how to communicate their character without talking, focusing on the attributes which might define them. For instance, looking at Athena, who is the goddess of wisdom, war and justice (to mention a few titles) we had some choose to walk around with books to show wisdom, or swords to show war. 

We also had a look at some of the monsters: such as the Cretan Bull. We asked the Chameleons how we might show the creature's size and had good fun stomping around the rehearsal room pretending to knock over buildings, as in the story. There were even plenty of bull sounds to go alongside this. 

Finally we looked at some of the mortal characters in the story and got thinking about how to create crowd scenes. Selecting five Chameleons, we asked them to create a marketplace: each having a stall that they would sell an item of their choice at. The rest of the group had to visit the market and choose one thing to buy. There were lots of fun marketplace stalls with a number of great items, such as a pet shop, chair stall and even someone selling fake diamonds. "Chairs. They're great. You can sit on them," said one vendor.

After the break we had a look at a different story which ties in with 'Theseus.' The story of Heracles and his 12 labours is a very exciting one, in which Heracles (or Hercules post-Disney) must face twelve different challenges in order to undo a curse put upon him by Hera, the goddess of marriage. Hercules makes an appearance in our show, during the origin story how the Minotaur came to be. In order to help the Chameleons learn the story we put each of the twelve labours in a cup and had someone select one at random. The selected labour would then be acted out by the group whilst Ben narrated the story. Similar to our approach last week to learn Theseus's story, these speedy scenes are a great way of teaching plot quickly and keeping everyone engaged. 

To round off the morning we split the group in two and asked each team to create their own labour for Hercules. We had some brilliant scenes and stories. One team created a dragon/tiger/scorpion monster for Hercules to fight. Meanwhile the other team created a scene where he had to face Medusa, with hair made of snakes, which could turn people to stone with a single glance. Their solution to this was obviously to use the 'ultimate scissors' to chop her hair off. All in all, very entertaining scenes! 

Moving onto the afternoon; we had a similar approach to exploring Odysseus's story. To kick things off we had a look at the heroes, monsters, gods and mortals which we could remember from the story so far. The Chameleons worked in two small teams to recall as many people and characters as they could and then we shared this knowledge at the end of the activity. 

Again we had a look at the various attributes of the gods which appear throughout the story and how we could embody these on stage. Some very nice physical theatre work from the group as they moved around the room as these characters. Favourites was watching the group as Poseidon, summoning storms at sea. 

Continuing this theme, we had the group work together to create various objects and monsters. In the story of Odysseus, we see a number of monsters and other-worldly creatures- such as Polythemus the cyclops. Our Chameleons were then tasked with creating some creatures of their own. We had a creature dancing while its arms flailed and a version of the hydra, which the group used their heads and arms to represent its many heads. 

To round off the session we returned to some fun acting activities. We played a round of 'what are you doing?' In this game the group sits in a circle and one person stands in the middle and does an action. The next person goes in and asks what they are doing; to which the first says an action which is anything but what they are doing, and the next person does this action instead. It is a tried and tested game with us and is always a good laugh for everyone. 

Last but not least we split the group in two and asked them to create their own scenes featuring a monster. Both teams worked hard and created some nice scenes; one of which involved Zeus sending two heroes on a quest to fight an invisible monster and the other involved going to fight the hydra, and using weapons to cut off its many heads, only to have more and more grow back. The scenes were a lovely way to finish off the day. 

It certainly was a busy day, but we had so much fun exploring the contexts of this term's stories with the groups. Everyone seems so eager to learn the myths behind the performances they are making and we're excited to see where things go from here. Next week we are introducing scripts, revealing casting for the shows and will start working on the beginnings of the term's shows. Bring on next week. 

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Theseus and the Minotaur/The Odyssey- Week One: 'Two Stories, Two Heroes.'

Summer term has finally arrived and after a nice extended break, yesterday saw our Chameleons return for the group's tenth project. Four years ago, when we sat down and jotted down ideas for what the company which we had somehow acquired would be doing, the concept of running a children's weekend group was one which we never thought would last long-term. The previous Anthos Arts had come to an end, with the original team leaving it behind and with them a number of links were lost and we had a lot of work on our hands. The group, simply then called 'the younger group' was a means of helping to build new links within the community and help inspire the new generation of artists in Exeter, as the original mission statement had sought to do.

It went well, we re-branded our 'younger group' as the Chameleon Group, and our 'older' as the Anthos Young Company with the new intention of making it a long term-endeavour and here we are today. A lot of reflection has happened over the build up to this term where it seems surreal that we are now entering what will be the tenth project for us. The Chameleon Group has continued to expand and has created some fantastic pieces of theatre. It is still so much fun and each term with the group really does feel like a new adventure. 

Prologue rant out of the way, this term we are (as most people who follow us will know) creating not one, but two performances which will be based on stories from Ancient Greece. As a team we have a real passion for the mythology linked to this period, admiring it also as the birth of theatre today. 'Theseus and the Minotaur' was our first ever full-fledged show with the Chameleons and so it seemed fitting that we would revisit it to mark the big one-o. Alongside Theseus will be a brand new story, based upon 'The Odyssey,' following the adventures of Odysseus as he tries desperately to return home after the Trojan war and the troubles he faces along the way.

Two groups, two heroes, two stories. A lot of Chameleons have joined us this term and we're excited to get to the stories at hand. For the first week though, we wanted to ease everyone in. We have all manner of familiar, new and returning faces in the groups and as it has been nearly two months since 'The Girl and the Fox' we thought that some games, some catching up and some general fun would be a fantastic way to start. Both sessions got off to a humorous start; with laughter aplenty as the Chameleons got stuck into some classic and some new games.

The shape game must be played; it's like gospel to us...what would a term be without shapes? It's an activity that has a great many benefits; encouraging teamwork, engaging imaginations, teaching communication and is always a great way to break the ice between Chameleons old and new. Our favourite activity however was creating a machine. The groups were asked to enter the stage one-by-one and become part of a machine. They are not allowed to communicate what the machine will be but must work together to try and compliment what each other were doing.

The machines in both groups were very interesting. What's more, we asked the Chameleons afterwards what they thought the machine was making. Each member had plenty of wonderful ideas and while they had worked together to make a machine that worked in unison, their concepts were all vastly different.

Each group then had a chance to explore the characters and story of the shows they would be respectively working towards. In both cases, several Chameleons presented a wealth of knowledge; either about the stories themselves or the context surrounding them, which added to our discussions. We had one bring in a book on 'Theseus and the Minotaur' for us to look at and were told all about stories, books and audio CDs which had been read/heard at home. This made our roles more fun, as we were able to explain how our versions have taken the mythologies and built upon them, drawing from different myths and characters from the lore. Our shows are rarely straight adaptations, we like to embellish on characters/events to make things more interesting.

These are big stories, however, and so we wanted to get the Chameleons exploring them in an active and fun way. True to form, we took the groups through a speed run of the show, asking them to act out different parts as we narrated them. The speed-runs always descend into a bit of madness but are always a lot of fun.

There is no denying that we have two fantastic groups, all of whom are keen on the ideas for the shows and eager to get started. Following up, we intend to look further at the mythologies behind the show, exploring some of the Gods, Goddesses and monsters which feature. It feels like it is going to be a wild term for us, but we are excited to see how both shows will develop. Side note- as there are two groups this term, there may be weeks where we will have the one blog post for both groups, and times where we may do a post for each group, circumstances depending.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

The Girl and the Fox Final Chapter: 'The Legend of The Girl and the Fox: An Inuit Story'

That's a wrap. Another story told and another performance under the belt. Last week our Chameleons took to the Cygnet stage for 'The Girl and the Fox.' It has been a wonderful, if short, term for us Following last year's theme of adapting well known stories we had decided that we wanted to do something new. The decision was made for this term's story to be an original one that we could use to teach the Chameleons something they didn't know before.

The last time we had an original show was in 2016. 'The Princess and the Goblins' was an original story that had been based off of an old book, found in the depths of a quaint little bookshop in London's West End. The story then featured a narrative about a girl out to prove that she was every bit as capable as her father, the King of Greenhill. Together with her maid and friend Lottie she snuck out of the palace, uncovered a goblin plot to invade, and set about saving the kingdom in her father's absence. It was a fun story to create with the Chameleons, who back then were a group of seven (how times change).

Writing a new story was a fun concept, but finding the starting point was trickier than anticipated. There were plenty of ideas, but none that jumped out from amongst the others. In wandering the halls of the RAMM museum and admiring the World Cultures section the notion of creating an Inuit story sprang to mind. Inuit culture was not as well known to us, but as more and more research was done it became clear that this was the route we should take. Inuit stories were filled with so much character and a sense of adventure, which was the perfect fit for the Chameleon Group.

In addition to this, the stories had a wholesome feel of family and the importance of nature, animals and friendship. Quite a lot of the stories were vivid and some graphic, but the morals were strong and contained themes which later featured in the play. The concept of animals being guides, or playing a large role in the story was one we wanted to play with. The Fox in our story is a mysterious magical creature, there to guide, but not overcome obstacles for the Girl. Many stories are about individuals overcoming their own adversities, so we wanted this for The Girl. We invented her father, a character whom people looked up to and respected, as a means of encouraging her to go on her own journey and experience her own power and what that could accomplish in its own right.

Use of Inuit names was a key factor in the show. We wanted to get the Chameleons to embrace the culture as well as the story. Teaching them the names and meanings was part of this. In keeping with a number of folklore stories from Inuit culture, we left the Girl absent of a name. We wanted not her name, but her actions towards others to be what defined her. There is a strong message to girls within this too, that they have the power to seek out their own answers and be strong and smart. The Girl could be anyone, and we further represented this by using two Chameleons to portray her.

This term we were blown away by how passionately the Chameleons embraced the story and the culture. They were keen to learn and to transform both of these into a performance. Week after week they have made us laugh and we have seen some truly outstanding work from them in rehearsals. The performance last week was the perfect culmination of their efforts and was an absolute pleasure to watch.

Though our adventure has drawn to a close and we are retreating for some much needed rest (yeah, right) we are excited for the next term and the two- that's right, two- stories that we are aiming to tell. 'Theseus and the Minotaur' and 'The Odyssey,' are sure to be a whole heap of fun. Thanks to everyone who took part and supported us this term. It has been a blast. The legend of The Girl and the Fox will certainly live on for years to come.

For now, adios and enjoy some of the fantastic pictures from the show.

Theseus and the Minotaur/The Odyssey- Week Two: 'Heroes, Gods and Monsters.'

Another busy week for our Chameleons! Yesterday our groups were exploring the many heroes, gods and monsters which appear in both ...