Saturday, 19 January 2019

The Girl and the Fox: Week Two- 'Remember your audience (also puppets).'

"Remember your audience" was probably the most used phrase in this morning's rehearsal, as the Chameleons continued to explore the different elements that will make up The Girl and the Fox. It was week two of our project today and what a busy morning we had. Within the play we have a variety of colourful animals which accompany or assist The Girl on her journey, and a number of scenes where we use puppetry and scale to create various effects. This morning we wanted to explore both of these things ahead of beginning work on the show itself next week (a shorter term means a much faster turn around time).

We began the session with a recap of the story and characters. As mentioned last week, the show uses several Inuit names- which are tricky for to remember for those unfamiliar with them- and it was great to see everyone have a go at remembering them. We were joined by some new faces to the group this week too, so it was a good opportunity to get everyone up to speed.

The Chameleons were next asked to walk around the room and follow instructions which had been reversed. A game they were all familiar with. In this version, however, they would be given an animal and then had to move around like that animal. These ranged from smaller creatures, like a cat, to giraffes and bears. The group had to think about how they were moving and how they could give the animals character. We explored the idea that they weren't allowed to use their hands and knees to represent animals, as this didn't portray what animal they necessarily were. We then paired the group up with each other and asked them to create larger animals.

The lesson here was not only about making the animals look interesting, but also about teamwork. The group had to make animals that could move and so had to work together in order for this to happen. They ended up in groups of five to create a whale. There were some wonderful creations from everyone. Some of the nicest were those which combined the traits of animals with aspects of people, such as we had an old eagle who used a walking stick.

After the break we got to work with the puppets. The group were very excited about this part of the session (the puppets always go down a storm), and were split into groups again. In their groups they had to bring the puppets to life, making them move around the room. Here we spoke a lot about remembering where the audience were, and making sure they could see the puppet, not the performers. We also talked about how to make the puppet breath, and using slow movements to make them seem alive.

Some groups created scenes with their puppet, touching on the idea of perspective in a show. We had explored this idea after the break, saying that one way to make something look big on stage was to place it beside something small, and vice versa. The Chameleons all created some nice moments with their puppets and it will be fantastic to continue exploring this as the weeks progress.

A busy, busy week. The lesson to take away seemed to be 'remember where the audience are sat'. As I passed around the room I heard several members of the group reminding themselves and others this lesson. It is good to know some of our lessons sink in. Next week we are beginning work on the show and that means we will be giving out characters. Exciting times ahead indeed.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Girl and the Fox- Week One: 'A long time ago, in the frozen North...'

We're back! A brand new term with the Chameleons launched this morning; that means another term with the blog as we delve into our ninth exciting production with the Saturday morning group. This term is particularly exciting, as we are entering new territory. Inuit culture is one few people know lots about, but one which is rich in colourful stories and folklore containing adventure and magic: a good fit for these Chameleons. In our opening session we did some introductions for newcomers and delved into the world of our original story, looking at the meanings behind character names and the finer details of the show.

It's always tricky to start a new term. We are lucky enough to have many returning members in the group, but there are always new faces and so we like to spend some time at the start of a term with some easy group games. This gives everyone the chance to get to know one another, and for us to introduce newcomers to the Anthos Arts approach to making theatre. Bean bags was the name of the game this morning, as we challenged the group to toss bean bags to each other while remembering the names of their cast members. A fun way to start.

Next was shapes, our all time favourite. The shape game is useful for many reasons that we regularly write about here on the blog, but it gets the group thinking about physical theatre. How to use their bodies to create different shapes and creatures. It also teaches them to listen to one another and, importantly, to work together. At first we started asking the whole group to make large but simple shapes, then broke them down into groups for some more complex ones. The game also helps newcomers get used to working with previous members, as everyone has one goal to work towards.

Once everyone was warmed up we sat down to discuss the world surrounding the play. It was fantastic to hear that most of the group had read the story (we had sent it out prior to the session), and to discover that some Chameleons already know about Inuit culture. Alongside the theatre we create, the aim is always to teach the group new things. While previously this has been largely skills based, this term there is a wonderful amount of context for them to absorb as well. We also discussed folklore and different examples of stories which might fit this description.

In learning about the story of 'The Gil and the Fox,' we had to discussed the beliefs of Inuit culture and what some of their stories used to be like. We discussed the world in which the people would have lived in a long time ago, and about the importance of stories within the culture and community. Stories used to be told around fires as the primary source of entertainment. Our story is framed in this way and so we wanted to teach the Chameleons the significance of this choice.

The group were given a list of characters who appear in the show, many of whom have traditional Inuit names that carry additional meaning. The names of characters in these stories were important, as they often told lots about the character themselves. Sometimes these names would represent the purpose of the character, or describe their traits. For example, Ataninnuaq, a name meaning 'one who counsels' is given to a character who provides The Girl insight and advice on her journey, while Alasie is the name for someone with an honest and kind nature. As part of teaching the Chameleons about the culture we chose not to shy away from using these names, hard as they might be to initially pronounce. Embracing the culture in a show like this is half the fun!

To round off the session, we did a narrative walk-through of the story. What that means for us is that we had the group act out the story as it was narrated. Usually, we would do a speed run of the story in a similar fashion on the first week, however as this was a new story we wanted to take our time with it, so that the Chameleons had a chance to understand the plot. Several mishaps, an evil sorcerer and one stolen totem later and the group had completed their first attempt at performing the show. Activities like this are valuable, as it gives the group the chance to explore the story and have fun playing loads of characters.

Christmas is wonderful, but it is good to be back with the Chameleons this term; and working on a brand new story no less. After a year of adaptation, the return to an original show seemed daunting, and picking a setting that few people know about was mildly nerve-wracking. The stories and culture are so rich, however, that it felt right and this morning the group took well to it all. They made some fantastic work and are excited to get started on the show. We at team Anthos are thrilled to be back and cannot wait to continue work on this next week.

Theseus and the Minotaur/The Odyssey: Week 6- 'Down in the Labyrinth/ Circe's island.'

A quick blog entry this week- as we are neck deep into rehearsals now and at that point in the term where there's little to say abo...