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.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Story Makers: Space Tortoise- Week Three: 'Space Wall.'

It was great to be back with the Story Makers this morning. What a windy morning it was too; which made the journey in quite amusing (for anyone watching at least), carrying in a bag of crafty items and the usual gear. This week we looked at backdrops as we continued to explore 'Space Tortoise.' We looked at backdrops last term, but approached it slightly different way this morning.

Up first were a few fun warm up games to get everyone ready for the activities ahead. This morning we had an emphasis on teamwork. Drama is a team subject; Anthos Arts likes to promote the importance of working together, respecting peers and using everyone's ideas to create work. We focus on this a lot with our Chameleons and the Anthos  Young Company, hence wanted to incorporate this idea into the Story-Makers group too. The game we used to help develop this was a variation of the shape game, which worked well as the group are already familiar with it. The group had to work in small teams to make shapes of objects found in different areas. As the group progresses we will continue to support and encourage this.

As stated many time since the beginning, the classes aim to introduce participants to different elements of theatre and performance. These are tied into the themes and setting of the stories we look at. This term the group have shown a keen interest in the space aspect of the story and so it made sense to spend some time on this. Backdrops seemed a sensible direction to go in, as it provided a window for the group to express this interest artistically, and contribute towards a final piece of shared work with their peers.

Using some lovely black velvet and string, we had a space wall. The Story Maker's task was to create stars to fill the wall and make it look like space. The group were keen and set about using glitter pens and colouring to make unique stars they could peg to the wall. We offered the group a selection of shiny and coloured card and encouraged them to create their own stars the way they wanted. Some drew and cut out their own stars, while others decorated pre-cut ones. Eventually the group graduated onto more complicated designs (of their own decision), adding planets, moons and asteroids to our space wall.

Possibly the highlight of the whole morning was actually discussing space with the group and finding out what they knew. At the start I asked what you might find in space with the aim of having someone say stars which would then leading into the explanation for the activity. However, I completely underestimated the depth of knowledge our early years group possessed. Before we got to stars we had covered aliens, planets, space stations and rockets and debated whether the holes on the moon had been dug by aliens (because aliens live in holes: facts.). While we eventually found our way to stars it was great fun having this talk and also to get the group talking with each other about what things they might find in space.

To round off the session we wanted to see if we could make the stars twinkle. Using torches each Story Maker got to explore space and see which stars, planets and various space objects twinkled back at them. In doing this we also discovered that the torches could be used as shooting stars by standing behind the space wall and shining it through. It's always great when these guys build on the activities planned and new fun.

All in all, a very fun morning indeed. It is brilliant seeing how engaged each of the group is with the term's story (an apparent strong interest in space has helped). They have made some great work and the discussions we've had this term have been just wonderful. Next time we shall be stepping back from space and looking at making some props. Some of our Story Makers will also be joining us next weekend to see Dinosaur World Live; a show featuring near life size dinosaur puppets which I am particularly eager to see. Exciting times ahead!

Saturday, 2 March 2019

The Girl and the Fox- Week 7 & 8 'The Edge of the World & Journey's End.'

Welcome back; once again we reach the point of the term where sessions with our Chameleons heavily focus on rehearsing the show, and sometimes (as with the last couple of weeks) it is best to combine the goings-on of our bright young performers into one longer blog post than two smaller ones. The past two weeks have been great fun. We have challenged the Chameleons to knuckle down and work closely on aspects of the show, but finally we arrived at the end of The Girl's journey: the tundra at the edge of the world.

Last week we looked at the ending of the play and the characters The Girl and the Fox meet at the end of their adventure. Again here we went back to the ideas discussed in week one about perspective and how to make something seem bigger on stage than it is in real life. The Girl comes across a particularly large creature here and it was good fun (as always) playing around with the puppets.

We also played a new game, which seems to be quickly rising to the top of the group's favourite list. The game is called simply 'don't laugh.' The group stand in a circle and someone is in the middle; this person has to make people laugh. Anyone who laughs, or smiles, or snickers, or covers their face is out and the most serious face wins at the end. It is a great focusing game as everyone tries extremely hard not to laugh at each one...which is much harder than it sounds.

Lastly we worked on our epilogue. Some of the group didn't know what an epilogue meant, so we took some time to explain the concept. Our stories favour epilogues- where the dust settles on all the action and the story is brought to a calm close. Some final interactions between the characters in the village have really brought the scene to life. Our Inuit village feels full of energy and the scenes set within it are great fun to watch.

Moving onto this week: it was time to practice our socks off! We started off the morning with some zip-zap-boing and shape games, where Ben had to guess the theme given to the group for shapes in each round. Whilst the group played, different people were getting into costumes. Now that it is almost showtime we wanted the group to practice with their costumes as much as possible. It helps them get into character and is plenty fun too.

Given that it has been a much shorter term, the task of creating a brand new show has been a tough one. However, the Chameleons have done a wonderful job. The scenes we rehearsed look great and there is a fantastic energy behind their work. Our biggest challenge was keeping quiet off stage. With a group that have such loud voices this is always a challenge, but they know what is expected of them during the show (we run a tight ship).

Both the characters in scenes and the puppets used are looking very strong. The cast have really committed themselves to the show and it was good fun to watch. Their memories are so impressive, both in remembering their lines and all the actions we have asked of them over the past seven weeks.

SIDE-NOTE: The break was particularly interesting today as we debated who had more flexible hands and fingers. A weird and wonderful topic of discussion to have over snack food. Much to the delight and horror of the group; everyone unveiled their own unique flexible quirk. Be it bendy hands, fingers or double jointed ankles? They are a hilarious bunch.

The Narrators enjoyed their new costumes, among other things, and took great pride in spinning around. Our Narrators are such important characters. In addition to telling the story they have a deal of depth to them. This time our four Narrators split themselves between elders and spirits, the two greatest examples of storytellers from Inuit culture. This decision was made by the Chameleons in these roles and is an admirable example of how they have embraced the culture.

All in all, it was a wonderful rehearsal and we even managed to almost do a complete start to finish runthrough; which would have been possible had we not devoted time to trying on costumes at the start. The aim always was to have the dress rehearsal next week and to spend this one getting ready...which we did! We finished the day with some team shape games. Start with an imagination game, end with an imagination game. A great mantra for life. Next week we shall have our Chameleons in costume and making final preparations for the performance! The term has gone so quickly and it is strange to think the show is in two weeks. More fun us over the next couple of weeks with a round-up post for the term's blog. Until then enjoy some final rehearsal shots.

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...