Sunday, 26 May 2019

Theseus and the Minotaur/ The Odyssey- Week Three: 'The Olympic Games/The Trojan War.'

Week three! Long time followers of our escapades will know that means it was casting week; where we reveal to the group which characters they will be playing and get started on the show. There are lots of fun characters in 'Theseus and the Minotaur' and so it is going to be a fun term for everyone in the group: with plenty of things to be doing. We kicked the session off discussing each other's characters and then dived into some games to warm up before we looked at the opening scenes.

This week's fun game of choice sought to challenge our facilitators. The group had to become objects from a certain place (for example, an aquarium) and one of the facilitators would have to guess where that location was. The group are experts at creating shapes with just their bodies- a very useful skill in the devising world of theatre- and overall we had some fantastic and funny objects from everyone. Subtlety may have gone out the window towards the end of the game, with a few of the group opting for bolder choices of object; which, to be fair, led to lots of laughter.

Once warmed up, we jumped into the opening scenes. Firstly we worked on the prologue; which introduces the Fates Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos to the audience. The Fates are a particularly fun set of characters, each with their own unique quirks and dialogue which bounces off one another. The characters are an interesting challenge for the three Chameleons playing them, as the strength of the performance relies on working together to keep the story moving and the energy up. The girls did a fab job exploring this given that we had only told them their characters under a hour beforehand. We're keen to see where the three of them take the dynamic in weeks to come.

On the human side of things, we meet the Cretan royal family; who play a large role in the story. The prologue largely follows the tale of their son; Androgeos. While his myth is often separate from that of Theseus, we enjoyed including it in our Chameleons original production and again here. It allows for some much needed context for the story to come- something which we have aimed to teach the Chameleons the importance of. Greek mythology has so many interwoven characters and story arcs that in order to appreciate most stories one needs to read several others too. Understanding how these events shape the motivations of King Minos later in the story is another important lesson for the group too; to get them thinking about their characters in a wider scope beyond their lines in the script.

As the prologue plays out, Androgeos enters the Olympic games (or just the Games, as they would have been back then). Creating the games was a lot of fun- a similar scene was devised by our original Chameleon group back in 2015 and we were excited to create another for this show. The scene gives the Chameleons a chance to play around with physical theatre, and there's plenty of room for comedy too, as Androgeos shows off his superior athletic abilities. Props again to the group for creating such a fun opening scene so soon after being thrown into their characters. A strong opening indeed.

Finally, we looked at the opening to scene one, which occurs in the city of Athens. Lots of talk with this scene about audience interaction and how to play on this for laughs. Our apple merchant did a great job demanding sales of apples from our imaginary audience. The main event of this scene, however, is the introduction of Theseus, who steps in to save the merchant during an attack. The story of Theseus in our play reflects that of someone wanting to be a hero and to do the right thing. His motivations are selfless and, at least in our show, that is what makes him a worthy hero. This scene is pays a bit of homage to our original show as well; which featured Theseus making a grand entrance in a similar fashion. Major nostalgia watching this 2019 version play out.

As the afternoon came around we had a similar start to the session with the cast of 'The Odyssey.' We went through the scenes that are in the play and then told everyone which characters they would be playing. In a different style to Theseus, the cast of the Odyssey shall take part in every scene of the show; exploring the concept of the Chorus and how they can be utilised to help portray the world of the show, making Odysseus's adventure feel even bigger.

As work began on the show we looked at the two gods at the heart of Odysseus' story: Athena and Poseidon. These two characters shape the adventure to come and we spent some time looking at the rivalry between the two. Given that this rivalry is such a key part of why events play out as they do, it was important for us to spend some time with the group developing it; with the Chorus acting as followers to the two opposing gods.

We then went on to look at some of the human characters which feature on the journey. Ajax, Atlanta and Hyllus are all characters with their own unique traits and who each play a specific role in the adventure. We also met Penelope, who in our version of the story plays a large role in supporting Odysseus in the build up to his journey to war. Penelope gathers the crew and is placed in charge of Ithaca in the King's absence. The rehearsal focused on defining each of these characters; looking at what traits makes them special and how this could be portrayed to an audience.

The first stage on the journey is, of course, The Trojan War. We divided the cast into two, with one side (Odysseus's team) acting as the army of King Priam, whilst the Chorus worked with King Agamemnon. The war ultimately acts as the opening chapter of Odysseus's quest to return home, so we decided to show it in a sort of montage, wanting the focus to be on the Trojan Horse and how Odysseus helped win the 10 year war. It was good fun creating the montage and some nice bits of physical theatre were used.

All in all, a very busy week for both groups. All the work created though was fantastic and we're excited to see how the shows shape up in the weeks to come. What was most impressive was the group's enthusiasm for learning lines and making content for the shows. Several Chameleons set about learning lines and performing without scripts during the sessions- which is just astounding (and more impressively, some were able to remember enough of the scenes to perform without scripts too). Many of you will know, we don't often dub down our scripts because of the group's ages. Our scripts have a lot of lines (we like to keep challenging the Chameleons each term), so for a few to perform scenes without scripts the first week of having them is a great achievement. Very proud facilitators left the room yesterday. Go go Chameleons! For now though, a happy half term to all!


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. 

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...