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. 

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