QUESTION in a time where we are exposed

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The title of the play, Pornography, holds a huge weight
behind its meaning. ‘Pornography’ is a stigmatised term, something that has
grown in popularity due to the World Wide Web and has become somewhat
acceptable. It is internationally known and pornographic images encircle our
social media every day, however it still something people keep discrete about
when looking at it, much like the thoughts of death that the characters of this
play have (monologues 1 and 4). However, Stephens states that we live in “pornographic
times” which is underlining the fact that us as a society live in a time where
we are exposed to new experiences that are left with no explanation however, we
watch and enjoy those things that we shouldn’t- hence the word, “pornographic”.
Stephens wrote the play after the 7/7 London bombings that suggests that this
text is a reaction to the consternations that suddenly killed London’s
excitement for the 2012 Olympics. The play is made up of seven separate
monologues based upon the different types of people who cohabit in London such
as: an elderly woman/man, a schoolchild, a mother, a brother, siblings and a
lecturer and waitress. In numbering each monologue, Stephens presents the
illusion of countdown to the explosion.

Arguably, the most formidable scene of this play follows the
events of the bomber before he attacks. At first, he seems like an average
person with a wife and kids, there is nothing in the dialogue that suggests
that he is going to strike; there are no religious beliefs shown or any
indication of peer pressure or cult. Stephens presents the idea that we
separate good from bad; terrorist from victim and stereotype from
non-stereotype. Stephens does not focus on thinking about the crime or the
intention behind the crime, but committing the crime itself, which is
irreversible. During the first reading of this play, it became clear to us that
Stephens’s intentions were not to re-establish the atmosphere of London leading
up to 7/7, but to explain (and not assume) a fundamentalist version of the
character to a Western audience.

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The first performance of the play was a co-production
between the Deutschen Schauspielhauses, Hamburg and the Festival Theaterformen
and the Schauspielhannover in Hanover. Costume designer, Marion Munch created
costumes that were stereotypical to make it clear to the audience what kind of
characters they are a modern directors have continued to work with similar
costumes in other interpretations. For example, the character Jason
(schoolchild), dresses in baggy black trousers with a white shirt and blazer to
portray a school uniform- this also shows age variety within the play. However,
in contrast to the simple costume design, set designer Muriel Gerstner created
a busy re-construction of a ‘bomb site?. Gerstner worked with Stephens’s ideas
of handpicking bits of London therefore, the outcome included: sporadically
placed desks, small piles of building remains and a large projection of the
actual London bombings. In our own interpretation of the play, we have decided
to go on the other end of the spectrum from Gerstner and have a more simplistic
set design. We have used the Brechtian technique of multi-rolling by using our
14 chairs as various locations and objects such as: a London bus, stool and by
standing on the chairs it shows hierarchy of character. We also have the map of
London sat at the back of the set to show geographical location.



The artistic intention for our own interpretation of
Pornography consists of educating the audience on the 7/7 bombings and to show
how the event is still relevant today. We think this because even now, in 2018,
nobody is safe from violence, bombs or even our own thoughts. This then
invented our artistic vision.  As performers,
directors and designers, we had different visions of our play for the different
roles we were in. For example, Cerys (old woman) envisioned her character to be
dressed in a long skirt, speak in Received Pronunciation and to walk with a
stick. We knew that this would give the audience a visual and aural aspect to
her character by working ironically against the ‘no stereotypes’ ideal Stephens
worked with. With this, we then progressed to work with the other characters to
build upon the visual and aural aspect we had in mind. To improve our characterisation,
we played a rehearsal game called ‘Taxi Driver’ when each character arrives in
the taxi, we adopt a strong characteristic and exaggerate that characteristic
until we are above and beyond how we started.

We knew that we wanted our audiences to be open minded with
such a play like this, as we knew that Stephens worked with the idea of ‘no
labels’ or stereotypes. After looking at why and how Stephens approached the
play, we decided that we wanted to showcase the conscious and unconscious
spirits of these characters, nevertheless, we made a few changes that we felt
were necessary for our performance circumstances. We had decided to remove the
incestuous relationship duologue and the mothers monologue. This is because our
target audience is secondary school ages upwards so some of the dialogue would
be misunderstood or too explicit. We also felt that those sections of dialogue
did not offer any added context to the play as much as the other monologues
did, for example, the character of Jase and the Old Woman contributed
characteristics of a random selection of people in London but also gives the
audience an insight of the dark thoughts of the ‘average’ person. We have also
changed the gender of the character, Jason to, Jase, as we were interested in
how an audience will react to a female expressing very strong, white
supremacist and narcissistic views on gender, violence and colour as,
stereotypically, audiences will assume that the male gender dominates that field.
We felt that the best way to approach a serious text would be to add an element
of comedy so, with Jase, I made it clear through make up, costuming and voice
that I was portraying a young school-girl who took extreme ‘care’ upon her
appearance but spoke very strongly about white supremacy. This makes the
audience feel uncomfortable and confused as they have experienced an action of
laughter followed by the emotion of disgust in a short space of a few seconds.

We wanted to create a performance that not only looked good
but also felt good to perform so we all took on a challenge to mix the
techniques of both Brecht and Stanislavski but also used Frantic Assembly as
inspiration for our piece. For example, when I play the character of Jase, I
used a Brechtian technique called the ‘Verfremdungseffekt effect’ (steering the
audience away from naturalistic drama and keeping them in the realm of the
performance itself). For example, the opening section of the piece includes
physical theatre inspired by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Abram Khan in ‘Zero
Degrees’. We were also inspired by the way that the company, Frantic Assembly
use physical theatre in their pieces. It creates a new vision for a
contemporary audience, which is unexpected of a typical drama performance. We
wanted to show how theatre is evolving- through physical theatre and movement.

 Question 3-

During rehearsal for the piece, I focused heavily on my
characterisation for Jase and how I would show the audience the dark side to
her (involving her white supremacy views). The second time the audience really
gets to see Jase, she imitates her teachers at school. To show this, I used a
variety of different accents from around the world to make it clear to the
audience that the people she is talking about are all different individuals.
The accents I use throughout the play include: Geordie, Australian, Irish,
Liverpudlian, heightened Received Pronunciation, American and Essex. To achieve
this, I had watched a number of videos online of celebrities who spoke in these
strong accents so from there on, I began to develop them into a selection of
characters (for example, Americans use their ‘T’s’ as ‘D’s’). An example of a
rehearsal technique I did for this was to place the tip of my tongue between my
front teeth and swallow. This then helped strengthen the muscles in my throat
so I was able to switch from accent to accent with ease.

By stepping out of the scenes, I was able to watch and
direct the other actors and offer them constructive criticism and positive
feedback. Whilst observing the scenes between characters ‘A’ and ‘P’, I had
noticed that it was rather boring to watch. Therefore, I decided that there
needed to be more movement and variety in the body to aid them with stronger
characterisation. To help them, Mahesh and I conducted a 5-10 minuet movement
workshop with them which involved ‘leading with a body part’. We got them to
think about how their character stood and walked and then which body part they
thought they’d lead with. After mixing up the body part and direction, they
finally found something that felt natural for their character however, taking
it to the next level, we asked them to exaggerate their stance and walk until
they felt physically uncomfortable. We then returned back to their scene and
saw a huge improvement with their characterisation. Through doing this, we
wanted our audiences to react with a positive view on the performance and
believe that the actors really did embody the average people in London during
the time of the 7/7 bombings.


As well as physically rehearsing, I researched the political
and social concepts during 2005 (the year it took place) and began to put some
of Stephens’s influences into our design. As the play was a microcosm of the
700 people who died or were injured, we decided to show this through the
costumes of the waitress and the bomber- distressed clothing and visible blood.
Also, we placed a map at the back of the stage to show geographical location. I
found out that there were four bombings that took place that day: 3 bombs
exploded within fifty seconds of each other on 3 London Underground trains and
a fourth one exploded over an hour later in Tavistock Square. Mahesh (bomber)
circles these locations on the map in the background quietly throughout the
play. This suggests that the planning of these events are going on behind
closed doors of the average person’s life but really we are staring into plain
sight at it- that’s where the audience come in. Through this, we wanted our
audiences to think about why this character is doing this as we have left it to
open interpretation for thought- much like Stephens did with the original.

Categories: Comedy


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