Royal Holloway, University of London
Department of Drama and Theatre
POSTGRADUATE SUBMISSION FORM FOR SUMMATIVE WORK
CANDIDATE NUMBER (NOT your Student ID number): 1507322
DEGREE AND YEAR: Postgraduate Certificate in Physical Theatre for Dancers and Actors (2015 – 2016)
SUBMISSION DATE: 05/07/2016
COURSE CODE: DT5605
COURSE TITLE: Postgraduate Certificate in Physical Theatre for Dancers and Actors
TUTOR: Mafalda Deville
ESSAY TITLE: Reflective Logbook
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The purpose of this reflective logbook is to provide detailed information regarding the working process that resulted in the creation of the piece “Silence”. The latter was performed in the framework of our final assessment on the 24th of June. The logbook will also include a critical reflection of the final performance, which will be accompanied by inspiring material that led to the creation of the piece, as well as appendixes with the documentation of the complete process.
Aim of the Project
The aim of this project was to further develop the piece presented on the 2nd of April in the framework of our formative assessment and hence, to create a challenging piece, in terms of physicality but also of theatricality. The performance presented on the 2nd of April was related to the vicious circle of everyday life and its extreme consequences, such as depression, isolation and insanity. Nevertheless, despite the latter performance was the starting point for the creation of the piece presented on the 24th of June, the theme was slightly altered and became more specific. Isolation and its resulting behaviors, as well as the ways in which this state affects the physicality, became the main focus of this project.
Background Information, Working Process and Inspiring Materials
As mentioned in the previous section, the purpose of the piece created for the final assessment was to explore the idea of isolation and its consequences on a human being. For a better understanding of isolation’s nature and results, I used as a starting point the sources I had already explored from the final assessment and consequently I expanded my research area, focusing on readings, such as journals, poems and texts, related to different forms of entrapment and isolation.
The initiation point for shaping the piece was a series of images, included on a photography project related to isolation and distress, by Katie Joy Crawford (2009). The latter explored the issue of isolation and anxiety in a personal level, as herself had previously been in this state. According to Crawford (2009), anxiety could lead to isolation, as it prevents a person from exposing him/herself, in terms of exploring and socializing. Instead, the person creates a safe zone, within which entraps him/herself. This safe zone operates also, in many cases, as a barrier between that person and others. Figures 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 address this issue as Crawford perceives it, while figure 5 reflects the absence of time perception, while being in this state. Moreover, the following images are accompanied by the personal thoughts of Crawford, which were also an inspiration for the course of the creative process, especially during the stage of the state and intention exploration.
“A captive of my own mind. The instigator of my own thoughts. The more I think, the worse it gets. The less I think, the worse it gets. Breathe. Just breathe. Drift. It’ll ease soon” (Crawford, 2009).
“No matter how much I resist, it’ll always be right here desperate to hold me, cover me, break down with me. Each day I fight it, “you’re not good for me and you never will be”. but there it is waiting for me when I wake up and eager to hold me as I sleep. It takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless” (Crawford, 2009).
“Numb feeling. How oxymoronic. How fitting. Can you actually feel numb? Or is it the inability to feel? Am I so used to being numb that I’ve equated it to an actual feeling?” (Crawford, 2009).
“You were created for me and by me. You were created for my seclusion. You were created by venomous defense. You are made of fear and lies. Fear of unrequited promises and losing trust so seldom given. You’ve been forming my entire life. Stronger and stronger” (Crawford, 2009).
“It’s strange – in the pit of your stomach. It’s like when you’re swimming and you want to put your feet down but the water is deeper than you thought. You can’t touch the bottom and your heart skips a beat” (Crawford, 2009).
“I’m afraid to live and I’m afraid to die. What a way to exist” (Crawford, 2009).
Each of the above images with its corresponding text was an inspiration for various stages of the creating process. Following the decision of the theme I would focus on, I had to decide the location in which the piece would be performed. Inspired by figure 4 I decided to give my piece a site-specific character and perform it in the cage next to the boiler house.
The reason for which the performance space has been decided prior to movement exploration, was due to a distinctive characteristic of site-specific performances. In the latter, as it can also be observed in figure 7, once the place has been chosen, the entire performance is created according to that space and the elements it has to offer. Therefore, it cannot exist and performed in other spaces (Crooose, 2014; Wilkie, 2002, pp.150).
Having the first two layers of my piece, which were the theme and the space I would perform, I headed towards the discovery and addition of the subsequent layers. According to the layering list mentioned in figure 5 and the physicality presented in figures 2 and 3, the next step for my co-performer Joanna Oji and me was the movement exploration.
The first layer from the list presented in figure 5 I wanted to explore was the site morphology and our movement within it. However, not having access to the cage during our first rehearsals, that was not entirely possible. Therefore, we began the exploration in the corridor next to it, in order to familiarize ourselves with the floor, which was rough, and the environment around us. Furthermore, another reason for us exploring our physicality at that specific space was due to the features of the cage (i.e. the metal grid) that we could begin to explore. Another interesting element that I observed at that point was the noises produced by the metal grid as a result of some of our movements. The latter was an element further explored in a subsequent stage.
Apart from physically exploring the space outside the cage along with its features we could access at that specific period of time, we began to introduce the layer of states and intentions. Both of the characters in the beginning of the performance would be at the same state and intention. Having as a starting point the physicality presented in figures 2 and 3, I introduced the state of internal pain and the intention of wanting to break free from a situation but not being able to.
Following the state and the intension introduction, we began to re – explore the movement of our characters. Once we found our movement we began to emphasize on the details. In general, the idea was to begin small, by limiting the movement solely in the hands and arms and then slowly escalate the physicality by transferring it to the rest of our bodies. It is noteworthy that following the feedback we received during the rehearsals, the same was eventually applied for our expressions.
Firstly we emphasized on the hand and arms movement, by studying images and videos of butoh dance theatre, in order to closely observe the physicality of the dancers. Figures 8, 9 and 10 pose examples of the images that posed an inspiration for the physicality we used in the first part of the performance. Apart from these figures, we also focused on certain videos of butoh performances, the links of which are given in Appendix B.
Another reason for which I wanted to focus on butoh theatre was due to one of its characteristic features. Butoh theatre gives the impression that there is no necessity for an audience (Khaikin, 2013). As, in the beginning of my performance the two characters were absorbed in a world of their own that each had created for themselves, they were not aware of each other or the audience. Therefore, the aforementioned butoh theatre characteristic was very useful to observe, in order to adapt our physicality and state of mind to this condition.
Once we felt comfortable with the hands’ and arms’ physicality we moved forward to the improvement of our body physicality. In order to do that, I introduced another layer, which was the use of our first prop. The initial idea was to use strings, as I did in the piece performed for the formative assessment. Figures 11, 12 and 13 illustrate moments from the formative assessment piece, where also the strings can be observe. Finally, the link of the latter is given in Appendix A, as an indication of the possible development from the first to the final piece. Further inspiring images with strings are also included in the Appendix A.
The reason for which I chose to reuse this material for this performance was due the interesting images that could be created. Also, finding physicality while being limited by the strings is a challenging process. Finally, one of the feedback I got for the formative assessment was that I could further explore the physicality, while being attached to the strings. Therefore, I found that this could be a good opportunity to do so.
However, the use of the strings was proven to be non – functional, as the latter could not support our weight and as a result they were constantly getting torn apart. Hence, I decided that we should explore a different material. The material we began to explore was a cable bicycle lock, which can be observed along with our first attempt to create physicality, in combination to it, in the images included in Appendix A.
Nevertheless, as we had only one cable and as it was required one for each of us, I decided that we should not continue working with this material and find an alternative option. The next material we explored and that we eventually used throughout the rehearsals and in the final performance was a parachute cord, as presented in figure 14. This material was proven to be able to hold all our weight, without suffering any damage.
Following the exploration of our physicality, while being tight up with the chords, I introduced 3 new props to the setting. The purpose was further explore our physicality, by playing with the props and eventually include them in our performance. The 3 props, which were a chair, an armchair and a coat hanger, can be observed in figure 15.
Following the exploration of the additional props, I introduced another layer to the process. That was the point where the two characters seized to be in the same state of mind. Also, their intentions differentiated from the initial one. As mentioned in a previous section, the original state of mind of both characters was internal pain, which was a result of their choice to be isolated.
To introduce the new states of mind, I was based on Cacioppo’s et al. (2011) study about social isolation. In this study the authors attempt to explain the psychological and physical effects of social isolation. However, there was one particular part of the journal I focused on, which was explaining the two different directions derived from social isolation. According to the authors:
“Evidence from human and nonhuman animal studies indicates that isolation heightens sensitivity to social threats (predator evasion) and motivates the renewal of social connections”.
(Cacioppo et al., 2011)
Hence, the two characters changed according to the passage given above. Within the performance, the point of change began the moment Joanna opened the cage door and it escalated with the realization of the presence of the other character in the cage. Following that point Joanna became a curious person, with the desire to reconnect and the intention to break free from the cage. However, she refused to leave the cage without the other character. On the contrary, I was overwhelmed with fear when the door opened. I became almost hostile towards the other character and I was constantly refusing to leave my comfort zone, which was symbolized by the armchair.
The final layers of the working process were the costumes, audio and text. In terms of costumes, the only intentional choice was the loose trousers we were wearing. The reason for that was to give an additional flow to the movement. Also, the chosen colors of our clothes represented specific features of our characters, which will be explained in Appendix D. Regarding the audio used, I chose a music piece that was quite disturbing to hear, as I wanted to enhance the atmosphere of a trapped and unpleasant environment. However, I used audio only for the second part, as I wanted to exploit the cage noises during the first part. Finally, the text choice was a combination of concrete, Greek and international poetry and literature, and it was consisted by certain words or phrases used in repetition. Images illustrating the costumes, links of the songs considered for the piece, as well as inspiring texts for the working process are included in Appendix D, B and C, respectively.
As mentioned in the beginning of the reflective logbook there were certain aims to be achieved through this performance. These aims are summarized below:
- The further development of the piece presented on the 2nd of April, in the framework of the formative assessment
- The creation of a challenging piece in terms of physicality and theatricality
- The complete engagement to the theme and our characters.
In this part of the logbook I will discuss whether the aforementioned objectives were achieved, as well as the issues presented during the working process and the limitations existed. Furthermore, I will comment on the elements that worked and did not work. Finally, I will discuss the elements or layers I would further develop and the possible ways I would explore them, in the case we had more time available.
This performance piece had to be created, rehearsed and developed in less than a week. Having decided that it will be also a site-specific piece there were a number of issues presented during its realization. Firstly, the main issue that I had to face, as the rest of the people in my course, was that of time. The time frame we were given to create our 10 to 15 minutes pieces was very specific and relatively small. Therefore, we had to use this time wisely, to take rapid decisions, absorb the feedback and make quick changes in the case that was necessary. In my case there was an additional time limitation, as I was not able to rehearse in the cage from the beginning of the creative process. Secondly, during my first rehearsal in the cage I had to solve technical issues, such as where would be best to place the strings in order for our weight to be supported without damaging the cage. Finally, I had to take permission to use the additional props, move them in the cage and place them accordingly to the performance.
Another limitation we had was the door of the cage. As it was not open from the beginning, there were certain parts of the cage that were visually blocked. Therefore, we had to adapt our movement to that condition and find ways of moving that would allow the audience to clearly see us. Also, another limitation was the material of the strings. Despite it was strong enough to hold our weight it was not stable and thick enough to allow us certain type of movements. Therefore, we had to exclude specific sequences we had developed, while we were using the cable bicycle lock, such as the suspension and the stepping on the cable.
Furthermore, another issue we had to face was our lack of experience in movement in comparison other people in the course. However, I challenged myself and thus my performer, to explore in depth the physicality. This decision was in accordance to the feedback I got on the 2nd of April. Thus, we gave greater weight to the movement rather than in the theatricality, which is our strongest point due to our acting background. Hence, we spent most of the rehearsals exploring and developing our movement. Ultimately, this was proven to be a good choice, as the difference and confidence in our physicality from the first rehearsal to the last was obvious. Personally, I also found that we managed to explore in an adequate level the movement in and out of the strings but also the movement in accordance to the additional props we had.
The final limitations we had were of technical nature. Due to my choice to create a site-specific piece there were certain elements, to which we had to adapt and others that we could not adjust according to the piece. The floor was the element we had to adjust to. We had to find our way of moving in a rough floor, which is not appropriate for dance. Moreover, another element we had to adjust to was the sounds produced, while we were moving against the cage. Eventually, we found a way to use these sounds in our favor. Finally, the element that we could not adjust or alter was the lighting. In the performance space we performed there was no possibility to create the desirable lighting. Therefore, we used the setting and music to try and create the desirable atmosphere.
In terms of our theatricality and engagement, I found that we engaged to our characters throughout the performance and that we managed to balance theatricality and physicality. During the first rehearsals, our theatricality was more excessive than it should. However, following the feedback that we got, we softened our expressions in the first part of the piece. In that way we allowed our theatricality to develop along with our physicality during the course of the performance but also we managed to keep the audience’s attention and interest. Another factor that, I personally believe, contributed to the latter was our interaction with the audience at the end of the performance. Generally, that was a risky decision, as there was an uncertainty regarding the way the audience would react. Nevertheless, according to the result I believe it was a successful choice.
Conclusively, my collaboration with Joanna was smooth, without any issues and there was an absolute communication between us. However, the most important was that we evolved together, in terms of physicality, through this performance. Therefore, the result was equally satisfying for both of us. In overall, I believe that the objectives I set in the beginning of the creative process were achieved in an adequate level. Also, the risks I took by creating a site-specific piece and by involving the audience in the performance were proven to be successful. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement. In the case that I could have more time available to work on my piece I would first and foremost try to develop more the physicality. I would also attempt to explore different materials, instead of strings and chords, such us fabric, or try and find a second cable bicycle lock, as the reason we did not eventually used this material was that we merely had one. Furthermore, I would like to invest more time in exploring the props and the physicality in different levels (i.e. on the floor, standing, sitting and moving onto the furniture/props. Finally, I would like to extend the duration of the piece, by including new elements I would have possibly found while exploring the abovementioned.
Cacioppo, J.T., Hawkley, L.C., Norman, G.J. and Berntson G.G. (2011) ‘Social Isolation’, Journal of Social Neuroscience: Gene, Environment, Brain, Body, 1231, pp. 17 – 22.
Cerrato, H. (2014) ‘The Meaning of Colors: How colors Impact our Daily Life in Business, Art, Work and Love’. Available at: http://hermancerrato.com/graphic-design/images/color-images/the-meaning-of-colors-book.pdf (Accessed: 21 June 2016).
Crawford, K. J., (2009) My Anxious Heart. Available at: http://www.dose.com/health/26959/Breathtakingly-Beautiful-Photos-Expose-What-It-s-Like-to-Live-With-Anxiety?utm_source=partners&utm_medium=rightway&utm_campaign=first (Accessed: 5 March 2016).
Croose, J. (2014) ‘Outdoor Arts: The development of outdoor arts and site-specific performance as a feature of alternative theatre’. Available at:
http://jurassicresearch.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/outdoor-arts2.pdf (Accessed: 13 December 2014).
Khaikin, L (2013) ‘Butoh Dancing (舞踏): Discovering Emptiness, Embodiment & Environment in an Archeology of Body’. Available at: http://www.redefinemag.com/2013/international-butoh-dancing-emptiness-embodiment-environment-archeology/4/ (Accessed: 12 June 2016).
Kostusik, R (2016) ‘Butoh dance – theatre: As a performance art and a theatre building tool for students and performers’. Available at: http://kutsikarts.weebly.com/butoh-dance-theatre.html (Accessed: 12 June 2016).
McGettigan, M., 2016. Paper Dolls: Tangled. Available at: http://www.paperdollsperformance.com/photo-a-day/ (Accessed: 5 March 2016).
Murray, S. and Keefe, J (2007) Physical Theatres: A Critical Reader. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.
Nutlello, P. (2015) ‘Featured Rope Partner: Vanessa Ropes & Editing: Steven James (DasFalke)’. Available at: http://www.charlottecronquist.org/100/2015/9/11/100-podden-special-steven-james-or-das-falke (Accessed: 5 March 2016).
Rudenstam, C. (2015) ‘Featured Rope Partner: Vanessa Ropes & Editing: Steven James (DasFalke)’. Available at: http://www.charlottecronquist.org/100/2015/9/11/100-podden-special-steven-james-or-das-falke (Accessed: 5 March 2016).
Star in the Stone (2016) ‘Everything you always wanted to know about butoh… but were afraid to ask’. Available at: https://starinthestone.wordpress.com/a-e/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-butoh-but-were-afraid-to-ask/ (Accessed: 12 June 2016).
Wilkie, F. (2002) ‘Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain’, New Theatre Quarterly, 18(2), pp.140 – 160.
Zammitto, V.L. (2005) ‘The expression of colours’. Available at: http://www.sfu.ca/~vzammitt/papers/zammitto-digra-TheExpressionsofColours.pdf (Accessed: 21 June 2016).
Appendixes A, B, C and D include interesting and inspiring materials used during the creative process, as well as documentation of the working process.
Formative Assessment piece:
Appendix B includes inspiring videos of music and movement, studied and used during the creative process.
Appendix C includes inspiring texts, poems in English and Greek, as well as a physical theatre exercise that was one of the materials that initiated the idea of isolation and trapped minds.
Physical Theatre Exercise
Alongside the diary, Appendix D also includes photographic material from the rehearsals in the cage and the performance.
Day 4 and 5 – Technical Rehearsal and Performance