Most of the time, when we think about acting, we think about taking an already established play or musical, studying the character, learning the lines, rehearsing the blocking and ultimately putting up the show. But what if you were told that there was no established text, and it was your job to create a piece from scratch? This is exactly the nature of devised theatre, and the School of Performing Arts Youth Theatre Company has delved into this realm of theatre through the creation of their show What A Piece of Work is Man.
When tackling devised theatre, it is usually the case that there is a main idea or concept which is used as a core from which a piece can be created. In this case, the inspiration for this piece came from a play written by a man whose name is very hard to run away from when one speaks about theatre; the man – William Shakespeare, and the play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. More specifically, the company took the mythology and iconography of the fairies as a springboard for their piece. For example, their story still includes Oberon as the King of the Fairies, and Thistle’s attempt at putting “a girdle round about the Earth/In forty minutes” is a direct parody of Puck’s own wish in the original work.
Together with an initial idea, there should also be a message or question that a show wishes to convey to its audience. This show’s main theme is the environment and the importance of its preservation through. Within the piece, the fairies take on the role of “Greenpeace warriors”, due to their strong connection with nature. They emerge in the night and try to repair and fix the damage that human beings have done to the environment by recycling and sorting rubbish. Ironically, the company itself is also doing its duty to save the planet, as all the props used in the performance are made from recyclable material.
Aside from these duties, the fairies are also in charge of protecting the Hourglass. This is a precious and sacred item, as it keeps a balance between the two worlds of the fairies and the humans. However, the play opens with something happening to the Hourglass, and once the audiences discovers what has happened, the narrative shifts to trying to find a solution to the consequences that this event has caused. Aside from this, the fairies are also concerned with whether their efforts are enough to stop the environment from being destroyed.
As with any devised piece of work, the company members also worked with different tutors and mentors in order to bring their ideas to life and help formulate such a performance. Denise Mulholland helped devise the piece, while Lorraine Aquilina directed it. The main physical sequences of the play, involving a journey through the four elements, was choreographed by Christina Aquilina and Francesco Nicodeme. The play also includes original music, written by Tom Armitage. Working with these different creatives allowed the piece to further obtain a sense of collaboration that is inescapable when devising theatre.
The company debuted this piece during the National Festival of Youth Theatre last July. The festival, which was held in Scotland, is described as “the largest annual gathering of youth theatres in the UK”, and aims to “encourage its young participants to develop as artists, audience members and creative thinkers”. This was the perfect opportunity for the company to showcase their ‘initiation’ into devised theatre, and considering the fact that the performance received a standing ovation, the initiation seems to have been a successful one.
The SOPA Youth Theatre Company is but one of the several extra-curricular activities that the School of Performing Arts has to offer. This organisation, which aims “to nurture the artists of tomorrow”, is made up of three schools that each tackle different areas of performance – The Music Studio, Dance Expressions, and the Drama Troupe. There are also Junior and Senior Companies, as well as a newly-launched babies programme, and an outreach programme providing different workshops for schools. The School of Performing Arts offers multiple classes to children and teens of all ages, with the common goal of providing “performance based training that pursues excellence”.
Registrations for the new term in their new premises in Swatar Road, Swatar, are now open. If you would like to learn more about the classes on offer and/or how to register for them, you can access their website at http://performingartsmalta.com/ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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