As a part of our GCSE Drama assessment we have explored the topic of ‘Stolen Lives’. Which focused on war and how war steals lives within a society. We were presented with a variety of stimulus material to get us to think about the topic of ‘Stolen Lives’. The material which most evoked thought out of me was the music that we listened to in our first lesson, from ‘Oh What a Lovely War’. I found it appalling to think that people could listen to the music and think it was encouraging them to go to war and fight even to the point of death; despite the fact that the music was an obvious representation of propaganda.
Earlier on we did activities that explored how propaganda during World War I became apparent to people as a fiction throughout 1914, 1916 and 1918. Part of the stimulus material we were given was displayed as images in a power point showing people enlisting to the war as well as people being drafted for the war. Both image sets included the stimulus music in the background. What we then decided to do was show three still images from the perspective of the recruiter throughout the years of 1914, 1916 and 1918.
We showed this recruiter standing and greeting a young man in the first image. In doing so we used the Brechtian idea of having a placard saying ‘Recruit for a damaged soul!! ‘ This illustrated the idea of a boy blind to the reality of war because a Lieutenant has made him believe that he will come home as a hero. In the second freeze frame we showed the Lieutenant (played by Georgia) during the year 1916. In the image he is stood over Moritz and beating him, this helped the audience to understand the reality and brutality of war.
In the 1918 image we showed the audience the reason that people would come back from war as completely different people through physical expression. As an example we showed me standing over the Lieutenant (played by Georgia) with absolutely no sympathy, whilst she was mourning. I suggested that we show how the Lieutenant is using propaganda to convince people to enlist. This worked well so we decided to use a placard to show the reality in contrast to the melodramatic physical expression. I played the role of the narrator throughout our freeze frames.
To do this I had to stand to the side and use facial expression to show the fear and the hypocrisy of the propaganda. The use of the drama medium helped us communicate to the audience whom the power belonged to throughout our images. We specifically used levels and space to show the audience that the power shifted between three people but always stayed with the Lieutenant. On reflection we could have improved our transitions from one frame to another, which would have created a smoother flow.
A way we could have done this could have possible done by the use of dialogue between freeze frames. One group that made me think about the piece in a different way was Charlie, Jahan and Adib’s group. I was really moved by the way they used the combined perspectives of each family member because it showed me each feeling and emotion in a very distinct way from person to person. The first image showed a father leaving for war proud and his family saying their “farewells”. The following displayed the mother at home worrying while her husband was at war.
The final frame presented the father returning home looking as if he was lost mentally and the mother trying to protect her son from him. This piece influenced my own ideas later in the assessment because I felt that it was an extreme opposite to my groups work. While my group used Brechtian devices Charlie’s group solely used physical action and emotional manipulation. This had the telling effect for the audience of how the closeness of the family changed before and after the war.
Additionally, it shows the growing distance of the mother and child towards the father out of fear – after his return from the war. This piece of work influenced my ideas later in the assessment because of the nearly perfect use of proxemics and how they used proxemics to bring the audience into the relationship and fear from each perspective. In comparison I thought that Hannah’s group could have used better proxemics, for example, when Hannah is saying “goodbye” to Ryan she was too far away from him and it incorrectly portrayed to the audience that the relationship between them was not close.
I think that moment could have been more effective if Hannah and Ryan had stood with much space between them. This would have given the audience a better understanding of the family situation. This task added to my understanding of the topic ‘Stolen Lives’ because the families and soldiers involved in the war from 1916 throughout 1918 were torn apart and damaged by the trauma of losing family and friends. In Hour Three we used spontaneous improvisation. This was done using whole group drama and role play to acquaint ourselves with the horror of the My Lai massacre.
We were asked to imagine our worst fear and to imagine having that phobia in the room with us. This helped us to create a fear which we thought could compare as closely to the fear of the villagers – even though we knew that we would never be able to understand or know the same fear. As an example, I portrayed a child in the village being consumed with fear. Fear because I knew my village was being attacked. Following the thought-tracking exercise, we were placed into “family units”. Each unit had three or four “family members”.
The stimulus material was research homework that we did prior to the assessment on different images of the My Lai massacre and protest movements in the US to end war in Vietnam. Using our previous thought-tracking assessments we were then asked to respond to our teacher’s narration in the role of our respective characters. Our teacher described the outline of the village and the routine of daily life. My group decided to have a “family unit” of a mother and two young children. In our improvisation I played the role of a daughter – the eldest child.
To do this I had to act more detached and as though I experienced difficulty with my “mother”. We used the drama medium of space and levels to show the relationship between the two siblings and the mother. Another activity we did was to explore the poem ‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage. We did this in pairs while using physical theatre techniques. ‘The Manhunt” acted as our stimulus material in the exploration task. We were asked to pick three stanzas and tell the story of the stanzas through physical action.
Moritz and I chose to focus on the three stanzas that would show three stages of the relationship – before the war, during the war and after the war. I suggested that we show the relationship before the war by having Moritz and I sitting somewhere with his arm over my shoulder or by having us sitting very closely together. Because this worked well we were able to create a very intimate feel between the two of us. For the scene I played the role of a wife who remained home while her husband was away at war. To do this I had to mime while Moritz was using physical action to manipulate my body to how he was using his weapons and protecting me.