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Creating original theatre on serious issues

Published on 14/01/14

For their penultimate piece of performance work, one group of year 11 (10th grade) students were inspired by the poem 'I Got Flowers Today' to create a hard-hitting piece of theatre that aimed to move their audience and also make them think about some of the very real and difficult issues some people face in their everyday lives.
The piece, entitled 'Therapy', centred around four characters, each learning to cope with a major problem in their lives: domestic violence, drug abuse, chronic anxiety or bullying. Rather than simply producing a piece of narrative drama about the characters themselves, the group decided to also represent each character's issue through a non-naturalistic scene. This allowed them to illustrate the effect that this issue had on the character's life in a very visual and creative way.

Having recently been to see the very creative and quite physical production of 'The Light Princess' at The National Theatre and taken part in a workshop based on the production, the students were inspired to include a wide range of different physical theatre and ensemble techniques in their piece.

They began by focusing on a victim of domestic violence, dramatising the poem 'I Got Flowers Today', which tells the story of a woman being physically abused by her husband over a period of time, each attack more serious than the last, before he finally kills her. The flowers refer to gifts he presents to her by way of apology and then finally to the flowers at her funeral. They chose to have the poem narrated by the victim of domestic abuse and the other characters then brought the words to life by acting out moments and characters from the poem, using ensemble theatre techniques and interacting with the narrator. They originally planned to use artificial flowers as props but a fortuitous rummage through the props cupboard led to the discovery of some red flower hair clips that they found could attach to the central character's clothes and hair. This turned out to be highly effective visually. Finally, they found a mournful song that the victim sung unaccompanied at the end of the piece to represent the mood at her funeral.