PERFORM 2012: The round-up

PERFORM 2012 took place on 9–11 March at London’s Kensington Olympia. It is the sister event to MOVE IT, a dance event for performers, students and teachers. The event was busy, with many young students eager to dance and perform at the three-day event.

PERFORM was given its own corner of the hall, and was designed for those with interests in theatre and drama. There were big names exhibiting, such as Spotlight, The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Equity and The Stage. There was also a large selection of other college and performing institutions, talking to potential students and teachers about their courses and facilities. Companies were present not only to sell their products and courses, but also to provide advice and guidance to people considering a career in theatre.

There were a number of useful seminars running throughout the weekend, led by some very interesting and influential industry representatives. Teaching Drama attended ‘Teaching and the performing arts’, which was taken by Stagecoach course director Veronica Bennetts and founder Stephanie Manuel.

They talked about Stagecoach’s teacher training course, which can either help new teachers develop their skills, or provide a refresher course to teachers with more experience. The course, which runs twice a year, is now full until November – a testament to its popularity. Veronica Bennetts spoke very passionately about the need to teach creatively and to keep the initial enthusiasm students have at 3–4 years old through to the upper end of primary school.

Another useful seminar was ‘Drama school auditions – a guide to drama teachers’, which was leadby a former senior director at RADA, Ellis Jones (head of acting at RADA from 1993–2003). Also there to offer advice on the audition process was Lovesong actor Edward Bennett.  Both men provided useful tips and hints for preparing students for auditions.  With some audition panellists seeing 3000 students a year, this was a useful insight into what can help a student to stand out from the crowd.

Over the weekend there were also some hands-on, practical workshops available. There was an acting workshop for the under 12s, a workshop on essential voice warm-ups and an introduction to unarmed stage combat for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush.

While the major dance stage did occasionally impose upon the intimate talks taking place in smaller rooms, it did give the event an exciting atmosphere. PERFORM is not as big as MOVE IT, but this in fact becomes one of its benefits, as it gives students, teachers and performers the opportunity to network and chat to important figures in the industry.

So, if you’re a teacher with students considering drama school, or you yourself are thinking about further study through an MA or teaching course, come along next year and find out all you need to know from the people in the know.

www.performshow.co.uk

Frantic Assembly, Lovesong Review

Here’s another chance to read our review from Autumn 2 of Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong.  In our forthcoming issue, out 20 December, we talk to the Frantic Assembly team about why education is so important to their company. Get your copy at http://www.pocketmags.com or subscribe at http://www.teaching-drama.co.uk.

Production review:  Frantic Assembly – Lovesong 

Star Rating * * * * (4/5)

Credit: Johan Persson

A slick, emotional journey charting a relationship heading towards a goodbye. More suitable for KS5.

Frantic Assembly take a slightly slower and more sentimental pace than their usual work with Lovesong. The production looks at the life of a relationship from either end, as a pair of younger and a pair of older actors co-habit the same space. We hear their changing conversations from initial excitement, to growing tension and later a sad, foreboding sense of looming loss, as Maggie grows frail with a worsening illness, the sentiment of the tag-line becomes more and more apparent: ‘That is the story of our beginning. And this is the story of…the end’.

The parallel couples share the house as the same kitchen and bedroom walls surround their voices as they grow old together. Theatrically, we dart back and forth through time and the slick direction allows the action to move seamlessly across the decades. At one stage, the older Maggie leans into the wardrobe and remerges played by her younger counterpart. There are brief, wonderful moments where the older characters become aware of their younger selves for a fleeting instant and vice versa, moments which hinge the scenes more and more frequently as the piece develops. Engaging and fluid physical sections, a trademark of Frantic Assembly’s style, move time forward and explore the shifts in the relationship in a beautiful and moving manner. The most memorable saw all four performers disappearing and re-emerging, accompanied by rhythmic music and powerful drum beats which gradually gave way to the sound of Maggie crying, her sobs bringing us back to the reality of her physical pain.

The design of the show and its aesthetic congruence, for me, even outdoes these dignified and integrative performances. The jade green, sky blue and mustard set and costumes were authentic and retrospective. Large, wallpapered, oblong pillars, set at angles at the back of the set were the walls of the rooms of the house and acted as a cyclorama for well-designed and evocative video projection. This allowed imagery and symbolism within Abi Morgan’s text to rise to the surface. The relationship between the performers and these images was exquisite, at one stage, the old man clutches the air as if trying to grab onto one of a flock of starlings that frequently passes over the set and at another, one of the characters touches her kitchen wall as sparks of light radiate from her fingertips to fill the whole space. The production triumphed in its painting of stage pictures that stay with you after leaving the theatre: the older Billy and Maggie sat at the kitchen table, the younger William and Margaret sat on the floor against their bed, surrounded by the heads of hundreds of flowers as the starlings cross the pillars once more.

At the time of going to print, the educational pack was not yet available. However, it can’t be far off and Frantic Assembly is renowned for good quality, accessible resources that are downloadable from their website. Seeing this show made me wish my students were with me. There was so much to get from this experience – a good discussion about the performances (frequently powerful and sensitive, and I’m sure that as they settle into the run and subsequent tour, they will overcome some verbal awkwardness evident on this opening night), an appreciation of how to use design elements in an harmonious way (in order to transport us in time and place and tug at our heartstrings) and an understanding of how a performer can use one’s body and its contact with others to communicate non-verbally. At the end of the performance, I wasn’t in tears as many other audience members were, but, nevertheless, felt touched by the story and the way in which it was told so eloquently.

Lovesong – directed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett
Frantic Assembly are touring until February 2012.
For more information and to book tickets: www.franticassembly.co.uk/productions/lovesong

by David Duthie.

David Duthie trained in drama and for his PGCE at University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He was the head of drama and performing arts in in Shropshire for six years. He is now the director at The SPACE in Somerset.