The performance at Guildhall feoffment was an enjoyable experience for us as a group and I think we have all learnt a lot from both the performances themselves and also the process leading up to the showing. One of the non acting elements to our pieces was the costumes and props which we had made and organised. These seemed to work well on the day as they gave ‘The Magic Paintbrush’ an even more magical feel, to be able to see what the main protagonist had drawn as a physical object come to life. The children responded with both joy and amazement which shows that they were immersed in the story which the props helped to do. This is also true for the second story, as the masks we made helped the animals to be easily identifiable to the children and props such as the table successfully fulfilled their function to turn and lay itself. This was however one of the riskier elements as we had to spend quite a lot of time working out the way we could do this and then the actual making of it required more time and thought than we first imagined. If we had to change something regarding the props process, it may have been useful to start on the creating of more complex props earlier on, this would help in making sure we were ready in time with fully functioning props. Luckily we had sorted this in time and it worked and gave the effect we initially wanted. But this would have allowed for any mistakes we encountered. Another props related improvement we could have made was the organisation of the props when performing. They tended to get messed up at the back and it was sometimes difficult to find what we needed. We could next time have a clear plan of what props will be where to avoid this small confusion. As for the costumes, they were simple but effective as they showed who each character was without causing us massive hassle to change between different characters. By having the simple plain blacks as our base it allowed us to take on any character and the additions helped to identify us, such as the three children’s colourful scarfs. For the style of performance and the low-budget this worked well.
In the actual performing of the two pieces, one of the successful elements was the energy and focus of the company. This may be due to the children’s willingness to participate and interact with us and their reactions which they gave. This helped to boost our energy and want to interact with the children more. As a result the actors really went for it and the interactions seemed to go down well with the children. Overall the cast did well at controlling the audience but there were some times where the teachers tried to make the children quieter and some of the cast didn’t necessarily wait for the children to have their laugh before continuing. In future this may be something we can focus on improving, as the timings before we carry on after a laugh can help with how smoothly a performance goes. We can’t help the teachers from trying to make the children quieter as it is a norm for them, however if we were to do the performance again, we could perhaps have written to the teachers before hand, saying that our performances are something the children can shout out the answers too and is interactive in its style. Perhaps they were not aware of this at the time of performing and if they were they may have help back. It might also have been nice to allow for more moments when the children could interact as it was such a crowd pleaser and enjoyable to both them and for us.
Another aspect of our performances that worked well for our target audience was the singing at the start. This automatically alerted the children that we had started and drew their attention to us. Song is something very familiar with young children as at an early age they participate in singing themselves, so by having this familiarity it may have put them at ease as well as engaged. On top of this, the content of our two stories was also appropriate for the targeted child audience. A lot of the humor was appreciated by them and they reacted with laughter which for us was a positive. Things such as the donkey and the ‘ I wanted a robe not a rope’ seemed particular favorites for the children. Children are also known to speak their mind and if the content hadn’t been enjoyed then we think that they would have said it or shown obvious signs such as fidgeting or standing up.
Acting wise the cast stayed in character well. However on some exceptions both myself and other members of the company broke character and laughed when not directly performing but standing at the back. Although the children did not seem to mind this, it is something I would have changed about the way I played my part in the piece, as it is can break the connection between actor and audience. It also would have given a more polished feel and appearance to the show, although doing this we could have been at risk at not keeping the atmosphere so lighthearted, which the children seemed to like. Something else that worked well was our reactions when performing through facial expressions and gestures. For example the exaggerated reactions from Joey, Chloe and Philomena when the mother character is told by the goat that the children didn’t feed her. It helped in telling the story and in the case of the reactions to Ma Liungs drawings coming to life, it made it sound more impressive and allowed the children to over look the fact that it wasn’t really a real river. This helped them to stay immersed in the action and to know that to the characters it was a real river.
Positioning wise, it was more proscenium arch than we were used to performing these pieces in and that slightly put us off on how we positioned ourselves. At times some children struggled to see and it might have been useful to have asked them to move further back or have practiced in more than one staging configuration in the rehearsal period. Due to the size difference between the children and us, as we were so close to them we often found ourselves blocking their view and this is an area which we really could have improved and will be more aware of next time we go to perform.
Overall the two pieces were relatively successful and had both positive and some more negative aspects in which we can work on for later performances. The experience was highly useful and gave us a chance to see what works and what doesn’t for a child based audience. Bellow is footage of the two performances and also some videos of us discussing how we feel the shows went.