Performance Research For Alice
For my character research, I first started by reading the play, which is ‘Alice’ by ‘Laura Wade’. I then read the play a second time, but focusing specifically on the character of ‘Alice’. I wrote down any quotes that I thought were important or said something specifically about ‘Alice’ that could help me to play and characterise her. I looked into her relationships with other characters, her background, her appearance, the character motivation, how she views ‘Wonderland’ (where our scene is set) and also things specifically about her, like her age. I put all of the information that I found out in a mind map, with the quotes that back up my points in pink, so that I could easily see it. This will help me understand ‘Alice’ better and mean I can make more informed characterisation choices.
As you can see from the mind map, ‘Alice Little’ is a twelve year old girl from Sheffield. Even though she is younger than myself, there are quotes from the play such as ‘You’re twelve? Hands up- I thought you were older’, which show that she acts old for her age and her vocabulary and the language she uses suggests that I won’t need to act like a stereotypical younger girl. Therefore I don’t plan on drastically making my voice and physicality show that I’m playing a younger child. The fact she is from Broomhill in Sheffield however, will mean that I will need to research into a Sheffield accent, so that I can give a more accurate representation of the character. It is an important element to the character and the play that she is from Sheffield, as there are specific references to the place and it also shows that we are performing a modern day adaptation, rather than ‘Lewis Carroll’s’ classic story. I plan on using this Sheffield accent for the performance and will be working on it over the rehearsal period. The videos below are ones that I have found to help me learn how to do the Sheffield accent for ‘Alice’.
From researching into the play, ‘Alice’ seems to have many layers to her personality and there are displays of a large variety of emotions with different aims and motives to what she says. For example, she can show signs of anger and aggression throughout the play, often swearing, such as when she says ‘I have never met the bloody queen!’. This shows she is quick to fly of the handle and isn’t afraid to show her anger. This may be something that has developed after her brother’s death or perhaps its part of her sociolect, being from Sheffield, or it could just be a part of her personality. Although this is the case, it is something I need to be aware of and make sure to include in my performing of the character. On top of this, she also shows a lot of signs of being a logical person as well. She says ‘I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t have any more can I?’ which shows that she takes what people say very literally, and again brings an element of annoyance. This may be because she finds it hard to understand people who don’t think in the logical way that she does. I will try to get this across when she talks to ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’ in our scene. I will use a more annoyed tone of voice that connotes the exasperation that she feels and make sure that my movements show this too. I also want to be able to get across to the audience, the fact that she is a witty character, as that is how I have interpreted quite a few of her lines. She says ‘What about a traffic Jam?’ whilst ‘The Dormouse’ lists off types of jams, which I see as ‘Alice’ trying to be witty and catch ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’ off guard. It will also be a fun idea to play with, that perhaps ‘Alice’ finds her jokes quite funny, where as ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’ don’t understand her humour. This will emphasise even more that there is a huge juxtaposition between ‘Alice’ and the characters from ‘Wonderland’.
As for character motivation, her over all aim whilst being in ‘Wonderland’, is to return back home to her family. In the scene we are performing, ‘Alice’ says ‘Im just looking for the middle, the centre, of um, Wonderland. Is there like a door somewhere?’. She shows no interest in staying with ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’ but rather to solve the white rabbits riddle to get her back home. She spends most of the play trying to get home. This shows that ‘Alice’ clearly cares about her family a lot, which may be to an increased extent after her brother ‘Joe’s’ death, as they can relate to her sadness.
Character relationships are particularly important for this scene and play, as they fuel a lot of emotion into what ‘Alice’ says. Her brother ‘Joe’ is arguably the most influential character for the plot of the play and also plays a big part in the characterisation of ‘Alice’. The play starts at the post funeral tea, where we are informed that ‘Alice’s’ brother died and they have just been to his funeral. There are a lot of quotes in the play, that suggest that ‘Alice’ is deeply affected by his death, which causes a lot of the events that take place to occur. You can see that she is aware of the fact that his death affected her, when she says ‘Im not mad, something awful has happened to me’. This shows that she herself acknowledges the fact, she is still overwhelmed by the previous events, which might justify some of her actions. Also with in the first few pages of the play, ‘Alice’s’ aunt says ‘You know Alice adored him’, which shows that ‘Alice’ and ‘Joe’ were close siblings with a good relationship and she cared about him to a great extent. Her aunt then goes on to say ‘So young. Seventeen what a waste’. It makes it even more tragic for ‘Alice’ that her brother died so young and he didn’t get to live a long life. The way he died is also important from a character perspective, as he was hit by a drunk driver. This meant that it was a shock for ‘Alice’ and this shock and sadness created ‘Wonderland’. As ‘The White Rabbit’ says near the end of the play ‘Your brain made Wonderland. For you to hide in for a bit’.
As for her relationship with ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’, in the scene we will be performing (which is the tea party scene) she has just met these two characters. Similarly to how ‘Alice’ views most of ‘Wonderland’, she instantly realises they are completely mad. In our scene she says ‘Right this is just nonsense isn’t it? You’re just spouting rubbish’. She is clearly annoyed at ‘The Hatter’ and ‘The Hare’ for not being very helpful in assisting her to achieve her goal, which is to find ‘The Heart’ and get back home to her family. As I said earlier, she is quite logical and as they are not, she gets easily frustrated by them.
After going through my initial research, I then went on to answer Uta Hagen’s nine questions. I did this as it is something that has helped me in past performances to further work on understanding my character, in hope that I will be able to give a more truthful performance. Below is what I came up with for ‘Alice’.
Context And Play Research
As for the background of the piece, there was only a small amount of information that I was able to find, due to the fact that the play isn’t widely known. However, I again put all of my findings into a mind map. One of the main points included the fact that the play is hugely inspired by ‘Lewis Carroll’s’ ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’ , which becomes apparent as soon as you read it. I plan on looking further into ‘Lewis Carroll’s’ and other versions of the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ story in my production research, as it could give us inspiration for our piece. I also looked into ‘Laura Wade’ who wrote the play. I found it very interesting that she grew up in Sheffield, as that is where the start and end of the play are set, and it is where ‘Alice’ is from. It is likely the reason ‘Laura Wade’ set the play there, as she knew it well and wanted to use her personal knowledge of the area. The fact the play is set in Sheffield, also modernised the classic story, which gives the play a very different feel to ‘Lewis Carroll’s’ ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’. The play itself was published in 2010 but there is also a 2012 electronic edition, which allowed further access to the play, especially to her target market of teenagers, as they are stereotypically known to be fans of technology. It is also the edition that I have been referring from with my quotes. The play was first performed at ‘The Sheffield Crucible’ on the 17th June 2010, not long after it was published. Lyndsy Turner directed the play and Naomi Wilkinson was the designer.
The art work that our piece is inspired by is ‘Mad Tea Party’ by ‘Salvador Dali’. This was part of a collection of twelve different pieces of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ inspired art. An editor at New York’s Maecenas Press-Random House, commissioned ‘Dali’ to illustrate an exclusive edition of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ which he signed every copy of. They were original gouaches which is a method of painting, using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance and were published in 1969. It was distributed as their book of the month and the volume went on to become one of the most sought after ‘Dali’ suites. There is one piece of art for each of the twelve chapters and the ‘Mad Tea Party’ painting relates to the ‘Tea Party’ scene in ‘Alice’, which is the scene we will be performing. It relates very well to the piece, as both are showing the same scene and are about the same story and the same characters. ‘Salvador Dali’ was also a surrealist painter and that style also fits with the mad and imaginative themes in ‘Alice’. ‘Lewis Carrol’, ‘Laura Wade’ and ‘Dali’ have all focused their pieces on dreams and imagination, which ties them all together. On top of this, ‘Dali’ was also a theatrical man and during his extended career, he participated in the production of ten films, three theatre productions, two operas and nine ballets. This meant that he had a huge interest in creative stories and wanted to tell the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ story through his art. The rare edition of ‘Salvador Dali’ ‘Alice In Wonderland’ paintings, was only possessed by rare book collectors and scholars, with the occasional copy for study. This was the case for a long time, however for the 150th anniversary of ‘Lewis Carroll’s’ ‘Alice’s Aventures In Wonderland’ it has finally been printed for the public by Princeton University Press.
Performance research for No Exit
For my research of ‘No Exit’ by ‘Jean Paul Sartre’, I began by reading the play and I also watched a few different versions of it being performed online. One that I have found particularly helpful, is the 1964 BBC adaptation, which stars ‘Harold Pinter’, who happens to be one of my favourite play writes. It has given me a better understanding of the play and also lots of inspiration for characterisation. I especially like the voice the actress playing ‘Estelle’ uses, and it is something I plan on referring back to, as inspiration for how I speak as her.
Context And Play Research
From reading and researching ‘No Exit’, I have found that it is a 1944 existentialist French play, written by ‘Jean Paul Sartre’. The original title is the French equivalent of the legal term ‘In Camera’. Which I found out to mean ‘a private discussion behind closed doors’. It was first performed at the Theatre Du Vieux Colombier in May 1944 and it is about three very different characters, who find themselves put together in a room. It is a depiction of the after life and the play soon goes on to explain that the three characters are dead and are in hell. They are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity and ‘Sartre’s’ message is that “Hell is other people”, which is a quote from the play found on page ‘200’ of the 1958 version, in the book ‘Three European Plays’, which is the copy I will be quoting and where all of my page numbers are from. This is going to be the basis of our performance, and it is vital that we get across the intended message of the piece. To do this, we are going to have to make our characters extreme opposite to create a juxtaposition and show the annoyance they have for one another.
‘Sartre’ was born in 1905 and he is known for clearly showing his philosophical takes on life in his short stories, and plays. The themes and symbolism in his play support his ideologies. From my research I have have found that they normally focus on the idea of existence, freedom, responsibility, consciousness, and time, which all makes up the philosophical movement called existentialism. War and tragedy also seems to have influenced many of his plays, as World War Two had an enormous effect on his life, both physically and intellectually. When war broke out in 1939 ‘Sartre’ joined the French Army and this ended with defeat and humiliation. This may be a reason why ‘No Exit’ was written, as it takes place in a room in hell occupied by three people who can’t stand each other. This has often been compared to living in Paris during the German occupation. In ‘No Exit’, he goes into the issues of freedom, self-deception, and the nature of time, to help fellow French men and women cope with the ordeal of defeat both during the war and after. It may also be why the character ‘Joseph Garcin’ is in hell for attempting to desert the war.
In our performance, I will be playing the character of ‘Estelle Rigault’. When reading the play for the second time, I decided to focus on just ‘Estelle’ as a character. I looked at her behaviour, her background, her physical appearance, relationships to other characters and her motives. I have made a mind map to show all of this and the quotes which support my research from the play are written in pink.
Over all, ‘Estelle’ is a young woman who died of pneumonia, the day before they all meet in hell. She is from Paris and her parents died early on in her life, leaving her to bring up her younger brother. She then married a rich older man to support her family but ended up having an affair with a man closer to her age. She then became pregnant by this man and that is why she ended up drowning the baby, which is the reason why she is in hell.
As for her physical appearance, ‘Inez’ says on page 160 ‘You’re very pretty’. There are several times in the play that gives the impression that ‘Estelle’ is very well known and desired due to the way she looks. ‘Estelle’ says on page 180 ‘Everyone say’s I’ve lovely hair’. This implicates that she is very used to being complimented on her appearance, to the point where she now expects it. It also becomes apparent that ‘Estelle’ is sexually motivated and there are times where she can be seen to be superficial and she encourages people to objectify her. As you can see on the mind map, there is an enormous amount of evidence for this. You can see her superficial vanity with her obsession with mirrors. On page 167 ‘Estelle’ says ‘Ive six big mirrors in my bedroom’ and then goes onto say ‘When I can’t see myself, I begin to wonder if I truly exist’. She sees her worth and value as an existence, to only be what you can see on the outside. This is emphasised even more when she says ‘Im just a hollow dummy, all that’s left of me is the outside’ on page 180. On top of this you can see her willingness to be objectified when she says ‘Surely im better to look at than your stupid furniture’ and ‘Ill sit on your sofa and wait for you to take some notice of me’. These lines on pages 180 and 181, shows that she wants to be looked at and craves the attention from men. She is trying to get ‘Garcin’ to notice her and fulfill her need to be noticed. But as ‘Garcin’ points out on page 180 ‘Any man would do’. She doesn’t care about the person, just the fact that she gets sexual attention. ‘Estelle’ says ‘Coward or hero, it’s all one provided he kisses well’ on page 184 which also supports this. She isn’t self conscious and is very confident of her body, appearance and her sexual appeal. She says on page 181 ‘I often undressed with my maid looking in’. This indicates that she is not shy of having sexual activity in front of others, which she later goes on to use as a plea and persuasion to ‘Garcin’, that it doesn’t matter if ‘Inez’ is there and watching. She also says ‘Im giving you my mouth, my arms, my whole body’, which shows her sexual motivation and eagerness to be objectified yet again. All of this made me think of ‘Curley’s Wife’ in ‘John Steinbeck’s’ ‘Of mice and men’. That is the type of character I will use as inspiration to get across to the audience ‘Estelle’s’ need for sexual attention, her superficial ways and her want of being objectified and noticed.
Another big part of ‘Estelle’s’ personality and character is her posh manner and superior attitude towards others. Hierarchy and class are clearly of high importance to her, which you can see when she finds out that ‘Inez’ worked as a postal clerk. The stage direction is that she starts ‘recoiling a little’. This may be because she has married a rich man herself and never had to work, the idea of ‘Inez’ doing this as a job horrifies her. On page 159 she says ‘Its those sofas. They’re hideous’ and then ‘But you can’t expect me to sit on that one. It would be too horrible for words’. This shows again, that she cares about the way things look but also that she thinks she is better than ‘Garcin’ and ‘Inez’ and should be able to have top choice of which sofa she gets. She is used to luxury and hates when it is taken away from her. A quote that I think sums up the fact she thinks she is superior to others is ‘Ill ring when I want you’, which again shows the fact that she thinks she is better than everyone else and has the power to order people around.
As for character relationships, the only two people she comes into contact with in the scene and the whole play, are ‘Garcin’ and ‘Inez’. ‘Inez’ is clearly attracted to ‘Estelle’, and when she is asked if she is in the play, she replies ‘Very much indeed’. Although this is the case, ‘Estelle’ is only interested in gaining the attention of men, and puts all of her energy into attracting ‘Garcin’. ‘Garcin’ however, isn’t particularly interested in this and only plays along for a short amount of time, being more concerned with his own affairs. Both ‘Inez’ and ‘Garcin’ see ‘Estelle’ as immature calling her ‘Child’ and ‘Little girl’. As the way she behaves is almost like a child throwing a tantrum, as she often ‘Stamps her foot’ when things don’t go her way. This is something I am going to look into including with my characterisation of her, as although she is an alluring sexual young woman, she also has moments where she behaves childishly and I want to show that in our piece.
I also answered Uta Hagen’s nine questions, to solidify my understanding of ‘Estelle’ and also the scene we are performing.
The artwork in which our piece is inspired by, is the 15th century ‘Visions Of Hell’ by ‘Hieronymus Bosch’. It is often refered to as the most famous scene of the underworld in Western art. ‘Hieronymus Bosch’ was born with the name ‘Jeroen van Aken’ and later changed his name to the more regal sounding ‘Hieronymus Bosch’ in order to attract patrons and distinguish himself in a family of painters. His birth coincided with the age of discovery, when Western Europe began its global mapping of the world, and Christianity was undergoing a movement that anticipated the Protestant reformation. Due to this independence, Bosch decided to abandon the Bible’s version of hell, which shows fiery punishment and destruction, and created a more fantastical underworld that more closely resembled a battlefield. Bosch believed that hell was the result of man’s ultimate sin which ties in very well with ‘Hell is other people’, which is ‘Sartre’s’ message in ‘No Exit’. The clear link between the art and the play, is that both are representations and interpretations of what hell is. Renaissance art also tends to focus on individuals in society which is also true for ‘No Exit’.
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