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Drama course work a comparative essay

I chose to compare my improvised piece of drama, entitled “Shattered” to two other plays: Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens; and Legal Weapon, by Tim Wheeler a Theatre In Education production.

My improvised piece of drama is similar to the production of Nicholas Nickleby, which was performed by the National Youth Theatre at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. These pieces of theatre are similar in their genre; they are both straight and serious pieces of drama. They are also similar in that they both use a combination of realistic acting devices and more stylised sequences. A scene in our play that demonstrates straight acting qualities is when Joshua consoles Lisa on her troubles at home. Lisa and Josh are girlfriend and boyfriend, in this specific scene, Lisa shows her trust, and confides in him, giving great detail about her parent’s constant arguing and her father’s excessive drinking which leads to domestic violence.

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The interaction between the actors in this scene was carefully rehearsed and choreographed, in order to portray a truly believable relationship and provide the audience with credible characterisation. In Nicholas Nickleby a scene that demonstrated straight and serious drama was when Nicholas left his family, the movements and interaction between the characters were especially credible, the simple yet emotive way Nicholas placed his hand on his mother’s shoulder, was executed with such conviction and emotion that the audience could instantly understand their loving relationship and through Nicholas’ facial expressions alone understand his reticence at leaving her.

A memorable and effective stylised sequence from Nicholas Nickleby was the crashing of the carriage. Cold lighting was used, which gave an eerie atmosphere to the stage. Six men stood in a line running rhythmically on the spot representing the horses. A large wooden carriage wheel was held and spun around facing sideways on, a wooden stick was held against the spokes of the wheel creating a clattering sound. All this took place while Nicholas and Mulberry Hawk jostled and fought in the compartment. As the carriage crashed the wheel was released and allowed to roll like a spinning top, gradually coming to a halt.

A stylised sequence from my own performance piece is demonstrated in the first scene, in which the three family members sit in a tableau, as though in a photograph whilst performing short monologues, it is as though still images are speaking. Despite the similarities of minimalist stage design in both performances, there were many differences between the productions: most noticeably the time period of each of the pieces. Nicholas Nickleby was set in Victorian times, whereas Shattered portrays contemporary family life. Victorian values differ from those of today; the role of women in society has greatly altered. In the production of Nicholas Nickleby, women were seen as being inferior to men, whereas in Shattered men and women are equal and both are entitled to their own opinions.

My own improvised project can also be compared to Legal Weapon, a Theatre In Education production, which was performed by the ape theatre group. Both are similar in their themes, as they explore some of the difficulties and decision making that young person have to face. When rehearsing and performing my improvised piece I tried to recreate the use of voice, through pitch, tone, pace and expression in order to create emotion and empathy as demonstrated by the actors in Legal Weapon. Legal Weapon and Shattered are also similar in their minimal set design and minimalistic use of props and costume change.

I also admired the build-up of dramatic tension demonstrated in the performance of the legal weapon. The car crash scene in Legal Weapon demonstrated the gradual increase of dramatic tension, through the steady increase in volume at which the lines were delivered; the pitch at which the lines were delivered became higher and also the tensed facial expressions became more noticeable. When planning out scenes for our performance we endeavoured to recreate the gradual, crescendo like increase of dramatic tension.

Another similarity between Legal Weapon and Shattered is the sharp contrast between the mood and atmosphere of different scenes. In legal weapon, the contrast was very noticeable between the intense emotion and horror felt during the car crash scene and the humour of the flirtatious tensions between the traffic officer and Jazz. The stylised, choreographed dance-like nature of the car crash increased the impact, whereas the comical scenes were portrayed in a naturalistic, lifelike manner. In my performance, we tried to highlight the contrast the differences between Lisa’s corrupted home life of arguments and shouting, and the affection and caring attitudes shared between her and her boyfriend Joshua.

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