Last time we were behaving like children at college. Since then we’ve moved on to “the grotesque”. I’d love to offer a succinct explanation of what “the grotesque” is but after a couple of weeks I’m still not too clear, and I don’t think I’m alone.
In practical terms it’s meant that we either:
Dress up in very smart clothes, stuffing cushions inside to pad out our bodies — often stomachs or humps for men, huge breasts, bums or hips for women — and behave as over the top caricatures of upper or middle class idiots.
Dress up as famous people, again with the padding, and behave as over the top caricatures of said famous people.
The famous people classes can best be imagined as Spitting Image sketches as if performed by people instead of puppets. People who aren’t very good at impressions and who pick the most blindingly obvious foibles to lampoon. Maybe, at the more subtle end, it could be a little more like Stella Street.
My biggest problem was that I couldn’t think of anyone to be. I couldn’t think of any famous people I was (a) interested in, (b) disliked enough to take the piss out of, and (c) could feasibly look like. My first half-attempt was Snoop Dogg, just because I thought it would be funny to impersonate a black rapper, somewhat in the style of Ben Folds’ Bitches Ain’t Shit, Nina Gordon’s Straight Outta Compton (scroll to bottom of the page for the MP3) and similar covers. Then I realised how much practice it would take to do any kind of half-passable impression of someone from such a different world. So next lesson I was Jesus, whose personality and behaviour is hazy enough to forgive any old impression (although I quite liked my patience-wearing-thin, gently disapproving Jesus, hard as it was to steer clear of Lee and Herring’s version, aaahhhhhh!).
We spent more time on the smartly-dressed posh people than the celebrities. This didn’t do much for me either. It all seemed so exagerrated and laboured, disconnected from any sense of reality. Steven Berkoff is perhaps one of the few people using this kind of world in his plays, and we even used a bit of Kvetch for one class, the first time we’ve used a script.
When the style is toned down it becomes a bit more interesting to me — think Abigail’s Party — and I began to enjoy it when we focused on embarrassment and awkwardness, the fears hidden behind social pleasantries and customs. Despite the setting being different — we were still dressed in suits and posh frocks — this happily reminded me more of the excruciating moments in shows like The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Now, I think, we’re moving on toward tragedy for the next part of the term, which I hope I’ll find a bit more inpsiring.
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