Brits on a train

As I mentioned in the previous post, it was a busy term. That term, the second of four, finished a week and a half ago (I’m a bit behind). It was eight weeks, which doesn’t sound like that long a time, but the end of the first term seems an age away.

This time the end of term presentation was a collection of the things we’d been working on during the term, with a bit of a bias towards the chorus work as that was the most recent work. If this had been a true “best of” compilation, with space to stop and think between developing the chorus pieces and the decision of what to present, I think some of the choruses would have been left out (or maybe that’s my bias showing through…).

The other main features of the presentation (which was only for other students at the school) were our grotesque pieces from earlier in the term. The Creation Group I was in back then had developed a piece known locally as “Brits on a Train” and we were all keen to give it a polish and do something better with it. It had, unusually, been an easy and fun group to work with, and we were quite pleased with our first stab at it, so it wasn’t a hard decision.

The piece involves five strange white British commuters — with ugly padded-out bodies, distorted faces, peculiar hairstyles, and an obsession about cleanliness and not touching each other — who end up killing a loud and annoying Japanese woman who disrupts their daily routine. It went over well in the first half of term and for the final presentation we tried to refine it, to work out exactly what it was about and to make sure everything that happened helped that single theme.

We got rid of some of the commuters’ strange habits, which had seemed funny but we thought they were maybe beside the point. OK, the teachers had suggested they were beside the point, so we dropped them. We padded the interloper out to maker her incredibly fat, increasing the chances of her — horror! — touching the repressed British people. And we made the killing more gruesome, with a weird sexualised dancing and touching ritual, and a lot of fake blood spraying around as my character ripped out her heart. (This final frenzy, a suited chap ripping someone open with his bare hands always made me think of the gory masonic Jack the Ripper murders in From Hell.)

The final result was an improvement over our first attempt, although several people who also saw the earlier version missed some of the things we’d excised. I think we ended up paying too much attention to the teachers’ feedback and tried to please them rather than go with our gut instincts. We ended up being too cautious and timid in some places, rather than sticking to our guns.

Finding the ending in such scenes is often difficult. You can have a fantastic set of characters but have no idea how to draw everything to a close. We’d tried several alternatives during rehearsals and weren’t 100% sure about our strange ritual ending — in which the commuters, angry about being touched, swiftly become obsessed with touching themselves and each other, before reaching the gory crescendo — but thought we’d give it a go… I heard the audience’s laughter disappear as we entered that final phase so there’s obviously still plenty of work to do. (Which isn’t to say we only want laughter; if we’d chosen to make it turn genuinely horrible then it would have been great if the laughter died, but we were hoping it was still funny at that point.) I expect we’ll give it another whirl for the final presentations in the fourth term.

The rest of the performances, most choruses aside, were a lot of fun. I hadn’t seen much of the afternoon group’s work this term and they had some genuinely hilarious work to show. Which bodes well for next term’s challenge — clowns.

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Saturday 8 March 2008, 6:40pm

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8 Mar 2008 at Twitter

  • 6:04pm: After a couple of months we have our lounge back, with flat(tish) floorboards, and dining area is no longer filled with furniture. Space!