The moveable blocks were in my opinion an amazing idea! Different sides of the blocks represented the scene that they were visible in: this set the scene exceedingly well. For example in the apple scene shown above the blocks had an apple and an ‘a’ on the front, the remaining blocks were stacked on top of each other to create trees… other blocks included a duck, jam jars and a squirrel, a barn door could also be constructed using the blocks.
The most effective use of the blocks was during the end scene where all of the blocks apart from 2 were constructed into a barn and pushed together by the children to symbolize them shutting the barn door on Donald and the fire… the remaining 2 were situated together showing an image of a fire and a burnt duck, these symbolized Donald burning in the fire. Although I believe the blocks were a great idea I think the movement was not executed appropriately as it often disturbed the performance: blocks were sometimes positioned incorrectly which sometimes changed the effectiveness
I believe a physical theatre piece would have made the movements and transitions more effective. I found that the costumes used were very appropriate to the era yet in some cases not to the characters. Raymond However I found that Peter and Willies costumes were the wrong way round. There were no masks or make up used, apart from a minute usage of character make up on Donald to create his scars and wounds, I believe this enabled us to visually see the neglect he suffers. As the play was set in a compact auditorium (Ron Barber Studio Theatre) there was only a small space in which the actors could perform. There were 2 areas of the stage shown below
The main area was extremely close to the audience. The cast had no audience awareness this was evident from them spitting apple and saliva over the audience, and also throwing an apple at the audience, hard enough to ‘knock them out’… it was a major health and safety issue! Between the main area and the back area was a transparent curtain: when Donald was in the barn at the end scene there was a blackout and a fresnel spot was shone onto the curtain so we were able to see Donald and his fire: yet from a distance; the curtain symbolized the barn wall. Another usage of the curtain was in my opinion the most disappointing part of the play: it made a mockery of the most pivotal part of the entire play.
A ‘circus’ style music was played whilst the most emotional and pivotal scene of the play was ridiculed. The scene which is a serious foreshadowment of what’s to come is transformed into a ‘stale comedy’…it was neither funny nor emotional. The staging used was a very bad choice as unless you were seated on the front row you had absolutely no chance of seeing everything: your view was blocked by other members of the audience, by the blocks or the actors themselves. At some parts in the play all of the ‘action’ was taking place in a corner where the majority of the audiences were unable to see it; if it was centralized many more would have been able to see and would have therefore got a clearer understanding of what was taking place.
As the stage was bare apart from the blocks, I believe that it looked rather drab; there was nothing interesting about the set apart from the blocks which at the start had no meaning to the audience: other than children’s toys, however as the play progresses their meaning was clearly understood and appreciated.
A major downfall of the production was the fact that they did not use any lighting: apart from a regular floodlight and fresnel spot. They used no profile spots, colours or special effects lanterns to set the scene or mood. I believe that as the staging was so bare it was relying on gobos and special effects lantern to make and set each scene…however this was not done. I believe a blue light on the boy’s when they were sad and a red light when they had killed the squirrel would have been really symbolic and effective. When the alert signal is sounded for them to hide, I believe a stropescope to set rhythm and pace would have been great and really effective: most of all I believe that gobos should have been used to help set each scene; for example leaves and trees the forest, and bars for the wood in the barn. A crossfade however was used at the end to crosscut between Donald and the others.
Sound was used both as an advantage and a disadvantage. At the beginning of the performance a medley of songs were sung: these included ‘You are my sunshine’, ‘Katie’ and ‘don’t fence me in’ all of which were totally unnecessary: to add to this there were 2 extra girls in the beginning scene… it later came to light that they were the producer and director. The song was yet another of the plays many ‘gimmicks’ to get the director and producer unnecessarily involved: it was highly confusing. None of the actors sung like 7 year olds would neither did they act like a 7 year old either…it was just a big disaster. Although it could be argued that some songs had there own meanings and connections to the plays characters; this created their own form of dramatic irony. For example the lyrics ‘k.k.k.katie’ could be in social reference to Raymond’s stutter; and ‘don’t fence me in’ could relate to Donald in the barn. It could also be interpreted that this was used to show historical context.
Recorded effects were fluent throughout, as they played the sound of chirping birds. This helped set the scene of the woods effectively. The sound effect of the alert alarm created a sudden climax, the volume and pith of this sound forced the audience to become alert to the situation and empathize with the characters fear. Multimedia was used to show the cultural and historical background of the play. For example during the opening scene a slideshow was shown with images from the war. This got us emotionally involved with the play’s background foundations and meaning, however this was under false pretences and we were easily led away from being emotionally attached by the unnecessary singing.
Overall I would only give this play 6 out of 10. Only half of the cast suited their characters which in my opinion ruined the whole performance. No lighting was used which clearly symbolized both the producers and directors lack of understanding for the drama median. Levels were totally he wrong way round as it is obvious that those with a higher status should be on a higher level.
Peter who has the highest status is sat at the lowest level, whereas the weakest character of Donald is at the highest point. The performance was savored by Angela ‘Julie Chapman’ whom kept her character believable throughout, all credit to her. The production team really needs to rethink their strategies before producing yet another ‘flop’ production. Gimmicks should be ‘out’ and more aspects of the drama median added. The production elements throughout the piece were not though through and were therefore a shamble… the lighting was none existing, sound inappropriate, costumes mixed up, and the staging absurd. An all round mess and a disgrace to its talented playwright.