Weaving Group Performance magic on the stage
Every year the Drama Studio fills with an audience of excited parents and friends of our Year 12 Drama students, for the one night of the year when they present for their Trial Group Performances. At Abbotsleigh it is GP Night and our Drama students often feel they have waited their whole time in Drama to perform in GP Night. Wednesday 27 July was another marvelous evening.
The HSC Group Performance in Drama is compulsory for Drama students. Every Year 12 Drama student in the state will be presenting his or her GP for the HSC. It is the only group task mandated for the HSC and provides Drama students with wonderful opportunities working in an ensemble to conceive, create and collaborate a piece of original theatre to be performed together.
The works are improvised and playbuilt from ideas and interactions among the ensemble members to extend their performance and characterisation skills. The girls develop, within their chosen performance style, an original theatrical presentation highlighting dramatic meaning and manipulation of the stage space and elements of drama such as focus, tension and movement. While the Group Performance is undertaken as a group activity, the marking guidelines and criteria require clearly that each student is marked individually in the process.
There are six Group Performances this year at Abbotsleigh, ranging from Expressionism, creative movement and Brechtian documentary styles of theatre. The opening moments often give a clear indication of the style chosen as evident in Pulling the Plug, which sets, with a soundscape, the expressionistic, half-waking, often fearful, moments from a nightmare.
Another Group Performance, Yes, Master Society, highlights the actor-audience relationship through movement and direct address to make a social comment on the dominance of society over the individual.
Often the audience will be engaged with the comedy and their recognition of characters developed in a GP. The characterisation may be anything from multiple roles to stereotypes of well-known figures, interacting with each other on the stage to make a point or carry a strong message to their audience. This is obvious in Get me Outta Here.
As playbuilt performance pieces, the Group Performance encourages originality, improvisation and a plethora of group dynamics. While every student will have moments of driving the process of the making of the piece, no one student ‘owns’ the responsibility of the final product on the stage. It belongs to the group ensemble. This can mean that the ‘story’ recounted by one character, may require other actors take on multiple roles. This was appreciated by the audience of Double, Double.
There are a variety of topics given to the Drama students to use as a springboard to start the playbuilding process. These links or topics are not marked but can sometimes lead the groups in very different directions. For instance, the following two groups have chosen to locate their GP in a set place, one in a waiting room, the other in a staffroom, with very different styles and consequences. In The Staffroom the situation, leading from Vanishing Point, covers an imagined lockdown incident, where the characters are confined and stir-crazy.
In ‘Til Divorce do us Part, set in the waiting room of a lawyer’s office, the topic of ‘a whirlwind of possibilities’ leads from the long waiting period to individual recount of wives seeking a divorce.
Every Drama student in these Group Performances has developed skills of focus, timing, spatial awareness, interacting with others and control of delivery.