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Performance Review

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Offer a detailed analysis of one of the stage productions you have seen this semester, using methods and approaches discussed in seminars. Your critical account should give an overview but focus in the main on those elements of the production you found most interesting. Referring to specific scenes or sections, give reasons why you think those elements worked - or didn't - theatrically.

This semester I have watched most of the stage productions put on at the GulbenKien Theatre by students. The one I enjoyed the most was called 'Hymns' written by Chris O'Connell in 1999/2000. I am now going to analyse the performance and talk about the parts that I found most interesting.

In this play, four men attend the funeral of a mutual close friend. At the beginning of the play the comic and light-hearted genre depicts a sense of denial between the four, but as conversations unfold, tension, guilt and anguish builds and their true feelings are revealed. The begin to mourn their loss together.

Originally, Hymns was performed in 1999 by 'Frantic Assembly' , a contemporary theatre company based in London. Their production had a lot of dance, physical theatre and choreography involved which fitted perfectly with the contemporary style. However, the less choreographed version I saw put on by students at the University of Hull, focussed on the dialogue, characters and tension of the play. Personally, I think that too much movement in this play takes away from the importance of the words each character has to say. The play is heavily based on an intense and intriguing script which I feel the audience should pay full attention to in order to fully understand the plot.

However, it seemed that Tom Saunders (director of Hulls version of Hymns) adapted 'Frantic Assemblies' stylised movement at the same time as sticking to the contemporary style. For example, the opening of the play is set to a famous song called 'Against All Odds'. This song is originally a slow ballad, but Tom decided to use and updated, remixed and much more modern version by 'The Postal Service', immediately giving the piece a contemporary edge. This song caught the audiences attention because it is not a well known version of the song, therefore, making it interesting for them to listen and pay attention to.

Choreography was used during this song as the four characters enter the stage in turn, each greeting each other one by one, with a hand shake or a hug.

They were all wearing black suits, their movements were slow and expressions saddened, suggesting to the audience that something was wrong. This slow movement gave the audience time to listen to the words of the song, for example 'Take a look at me now, there's just an empty space' and 'you coming back to me is against the odds and that's what I've got to face'. These lyrics fit perfectly to the theme of loss in the play and make the theme clear from the beginning before the actors have spoken.

One choreographed part that stood out to me was also during the opening song. Two of the characters do a sequence of simple movements exactly in unison. They are both sitting down at a table, the slowly bring their right hand to their head and look down for a few seconds. They then move their hand away from their face and look to their right at the other two people on stage. They drop their hand beside them and take a beer from the table with their left hand. I thought this stylised movement worked really well because not only did it look interesting to watch, but it symbolised that maybe they were feeling exactly the same or that friends were bring brought together by a tragedy.

The sombre, sad mood within the song is broken by the characters telling jokes to each other and having fun after just having been to their friends funeral. The question posed in my mind was ' Why are they having so much fun when their friend had just died?'. I came to realise that one of the main reasons the play worked so well was because of the highs and lows in dramatic tension and the underlying questions that were soon asked out loud by the characters themselves. The question I asked to myself was soon brought up in the script, when one of the characters notices that they are not paying attention to their real feelings about their friends death, thus creating conflict, confrontation and therefore dramatic tension. The jokes kept the audience interested to see what would happen or be said next.

This light-hearted and comic banter was used throughout the piece to break dramatic tension or make the audience laugh. For example, at the very end of the play, after a



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