This week we were introduced to the object for the first time, trying to see its significance as a performing entity and as a devising tool within the context of Improbable practice. I'm aware that this concept may not be very familiar to some of you, but which you will hopefully begin to grasp after some practice and experimentation.
(1) "We Got it Wrong? Great!"
In the article 'we've got it wrong, great!' Brain Logon successfully articulates how original, collaborative and reflective Improbable really is. This article particularly concentrates on how difficult it is to improvise and how many actors would dislike and not be able to perform if the play was only 'half formed.' This observation was certainly reassuring as even professionals found spontaneity to be nervous-racking and difficult and to do so should be recognised and applauded. It is also interesting to find that Logon recognised how objects such as their tape made such a unique and interesting concept to the productions. This article helps one is understand how simple materials such as a rough storyline and bland objects can become a challenge to a western actor/ess due to perhaps being in such a consumerist society where such vivid imagination is not always encouraged, and a lot of things are literally told i.e. in most films.
Posted by Olivia Pointing.
(2) Improbable Influence & Short Scene
After working on our short scene in smaller groups, I feel I am beginning to understand why Improbable use certain exercises and games by selected practitioners. Various influences from a range of artists have created many levels to their work making it unique. By experimenting with a mixture of practitioners such as Keith Johnstone, who encompasses a more modern approach to theatre making, in comparison to say Michael Chekhov, you can see how their individual style has been formed. I particularly liked the work we did on atmospheres and qualities which was in the Michael Chekhov reading. We experimented with this in our short scene by each adopting a different quality for our characters. We transformed an ordinary script into something that is more than just 2 dimensional. I feel that this is something to bear in mind with Improbable. There work is not just about one plot or subject, but a whole range of issues which are explored through different mediums. This therefore, leaves an opening (a gap) for the audience to create their own interpretation and meaning.
Posted by Faith Brandon-Blatch
Comment: One of the important things to notice, and which is evident from your post here, is that the best way to understand the work of Improbable is through practice. Which you have experienced yourself through your work on your own piece with your small groups, on which you have applied the concepts you read about and explored in class.
(3) Week Four Blog
Having read the articles for our week 4 reading, I found them all very interesting. The first article – 'Objects in performance' had some very interesting views on what a puppet actually was as well as how in theatre, objects are now just as important as puppets. It mentions how we have to be able to transform the object in order for it to become characterised. You also have to be able to 'feel' the object and understand it, whilst working with it instead of dominating it. In class, it was interesting using newspaper to form our objects. At first it was difficult not to dominate the object and force it into a shape or structure that you wanted it to be. Improbable believe that you need to trust the creative process between yourself and the puppet and not rush it. They also yet again believe that the mistakes that come out of the process of making the object/puppet are the most useful and help them to progress. In class, many of us found it difficult not to copy ideas that we had seen from previous groups. However, in my group I found it very satisfactory working as an ensemble and creating our puppet together. In future lessons I would like to cover the idea of objects in the theatre in more depth as well as work on animating objects and not dominating them.
Posted by Charlotte Harvey
Comment: In order to discover the potential of an object as an expressive, theatrical tool... in order for it to come to life and become transformed on stage, we should try and see it as equal to a human performer. IT IS a puppet AS important as a performer.
(4) Improbable and Puppets
The first visual image I get whenever I think of puppetry is a ‘Punch and Judy’ performance. This may be because this is the form of puppetry I have had the most exposure to and it may also be because I first experienced a ‘Punch and Judy’ performance at a young age. I can see how the approach to puppetry that we explored during last lesson has evolved from the more traditional approaches. But this didn’t prevent me from struggling to achieve the kind of results I was hoping for (practically). I felt as though I was battling against my most natural instincts. For instance I found it difficult to see the newspaper (that I was making a puppet from) as though it had a certain quality. I felt as though I was being asked to see the newspaper as having a will of its own. In the article with Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch the idea of asking your puppet for help when you are stuck with what to do alarmed me slightly for this reason. I am not saying that I do not think it is possible to create puppets in this way or that it would not achieve results that were fascinating to an audience. I am very curious to the way ‘Improbable’ use puppets. However I found it very difficult to adapt to this approach in one lesson. Overall I feel as though I achieved far better results in the first half of the lesson than the second. I experimented more and didn’t try to mould the newspaper into any pre-conceived shapes. Once I was asked to repeat the exercise and was in front of an audience I was more aware of how the newspaper looked and I fell into the habit of trying to create something that looked interesting. I gained a lot from watching others during the second half of the lesson. Often there would be moments where a puppet would seem to have life. There were a few comic moments where puppets would meet each other for the first time and react in an unexpected way. The exercise was clearly challenging and managing to create moments of life was a success in itself. I think another reason I struggled was that I was trying to re-create other moments of successful performance. I have not formed any strong opinions as to whether or not I like this form of theatre. I would like to re-try some of the exercises we did in class before I form an opinion. The reason is that I haven’t had enough experience of it yet.
Posted by Sylvie Barlow
(5) Puppets and Properties
This week I was really struck by Improbable's belief that all objects on stage are puppets rather than props. On reflection, it seems to be almost obvious that in many plays, the main character is effectively an object, with the main themes of the play being portrayed to the audience through the object. However, I had never really thought about the role of props in plays other than to assist the actors. After this lesson I realised how short-sighted I had been in this respect. I really like the way Improbable use objects in their performances as puppets rather than props, allowing the real significance of these objects to be communicated to the audience. This concept helped us work on our group improvisations, as we were able to use the newspaper puppets to help portray our movement qualities and develop our characters in general, with the newspapers becoming an element of our characters rather than just objects. I haven't had a chance to watch the video yet but I look forward to seeing how Improbable awaken their puppets and use them in performance.
Posted by Fran Smith
(6) The Difficulty of Puppets
I am still unsure about the use of puppets with Improbable. Even though I can see that the end product is clear, and I agree with and understand their idea that every object on stage is a puppet rather than a prop, I find it difficult to understand the process involved. Because I find the spontaneity idea difficult in itself, I think that the idea of doing this with newspaper is something that I haven't grasped properly yet. I am finding it interesting to read about and watch Improbable working with puppets though - I think it is easier to understand when you see their end product, even though so much of the emphasis is on the process. I think that I will find this idea easier to understand and do when I have seen this idea develop more, and seen how it connects into performance, which I have glimpsed within the smaller groups. This is something that I still find very new and challenging, but I am sure that with time and experience I will begin to see the bigger picture, and understand the process more.
Posted by Emma Fielding
I found this week's lesson quite difficult. Although I try to keep an open mind, I found it really difficult to give a mind to an inanimate object. With the newspaper, I tried to find which folds appeared naturally as I moved it and used those, but otherwise couldn't see how the paper was telling me how it wanted to move. Every time I tried to stop myself imposing my own will upon the paper, I found myself thinking, 'it's only paper. It has no will other than the will I impose'.
Posted by Emma Berge
Comment (for all): Seeing the object as something other than itself, respecting and listening to the material, giving it life without imposing your own will, are all very difficult levels of perception to achieve when working with objects/puppets, and I'm aware that they are new to you. It takes time and a lot of practice to get a real sense of an object and allowing its character and presence to materialize in front of an audience. So don't rush the result and just think of your process of learning and experimenting. Try not to think of the end product or the final image and enjoy it as a 'game'. Improbable believe that playfulness is a great attitude to have when creating... it's actually the 'essence' of creation! Trying out the newspaper exercise for once is far from enough!
Now you find yourself dominating the newspaper, which is a very natural first reaction, but the more you do it, still with an 'open mind', the more the connection between you and the newspaper will happen, and the more the paper's own will will show itself to you. Right now it's not ready to talk yet!
(8) Week Four Blog
Week four's lesson was based around working with objects, specifically newspaper, and creating things with it. I noticed during this lesson, whilst people were working with the newspaper to create something, there was a lot of focus on creating a puppet that had a complete character. Improbable themselves said that when working like this, they may create sections of puppets; arms, legs, torsos, heads etc, rather than creating a full, complete puppet.
I found that people in our class were more concentrating on their puppet becoming a full character, ‘dominating it’ so to speak. Many people created creatures, as if they were animals, and forced animalistic characters on them, rather than letting the newspaper fully evolve into its own life.
This may be due to the fact that we have never done this before, and as human instinct, we like things that are complete and have a nature and purpose, therefore creating half a puppet or something without a complete character would not be satisfying for us. However, during the process in this lesson, many interesting creatures and puppets did evolve.
Posted by Emily Cookson
Comment: You are right. You should try to let go of your own pre-conceptions of things when working with objects. Don't presume a shape for the newspaper before developing a connection with it, or before developing a real sense of its nature and quality as a material. Improbable sometimes uses this exercise with designers and businessmen for that very reason: to help them let go of preconceptions and of predetermining things.
And yes, you all did great trying out the exercise for the first time, and some good images did started to appear.
During Monday's lesson I found creating puppets from newspaper quite hard. Watching the other members of the class creating objects out of newspaper I thought that they made it look quite easy. I did notice that some of the objects different people made were very similar which would suggest a lot of awareness and control in the improvisation. I however found it quite hard to let the newspaper naturally take a form as I didn't want to force the newspaper into an object. I think with more practise the task would become easier.
Posted by Louisa Hagan
I found the lesson we just had on puppet making interesting as at firs I was a bit sceptical but ended up quite enjoying it. I found it easier to do at the beginning i think because i had no pre-concieved ideas about what i was doing so it came naturally. But once we started doing it many times and watching everyone i felt that it began to feel a bit forced and therefore less successful. It was also a very draining exercise and i found it hard to focus fully on it for 3 hours.
Posted by Fiona Allison
Puppetry using stereotypically inanimate objects can always be fun (to a degree). But I'd never thought of using something so ordinary and from everyday like newspaper until '70 Hill Lane'. It is really interesting to see what different things people come up with as many puppets came to life very quickly and many others far more slowly. Our personalities probably define a large amount of what we're going to create in front of us and thus I'm curious to what degree can we see ourselves in what we created in class. The section on puppet interaction i thought was really interesting, the movement and life we had given to our puppets from within ourselves really came through there.
Posted by George Calderwood