Last Tuesday’s session, we decided as a group to go to the Lincolnshire Archive to discover more about the Beechy Boys letters to their mother, Amy Beechy. During the visit, we looked through some of the letters which the archive had saved on a selection of discs that we then put into the computer. I found this visit particularly interesting as we not only found out more about the letters, we also found out about the use of censorship during the war. The army used post cards which told the soldiers what they could and couldn’t write, they also had to cross out anything that the soldiers had written that they didn’t want people to know. I couldn’t believe how secretive it all was, as I had never heard of them being limited to what they could and couldn’t write. We also read the telegram that Amy Beechy received when her son Barnard died. It must have felt awful of course, but even more so that when she opened the envelope and saw that the writing was typed and not written in her sons handwriting, it must have broke her heart even more, because she had an idea of what she was about to read.
Last Friday we went to our site with Karen. We figured out what we could work on, to make our ideas more solid and suitable. We tested out different actions to see how we could make them relate to our performance, and explained our thoughts to Karen. An example of our actions was the ‘wave goodbye’, we want this to show that the journey can continue to the next point. We also used the used repetition with our actions in the classroom part of our piece. I felt that this lesson was really helpful as it helped us get back on track with our process and gave us more ideas to think about. It was also a positive for us to have the opinion of another person and to see it from their point of view.
This week we hope to work on our audio using audacity, and see if our audio works with our site.
Last week my group and I thought it would be useful to visit the Lincolnshire Archive centre to help with inspiration for our monologues. We were given a catalogue which contained sections of the letters that the Beechey brothers had written, and we paid particular attention to how the letters were signed off. Each brother signed their letters in a different way, for example, Barnard Reeve Beechey ended many of his in ‘I am your loving son, Bar.’ We want to incorporate the idea of ‘leaving’ or ‘saying goodbye’ into our piece to symbolise the effect that the war had on people in 1915. From the monologues that we have written so far, each discusses the idea of having to say goodbye to a loved one. Amy Beechey‘s monologue talks about what it was like from a mothers perspective when she had to send her children to war. Florence Bonnetts monologue talks about her finance and how it felt to be separated from him, and finally our teacher character talks about having to resign from her duties as teacher, leaving behind her pupils. In our piece we have different points on the journey were we have interactions with the audience, however, after these interactions the actor will send the audience member on their way, using a simple hand gesture of ‘waving goodbye’. We are still unsure if this gesture is enough to indicate our theme throughout, and this will only become apparent when we start rehearsing it in our site.
We also walked through our site last week, and this sparked new ideas. Florence Bonnett’s monologue talks about working in the William Foster factory with her friends, making the tracks for the tanks. Our original idea was to have the audience member making daisy chains to show the idea of linking things together to produce something. We then realised that this had its issues. Florence Bonnett was 15 years old when she worked in the factory, and making daisy chains is something you tend to do at a much younger age. It also sparked questions like ‘would the audience members actually get involved in making the daisy chains?’ We have now decided to use Foam gliders, which are plane templates that you can piece together in order to build a paper plane. We are thinking of photographing the audience member with our mobile phones as they make the plane to document the process. By using modern technology we are bringing it into the ‘now’ by documenting the past with the present. We are also thinking of having the audience member fly the paper aeroplane down the steep hill, measuring how far it goes. Again, all of this links with the recording of our piece and the idea of Florence working with her friends to build something.
As we walked a little further up the steep hill, we came across an information board near to the cathedral. It displayed information about Lincolnshire in 1915 and how the Ruston Proctor factory was producing the most amount of aircraft during the WW1. This also links into our war theme and makes our idea of building the paper planes more significant. We are still yet to try out this new idea in our site, but I feel it makes a lot more sense then making daisy chains.
We decided to experiment with using mood boards to help cover the factual aspects of the performance. This is because we are taking a fictional and factual approach to the performance and we feel that the factual evidence is very important to understanding the Lawn. One of the mood boards (as seen below) incorporated leafs and sticks from the Lawns grounds, pictures of the Lawn and information. The leafs where used to give the board a 3D feel, this also reflects back to the traces left behind by the inhabitants of the Lawn who planted the trees.
During our first run using the mood boards, we found that they were inconvenient. We have not decided if to keep the boards in the performance but hung up in sight of the audience member. A few ideas have been discussed in relation to replacing the mood boards, a few of which are to place the information in mugs or coffee cups, where the audience member can take out the information out and read it. Another option was to return to our original idea of using a newspaper with the information inserted into the columns.
A point that came up from our first run through was that there was not enough time for the audience member to read the information given to them. This could be solved by adding in backing tracks to also give us the actors a chance to get into position for the next scene.
Our piece is not focused on trying to replicate the past in minute detail but to merely re-present echoes of the past. Just as Mike Pearson had done in his performance entitled Bubbling Tom (2000) this performance was set in the nineteen fifties, but rather than attempting to take his audience directly back to that time, he represented traces of the past through gestures and speech, he states “I evoke this place fifty years ago: performance as a lens or filter, residing exactly over the current everyday.” (Pearson, 2010, p55) this is similar to what we would like to do with our performance. We know that it would be impossible to create an exact replica of 1915 but we can use elements of that time to create a filter or layer over the present day.
The audio that the audience will be listening to will have the sound effects of the war and of machinery to represent an essence of the munitions factory. Whilst the audio will be set in 1915 the interactions that we have with the audience will be current day, as in we will not be acting as if we are in 1915 as that would not work, the audience knows that we are not in 1915 and the interactions are not as isolated compared to the audio. Although those moments are set in the present, they will be reflections of the past. We will, with the audience, perform actions that reflect on the work of the Lincoln war workers. For example the building of the aeroplane is a reflection of how the munitions workers of Lincoln were the first to create the tanks and aircrafts for the war in 1915, but we will be making a modern reference in relation to that work by building a small toy plane that the audience can fly themselves. We will be creating our own memories for the audience to look back on, as we look back on the work and roles of women during the First World War.
The piece that we have create has lot of focus on memory, this is something I have already touched upon in my last post with the reliability of memory and the flexibility of certain memories. However, something that I had neglected to think about,until after our session the other day, is that we ourselves are creating our own memories within the performance.When discussing working with memory in performance Mike Pearson states that memory “might indicate for the popular imagination how we ourselves, and our immediate environment, are part of a historical process.” (Pearson, 2010, p57) Taking pictures of the interactions we have with the audience members, leaving our own trace.
- Pearson, M. (2010) Site Specific Performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
On Tuesday we went to the archive to find letters from the Beechey boys to their mother. The people in there were really helpful. They gave us three DVD’s with the digital letters from the first three sons. As we are mainly focusing on the first son we read the letters he sent. We were also given a book with a summary of each letter that all the sons had sent. We looked over these and noted down the letters that were of interest for us. One man gave us a novel written about the Beechey boys with the letters written in them, so we looked at these and looked at how each son signed off their letters. This gave us an idea of what we want to include in Amy’s monologue. It also inspired us for some performative actions for our walk. We also walked on our route and spoke about what would be happening at each point and what performative actions we would be doing. This really gave us a clear idea of what would be happening.
On Friday we wrote down the route we wanted to do and when our interactions would occur. We then went up the hill with Karen and spoke about our ideas. It really helped us think about each interaction and why it would be happening. We also spoke about the here and the now and how we would talk about the past in our performance. The idea of having the headphones on and being in the past and then taking them off and being in the present day. We then spoke about what tense our monologues would be in and how we want the audience to perceive them. We decided to record our monoluges in first and third person to see how they sound in the site and then we will decide. We also spoke about being ourselves when the audience take the headphones off and talking to them naturally about the tasks we will be asking them to do.
We also showed the performance part that we worked on, the first bit worked well but being children playing in the playground did not work. Therefore we have to discuss and think about how we can incorporate hopscotch into the performance to move it along.
Overall I think this week has been very productive and we know what is happening now. What we need to do now it really work on our sound and see how it sounds and looks in our site.