The Young Actor of Man Competition is a well-established event, attracting young people from across the island. In the past entrants have been asked to prepare a solo piece for performance, and then eight performers are then selected to compete in the final held at a later date.
This year I was invited to put forward ideas for a different approach which might appeal to the young participants. After consultation it was decided to take a Workshop approach to give the actors the opportunity to show their versatility and explore a range of performance skills.
After a great week of adjudicating the One Act Festival at Port Erin, the workshop took place on Sunday March 8th in Onchan.
The workshop lasted five hours challenging the group to explore a range of dramatic devices and skills which can add imagination and interest to their work and how to create a particular audience response.
The first part of the session included a variety of physical and vocal warm up exercises. This was followed by several challenging tasks. Spontaneous group freeze frames were created in response to a range of quick fired situations, including a beauty salon, parents evening and a funeral parlour! Thought tracking each character resulted in some highly imaginative work.
The session then gained pace with various exercises based on the work of Stanislavski including the Magic “If” and imagination. Each student was given the name of an object and given two minutes to create a monologue using their imaginative skills. Monologues created included thoughts of an engagement ring in a pawn shop, a dog in a rescue centre and a wilting plant. After each solo performance each character was hot seated by the group. It soon became apparent that this was very talented group!
Spontaneous improvisation exercises certainly stretched their imagination and resulted in some unforgettable performances.
After two hours of nonstop activity we had a short break then the real challenge began. The group were given an abridged version of “The Last Resort” by Chris Owen. This is a great script to use with young people. It is best described as a modern version of” Under Milkwood.”, it is a comic ensemble play that illuminates 24 hours in the life of a seaside resort. The script uses a chorus, other intervening devices and the opportunity for demanding multi role scenes.
The chorus lines were assigned to each cast member, and the use of pace, tone and vocal skills were explored to create atmosphere and how to engage an audience. The group were then divided into small groups and given individual scenes to explore and rehearse. After approximately 90 minutes of intense work the scenes and narration were combined to create a 15 minute performance. The result was a true ensemble piece showing superb interaction, concentration and highly imaginative individual performances. The task to choose eight performers out of eleven highly motivated and exceptional performers proved to be an impossible task. After consultation it was agreed that all the group deserved to progress to the next stage of the competition.
In a world where the arts provision for young people is not regarded as a priority, it was an inspiration and a joy to have the privilege to be invited to facilitate this event.
Photographs can be seen on Manx Amateur Drama Federation Facebook page and on their Website www.madf.im