Sarah Chapman

An exploration on how Theatre can develop in a pandemic.

A play called: Tesco
My pandemic journey

“Ensuring the people and organisations that make up our arts, museums and libraries are protected during the coronavirus crisis is our number one priority.”
Statement from the Arts Council on COVID-19, date: 02/04/2020

An exploration on how theatre can develop in a pandemic, investigates the potential efficacy of theatrical performances online. It is about ways in which, a particular period in time can alter the future of theatre. Theatre practitioners have previously tried to change not just the future action of their audiences, but also the structure of the audience community and the nature of the audience’s culture. In a seemingly absurd way, the main force for such changes has been the instant and brief effect of a performance (laughter, tears, applause and other responses). This time has for the creative arts, been the outcome that has emerge from an alternative logic of practice which are not always easy to articulate and it can become difficult to discuss the work objectively given the intrinsically emotional and subjective dimensions of the artistic work in a pandemic.

Nadia Attwell

You are only a Monster if you act like one.

Terra – I, Frankenstein (2014)

Statement

My work explores the deeper meaning of the monster character in films and what they represent to our society. This comes from my background in film studies and classical civilisations. The role of the monster has changed over the years but what it represents is still the same. I did a foundation degree in Art, Design and Media followed by a BA Hons in Theatre, Performance and Events Design. Having just completed my MA Arts and Project Management, my aim is to work in the events sector. I am currently working to save Dudley Hippodrome and return it to its former glory as an entertainment hub for the community.

Contact

nadia.attwell@mail.bcu.ac.uk

Degree

Arts and Project Management

I have created a blog with my thoughts of Monsters in different films and what they represent in the films and to us personally.

http://nadiasmonsterblog.tumblr.com/

Not all Monsters do monstrous things

Lydia Martin – Teen Wolf Season 4 Episode 10

Introduction in Monsters

Monsters have been around for as long as people have lived on this Earth. This is because they are created from our fears of the unknown.  A lot of these fears are based around the misunderstandings and over exaggerations of people of a more basic time. Humans have been creating monsters since prehistory around the fire. Monsters were a major threat to prehistoric humans. They were used to keep the tribe members from wondering off and getting killed. Their biggest fear was the Dark itself and what could be hiding out of the range of the fire. This fear of the Dark was so deeply ingrained into their minds that we are still wary of the Dark to this day, that fear of the unknown.

As a rite of passage into adulthood young men would be to go out into the unknown and kill these monsters and bring back a trophy to prove it. It was a test to defeat their fears and prove they could protect their tribe when under threat.

Dragons for instance have never existed but seem to be imbedded into a lot of different cultures from all over the world; everywhere from Wales to Romania to China. All these places have mountain ranges and wild places where people believed the dragons lived. Despite the fact that these places are a great distance from each other and wouldn’t have known each other’s folk tales, they are all very similar in nature. Researchers believe that Dragons came about from people discovering huge dinosaur fossils and not understanding what they were or how they got there, created stories to explain their existence. These stories would have been past down orally through the villages by bards. Each bard would add their own spin to make each telling more exciting than the last. They would create great heroes who had slain these Dragons and that is how their skeletons are here now.

The Sea is a terrifying, dangerous place, even for experienced sailors. A lot of people are fearful of the Sea for many reasons. Some people are unable to swim and fear falling in and drowning. Others are terrified of the vastness and not knowing what lies beneath the surface. I have a fear of the Sea even though I’m an extremely good swimmer. It’s more of a dread of getting dragged out to Sea and never being found again.Back when people first started exploring the Oceans their navigation techniques were primitive at best, using the stars to guide them. This would mean they had a high chance of getting lost and longer journeys would take place. This would lead to a very poor diet of preserved rations which lacked important nutrients such as vitamin c. This causes scurvy which is known to affect the mind and can lead to hallucinations, which could explain creatures like the Kraken. The Kraken began life as a Scandinavian monster that roamed the North Atlantic and preyed on sailors who got too close. Scientists believe that the sailors would have seen a giant squid, which can grow up to 15 feet. These sea creatures are rarely seen thus making the stories told about them even more wonderous. Sailors could have gotten a glimpse of one just before crashing into the treacherous rocks and the survivors would have been convinced that they were attacked by the Kraken.

Bodies were often found to have strange items buried with or on them. Some had iron stakes through their chests, others had large stones on their heads and chests whilst others had iron sickles across their throats or stomachs. This was intended to remove the head or open the gut should they attempt to rise from the grave. In 2014 researchers examined the skeletal remains of 17th Century graves in north-western Poland and speculated that the ones given a vampire burial may have actually been cholera victims. The villages took extra precautions with the burials to make sure the dead stayed dead and didn’t pass on the disease. A common thread seems to connect most of these burials together, in that they seem to have suffered through epidemics or illnesses.People didn’t understand what was causing these diseases, like cholera, so didn’t know how it was spread. To help prevent the disease spreading, they would bury the dead whilst they were still warm. This led to many people buried alive, consequently this developed into a fear of being buried alive. Though if a person were buried alive in Eastern Europe and managed to get themselves out of their grave, they might wish they hadn’t. If someone ‘came back from the dead’ the locals would panic and think that they were a vampire or revenant. Subsequently they would then be stoned to death, if the villagers were too afraid to get close, or held down and staked until they bled to death. They didn’t discriminate between men or women, adult or child, rich or poor. Anyone suspected of being a vampire was killed.

Monsters in Films

Frankenstein

Boris Karloff played the first Frankenstein in 1931. It was the first time Frankenstein had appeared in a full-length film. This film was released the same year as Dracula and was the start of Universal Monster films. These films were extremely popular with audiences as they hadn’t seen anything like this before. This film wasn’t sympathetic towards the monster, not like the book. The book was partly written from the monsters perspective. This gave the viewer an insight into what life was like for the monster and how grim his experiences were. It gave a better understanding into why he made the choices he did. The film, however, paints him as a monster who kills a child. This has the whole village hunt him down and trap him inside a windmill, which is subsequently burnt down with him trapped inside. He represents our fear of death and the unknown.
Hollywood’s reincarnation of Frankenstein has kept true to the original monster but with modern additions. He is visually more hideous looking with scientific additions such as the lightning heart and brain. It makes him feel more robotic and therefore realistic. He looks more like a corpse brought to life. The main difference is their personalities. The new version is more relatable, as he mourns the death of his creator and his willingness to fight the evil that is Dracula. There are parallels to the original film with an angry mob chasing him to a windmill carrying Victor. The windmill is set on fire and everyone believes that is the end of him, but he falls into a cave below until Van Helsing finds him. He represents our fear of repression, of being used by others and having no free will.
I, Frankenstein is one of the most recent adaptations of Frankenstein. In the book Frankenstein leaves the world behind and disappears into the far north. This film is what happens next during modern times. Frankenstein calls himself Adam through most of the film to make him feel more human and he joins the fight between gargoyles (good) and demons (evil) on the side of good. He has been sexualised by Hollywood and has lost the traditional look of the monster. This version is believed to be monstrous for a lack of a soul and Terra says to him “you are only a monster if you act like one”. The film ends with good beating evil and Adam discovering he has a soul and accepting himself for who he is. He represents a journey of self-acceptance and self-love. Once you can love yourself you can let someone else love you.

Dracula

Bela Lugosi is famous for playing Count Dracula just as Boris Karloff is for playing Frankenstein. Both films came out the same year and were often played as a double feature. Dracula in this film is very mysterious and secretive as he is never seen attacking anyone in the open, though it’s implied that he does kill someone. This was due to the times and not wanted to scare the audience with too much violence. Throughout the film he uses people for his own desires and doesn’t care about anyone else. He turns Renfield into his slave but tosses him aside when he no longer needs him. He turns Lucy into his vampire bride even though he really wants Mina. Eventually Renfield betrays him to Van Helsing and he is killed, allowing the spell on Mina to be broken. He represents our fear of someone having control over us and not being able to make our own choices. Renfield proves that no matter what we can stand up to dictators and fight back.
Dracula in Van Helsing (2004) has some similarities with the book. He has three brides and Van Helsing is trying to kill him but that is where the similarities stop. This is more about the fight between good and evil. Dracula made a deal with the Devil to return from the dead but at the cost of drinking the blood of others to survive. Gabriel Van Helsing is said to be the left hand of God and previously an archangel. According to the video game Dracula and Van Helsing used to be friends in the Knights of the Holy Order. However, Dracula broke the vow of celibacy and when the woman he loved was banished and killed he tried to bring her back with dark magic. Van Helsing was forced to kill him but was unable to deal with the guilt so asked God to erase his memories. Dracula appears to be cold hearted and emotionless but deep down he is affected by everyone’s hatred for him. He begs his wives not to fear him. He represents our desire to be loved and to rule with fear leads to a lonely existence. Even the most cold-hearted people can still feel the pain of rejection.
This mini TV series was a modern take on the book and shows more of Dracula’s vulnerabilities. It starts out the same way with Jonathan Harker going to Dracula’s castle and having to stay a month however in this version Harker becomes the undead and Van Helsing is a nun. Whilst travelling to England on a boat, the crew fight him and blow the ship up, sinking Dracula to the bottom of the ocean. He returns 123 years later in modern times and the world has changed. Having lived for many centuries he is used to the world changing and adapts very quickly. He enjoys the peace of the cemetery and feels sympathy for the undead that are trapped in their coffins. He explains to Lucy that it sometimes happens and it’s a pitiful existence and he can’t save them all. He turns Lucy into a vampire but as she was cremated, she turns into a living nightmare. She despises herself and begs for death, but Dracula said he still thinks she is still beautiful on the inside. During the final scene Van Helsing explains that all his weaknesses (sunlight, crosses and mirrors) are all in his head and that he is really ashamed of what he has become. He doesn’t feel worthy of Christ or being able to live a normal life in the sunshine. She offers him a way to save both of them from any more suffering and to drink her poisoned cancerous blood. Realising how many more years he will spend taking the life of others and robbing people of their loved ones he takes her up on her offers and ends both of their suffering. He represents sacrifice for the greater good and being able to see the beauty inside. We need to make the right decisions no matter what the cost.

The Wolfman

One of the first werewolves on screen was played by Lon Claney Jr. His character Larry Talbot came back from America to his hometown in Wales after the death of his brother. After returning home he discovers the local myth of werewolves. This along with his weaken mental state from displacement and grief lead him to believe he has become a werewolf, after his is bitten by a wolf. The film is shot in such a way that no one sees him transform and any evidence that is left behind by the werewolf mysteriously disappears. This leads the audience to believe that this is all happening inside his mind, a case of clinical lycanthropy. He represents our fight with mental illness and no one believing us when we say something is wrong.
Hugh Jackman’s character Van Helsing is bitten by a werewolf and is transformed into one himself. Dracula doesn’t have control over this werewolf, as his will is really strong and he is focused on destroying him. This werewolf is heavily influenced by the direct view of the moon. When the clouds cover the moon, he transforms back into human. When he does transform into a wolf it bursts out from under his skin. This shows that the beast lies just beneath the surface of all of us, but it’s up to us how we control it. Van Helsing uses the werewolf to destroy the evil that is Dracula, but it comes at the cost of Anna’s life when he loses control. He is cured of his ‘disease’ however it’s too late to save Anna. He represents our inner struggle to be the best person we can be but no one is perfect and people will get hurt no matter what you do. 
The remake of The Wolfman (2010) stayed very close to the original, including names and events. However, this version extended the storyline to Larry Talbot being arrested for murder and sent to an asylum. No one believes that he turns into a monster and can’t stop himself killing people. Whilst conducting a lecture with Larry as the case study, he transforms into a werewolf and kills everyone, leaving no witnesses. He escapes into the city on a rampage before returning home, where people try to hunt him down. He also finds out his father is also a werewolf and had killed his mother and brother. After killing his father, his love interest Gwen manages to corner him and shoots him. He thanks her as he’s dying as she has set him free. He represents the battle with mental health and how it can be genetic. It also shows that love will eventually set you free.

Conclusion

These monster films come out at a time when we needed them the most. Dracula and Frankenstein came out during the great depression; when wall street crashed and plunged the world into an economic depression. These films along with others created a golden age in cinema as the general public wanted escapism from their lives and problems. The monsters represented the horrors they were facing but would cheer when they met their demise. The monster never won. The Wolfman came out during world war 2 ironically as wolves have been associated with wars and battles for many hundreds of years. The werewolf is a metaphor for the horrors of war. The human side represents the media version of war with the photographs of comrades smiling together looking all wholesome. The beast represents the reality of war, the bloody violence and unnecessary death that inflicted so many soldiers. Very few came back whole, whether mentally or physically. Frankenstein, despite being a monster, helped to boost morale as he showed he could beat death.

The second surge of monster movies came just at the start of the Cold and Korean Wars, another distracting from reality. The eighties brought about the slasher genre and horror films became a lot gorier and violent. Audiences were used to war by now and needed a shock from reality. Most people watch scary films because it reduces their anxiety as they are in a safe environment and watching it on their terms. There’s also the adrenaline rush you get from the fight or flight response that’s triggered when watching horror. In the words of Wes Craven (horror director) “Horror doesn’t create fear; it releases it”.

After looking at these different monsters I have concluded that they are all a part of us. They reflect our fears and show our hidden desires. We all try to find our place in society like Frankenstein. We all have feelings of losing control of our minds and bodies, like werewolves. Dracula shows us what happens if we hold onto revenge. We will end up alone, having pushed everyone away, and desperate for company. We all fear the unknown whether it be the ocean, the dark or what happens after we die. The monsters have taught us to enjoy the little things in life like love and the company of others.

Oheneba Mensa-Bonsu

Theatre is a collaborative art
A production at the South African State Theatre. Photo credit: Facebook.

Theatre and the COVID-19 Pandemic: the implications of COVID-19 on Ghanaian Theatre Practice

Research paper 2020

For this paper, I used theatre practitioner-based interview questionnaires to research the impact of COVID-19 on theatre practice and the alternative presentational forms that can be used to ensure that this sector continues to adapt and grow despite world-wide ‘lock-downs’. Due to my experience and knowledge of Ghanaian theatre, the main case study focus was the Ghanaian theatre and arts sector.

Photo credit: ASASE YAA African American Dance Theatre

Statement

As an international student who saw the worldwide impact of the pandemic whilst being aware of social and economic climate back home in Ghana, I wondered how my home country would brave the storm that is COVID-19. Watching in earnest as the British government took measures to curb the spread of the disease, I wondered how the Ghanaian government was going to handle the global implications of the pandemic and its effects on our economy, especially the arts sector. The Ghanaian art sector (especially the theatre space), an already struggling area is far behind things like STEM education which was seeinga rapid pace of growth and improvement. Hence, this pandemic left the theatre space in a very uncertain predicament. This realisation led me to ask myself a few questions: what would be the new way of theatre in this ‘new-norm’? This was the motivation that inspired me to research more into the subject area.

Keys areas looked at include:

Digital Inclusion
Socio-economic impact
Alternative forms of the practice

Contact

kmensabonsu@gmail.com

Degree

MA Arts and Project Management

Links

Photo credit: ASASE YAA African American Dance Theatre

Charlotte Moulis

On Education #4

Storytelling Performance, August 2020

Through the 9 texts performed here, I navigate the misalignment between the needs from our Primary School system, and the structural devices that govern it. Each of the poetic narratives work to present my interpretation of that fragmented space inferring the need for reform.

Statement

I am a multi-disciplinary practitioner interested in a cross-fertilisation between my work as a primary school teacher and an engagement with educational theory and politics. I research the origins of practice in the state primary sector to articulate narratives of experience and alternatives.

Working predominantly with language, the interplay of the human and poetics with theory and praxes are pivotal components of my work. In the main, I draw or tell stories to share my understanding.  

My aim is to increase the force of a much-needed push for change in our primary sector.

Contact

charlottemoulis@aol.com
charlottemoulis.co.uk

Degree

Arts and Education Practices

Next Project: Illuminated Scroll/s: (WIP) transcript of my 9 texts used. This work will become On Education #5.

For further details please visit my website: charlottemoulis.co.uk