Friday, 22 February 2008

The Overcoat

Work in groups of about 5 or 6 to devise a scene where a person goes into a shop to buy a new coat. This is no ordinary coat and the person has never had this opportunity before. All the furniture and fittings of the shop must be made out of people. The group are asked to consider how the person changes physically when s/he buys the coat. The scene does not have any spoken language in it and it can be presented to music.

This drama represents a universal theme: the desire to own something that gives a person status. It is an interesting starting point for discussion about aspiration and the significance of acquisitions.
The use of physicality rather than spoken language enables young people who do not share a common spoken language to develop drama skills without barriers.

As preparation for this task, the young people could explore how they feel about having new things: Each person enters the room demonstrating through mime and physicality that they have something new that they are proud of. The group can guess what the new possession is.
· The initial scene can be developed into a short drama by exploring various developments of the story e.g. “How do other people respond to the new coat?” “What happens to the coat?” “Does the coat cause any problems?” “How does the wearer of the coat change?”
· This is a good approach for group where attendance is inconsistent because the participants can operate as a dramatic-physical chorus and can easily substitute for each other. The chorus can grow and shrink from week to week.
· The story is easy to understand and remember. There are no lines to learn and it can change and develop from week to week building on physical experimentation.

To maximise the potential for this style of work, it is necessary to build participant’s confidence in physical expression using approaches like: This is not a Bottle, Faces, Music and Images, and Everyday Actions.
It is sometimes quite effective to hold back on introducing music so that it can ‘lift’ the energy at a point where that is necessary.
The work is most successful when there is an atmosphere of playful experimentation and opportunities for young people to contribute ideas physically rather than through spoken language.

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