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The main reason I chose this extract was that there were two female characters in the extract and two female actors in the group. I liked the way the relationship between the two characters developed during the extract. At the beginning of the play, there is a professional, quite friendly relationship but by the end, both characters hate each other. I also liked the way my character, Mrs Lyons, descends into madness.
When I first started to rehearse this play, I found that it was harder than I expected. This is the first serious play I have been involved in, so I found it hard to say the lines convincingly and naturally.
I suggested that I should talk with a more educated voice and that my partner, Becky, should talk with a more “common” voice to emphasise the social difference between the two characters. I also suggested some ideas for what we should wear.
In my coursework I wanted to present a convincing portrayal of a wealthy, educated woman who, faced with a extremely distressing, seemingly insurmountable personal problem, sees what looks like a perfect solution, but which ends up driving her to madness. I wanted to initially gain the audience’s sympathy for her predicament by showing how much she wanted children and to show her as a reasonable person.
I considered the second scene the most important as this was when my character discovered that her employee was expecting twins and couldn’t afford to keep them both; and when the plan for Mrs Lyons to pretend to be pregnant and to keep one of the babies was hatched. In this scene, she promises Mrs Johnstone that the baby will be better off with her, and that Mrs Johnstone will be able to see him every day as she comes to work. However, in the next scene, she breaks that promise by sacking her. I wanted to show that the sacking was motivated by Mrs Johnstone’s paranoia. In the final scene I wanted to demonstrate that my character’s mental health had deteriorated.
I tried to portray that she was wealthy and educated was by talking in an upper-class, educated accent, and by dressing in a smart suit. I could have improved my performance by making my accent more pronounced, doing my hair in a more sophisticated way, and wearing some tasteful make-up.
In the first scene I tried to convey her longing for a child by delivering the words as if I was completely wrapped up in my problem and as if I was talking to myself rather than anyone in particular. To demonstrate this, when I said the lines about only buying such a big house in the hope of having children, I looked down at the table rather than looking at my partner because I wanted to make it seem as if Mrs Lyons felt vulnerable because she was being so open.
I concentrated on what I was doing at the time, which was getting something out of my bag, to try and convey that my character was fighting back tears, and didn’t want to look at Mrs Johnstone in case she showed her any sympathy or pity, which might have made her cry. I think I could have emphasised my character’s reaction when she found out that Mrs Johnstone was pregnant in a similar way to Kara when she choked back her tea.
In the second scene I wanted to show the first signs of my character’s madness, when, on learning that Mrs Johnstone is expecting twins, she comes up with the extraordinary idea that she should fake her pregnancy and take one of the babies. I tried to express how she got more excited by speaking more quickly and by the tone of my voice. I also moved around a lot and started to talk more to myself than to my partner as my character got more carried away with her plan.
In the third scene, where Mrs Lyons sacks Mrs Johnstone, I started off talking in a very authoritative tone and avoided eye contact with Becky because the supply teacher explained that when you have a problem with someone, you don’t look at them. As the conversation develops, and Mrs Johnstone threatens to take the baby away or tell the police, I wanted to show that Mrs Lyons was manipulating Mrs Johnstone by playing on her superstition and lying to her that she’ll be locked up if she tells anyone what happens. I showed this by getting close up to Becky and talking quite slowly and with a deep voice, in a threatening way. Because I am quite a bit taller than Becky, I was also able to look down on her, which reflected the difference in class between the two characters.
I think it was a mistake to avoid mannerisms as compared to some other groups, whose little individual touches made their plays stand out, our performance was quite boring.