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The first few weeks of rehursal were mainly small pieces of group work where we improvised some of the scenes in random groups picked by the teacher. In the first few lessons we practiced moving around the room in role. We were aristocrats and then peasants and we did these roles by holding our heads and noses high in the air, creating mannerisms for a typical rich person. For a peasant we had to hunch up our backs and hold out our hand as if we were begging for food or money.
We also worked on freeze frames. We would get into groups of, for example, seven and then we would all think of a suitable scene like inside the Bastille (which was a prison), and then work together to try and create an eerie atmosphere. We did this by huddling close together on the floor and having pained expressions on our faces.
Another thing we experimented with was thought tracking. For this we would strike a pose, like a servent on her hands and knees cleaning a kitchen floor. Then we would have to think of one line of dialogue which we could associate with our character. For instance, “I work so hard all day and I get paid almost nothing”. The same method can be used in an aristocratic pose. The idea would be to make the aristocrat very snobby and full- of- themselves.
Hot seating was also what we worked on. The teacher would select someone from the class to sit in the middle of a circle of people (the rest of the class). Then that person would think of a character who she or he would become. For example they could be a prison warden. Then the rest of the class would ask questions like, “What does your job involve doing?” Then the selected person would have to answer the question as if they were their character. This is a good exercise for practicing your acting skills and also makes you really get into the role of your character.
Throughout the first few weeks we rehursed some of the significant scenes in the play, like the revenge of the servents and what we now we know as the scarlet pimpernel scene.
For our homeworks we would have to do research about the french revolution. We would find out about characters of the late 18th century which may or may not have had an impact on the french revolution. The most famous would probably be the king and queen of the time, King Louis and Marie Antoinette. We also collected various pictures together to try and get a sense of how we would have to act, behave and hold ourselves as our different characters. We also found out about what the rich and the poor would be wearing in the french revolution times. Big, elabourate dresses for the ladies and smart suits for the gentlemen, rags and tattered clothing for the peasants and the maid and servent uniforms that they all wore. Although we would not be wearing costume ourselves, their clothes are very important for us to visualise ourselves in role. Also, it was very important to know that when the aristocratic ladies were dancing, they would be wearing huge, puffy – out dresses which would affect our movement as they stuck out enormously.
The dancing would also involve a small line of dialogue from a between a few people. For example I could say to a lady next to me; “Oh your dress is simply divine!” and they could reply back; “Oh yes I know. It looks rather good on me don’t you think?”
The point of the question would be to show the audience just how very snobby the rich were in those times. The music we danced to was Handel, which would have been a very popular choice in the late 1770s.