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When we first began discussing the possible content of our play we were provided with stimulus materials to help us develop our ideas. This included newspaper articles, pictures and extracts from several poems. This selection allowed us to work with a number of influences that we otherwise would not have had. As we further developed our ideas we no longer needed this original stimuli as our concepts had progressed, however, after working with this literature, we were aware of what kinds of research would be useful in developing the play. And so, these stimuli not only helped us to develop our content, they also showed us how we should be conducting our research.
Throughout the process, both stimulus and research materials were worked with in the same way; on finding a useful piece of literature or music, we presented it to the group, discussed it, and then either intergraded it into the play, or deciding that it was not useful, it was discarded. This method kept an open dialogue within the group allowing opinions to be constructively voiced, and so, even if the actual material was not used, new ideas were always being developed.
When we began to write the play the majority of our ideas had been developed from original war based stimulus, and this left with a very small spectrum of influences. Because of this, we began collecting research on a very wide subject, the subject of war. As this is such an unspecific area of research, we were left with a very large amount of literature to process and discuss. Trying to put all of this research to good use took a large amount of time, and so we produced a very small quantity of practical work for the first couple of weeks. In some ways this work ethic may have been counter-productive, however, while were processing the research we were planning scenes, seeing how new ideas fitted into our concept and generally working on the ‘bigger picture’ of our play. This meant that when we did come to devise and write scenes we had a very clear idea of their purpose and how we wanted them to turn out.
There were a number of different sources that were researched; one of the first areas of interest was on the First World War. As we would be focussing on the ‘human aspects’ of war, we did not research facts and figures, but instead found a number of sources that were created by people actually affected by the conflict. In this case war poetry and art proved to be most helpful. The poetry, mainly taken from the Internet, allowed us an insight into the emotional mindset of a soldier. While these poems were not used in the piece, they allowed us to add depth and motivation to the characters that were to be placed in these situations. The art, on the other hand, provided us with some very strong visual images of the Front Line, and with this we took inspiration for our set and lighting designs.
Events in the Middle East, which were then being widely depicted in the media, took up a large proportion of our research. From this came the ‘Suicide Bomber’, ‘Child Soldier’, and ‘Bar’ scenes, all of which were set in a non-specific Middle Eastern country. This aspect of our research was by far the most productive; at the time there were great quantities of news reports, both on television, and in the newspapers, and so there was much material to work with. This research was used in two ways; some of it was used directly in the play, for example, Kayleigh’s news report was an unchanged news report taken from the Internet. Other research in this area was used to influence the story line of a scene, for example, with the reporters’ scene we tried to recreate the lives of the people actually making the reports. These different methods allowed us to look at the subject from a number of perspectives and so helped us to build a fuller picture of this aspect of our story.
While we were looking into this subject, it became apparent that all of our research was being collected from the Western media, and so we became concerned with the reliability of our sources. It would have been easy to decided not to take notice of this bias, as discarding our work on this subject would mean that we had wasted our time. As we did not want to ignore this fact or scrap the scenes, we decided to include this problem in our script. And so we devised the ‘Journalists’ scene, which depicted the struggles of three Western journalists reporting on a conflict in the Middle East. During the writing of this scene we included a section about one a the journalists changing an interview so to meet his own purposes. Although the audience would not have seen the relevance of this addition, we felt that it was important to highlight the cultural bias of our play.
When researching for the ‘Suicide Bomber’ and ‘Child Soldier’ scenes I encountered quite a serious problem. Due to the nature of these scenes there is little literature on the subject, and appropriate websites were very difficult to find, (either they were written from a ‘Western’ perspective, and so carried a serious bias, or were from ‘Eastern’ sites, and so the content was very graphic and unsuitable for the stage). Being that this is such a modern phenomena, there have been very few books written on the subject, and those that have proved unsuitable. Eventually it became obvious that research on this subject was going to be very limited and that we were going to have to create a large amount of the script from fiction. This is almost the only time that we were unable to find research on a subject.
As the writing of the play continued, our need for new research material became greatly reduced, and we got to a point that we no longer needed outside information on the subject, and were able to finish the final scenes from scratch, building upon the ideas first provoked by the early research.