Madness: Response Essay
Madness could be defined as the condition of being insane. For the duration of our exam we were looking into the idea of madness and how it is perceived in the past and present society. I believe that we were given the topic of madness because it has always existed in different forms and has been handled in different ways. There are many different views regarding madness and therefore it would bring up a variety of ideas from different people. The first activity that we carried out as part of the exam was for everybody to write down words they associated with madness. I believe that this was done in order for us to open up our minds to other people’s perceptions of madness. These may give us inspiration for when we begin to put together performances relating to madness.
After finding out that we would be studying madness for the duration of the exam I began to research the subject and I realized that there are many forms of madness. In terms of mental illness, there is schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic and other severe anxiety disorders, autism and pervasive developmental disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other severe and persistent mental illnesses that affect the brain. Sometimes madness could also be seen as a positive characteristic for an individual to possess depending on there age and the social circle they belong in. Within a teenage group of boys, for one to be “mad” in terms of “crazy” it would be likely that people would think they are fun individual to be around.
Stimuli are used in order to cause responses. In every drama session we were given a stimuli, this forced us to assess our preconception regarding a subject, our past experiences will affect the way in which perceive a certain aspect of life. In my opinion madness can only be defined in the context it is put in.
For the third session we were given the picture below
The picture above shows an individual in a Victorian mental institute, he seems to be the centre of attention at that moment in time. The people surrounding this “main character” seem to be laughing at him- perhaps he wants the attention of these people or he may have lost control of his actions. The look on his face shows fear of something or someone and perhaps he is trying to protect himself from this threat.
As a group we discussed our first impressions after seeing the picture. We talked about reasons as to why people were put in mental institutes during the Victorian period, in my opinion the Victorians were extremely narrow minded and if somebody were to have a different views on life they were thought to be “mad” and this may have been one of the main reasons people were sent to a mental institute.
After the group discussion, we then get into pairs and discussed a role-play describing somebody who was sent to a Victorian mental institute. Sarah Khan and I began to talk about views towards women in the Victorian times and the way that an upper class family would disown there own daughter if she were to put shame upon there family name. We decided that it would be interesting to base a play around this issue as it has bought up much controversy in the past.
My aim with the play that my group and I were to produce was to portray the pregnant girl as the victim because although she had made a mistake I felt sympathetic towards the situation that she was in. To do this, we gave the character certain characteristics; at the beginning of the play Sarah Khan who played the role of the pregnant girl seemed content with life and this contrasted with her sorrow towards the end. To show to the audience what she was like before and after the incident we used cross cutting whereby we would move from one period of time to another. We also used a narrator- we did this because we believe that it makes a play more powerful due to the fact that the audience will know exactly how characters are feeling at certain moments in the play. In my opinion cross cutting is one of the most effective ways of telling the audience how a character is feeling, the only problem I find it that it is difficult to incorporate cross cutting within a play. For this play specifically we decided that we should do cross cutting but not in the form that it is normally carried out within a lesson.
The main character
The performance ended in a freeze frame and then the main character which in this case was the young girl who had fallen pregnant walks across following the arrow demonstrated on the diagram above, she walks to the X and as she passes characters 1, 2, 3 and 4 they will unfreeze, shout out there opinions towards this girls actions, and freeze once again.
Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed studying “madness” as a topic for this drama exam, it has allowed me to express my views regarding this subject through the medium of drama. It has also meant that I was able to watch other people perform plays about an issue, which I have always been particularly interested in.
For drama, we are required to take part in an exam for six hours. We carried out this exam over a duration of three weeks and we looked into the idea of “madness”. We took part in a variety of activities including discussions, performing plays, hot seating and many other things. After looking in depth into ‘madness’ I have come to realize that there are so many different forms of madness and so many difference ways in which you can express your views towards the idea- it has been interesting to watch performances about such a diverse subject.
The first Performance that we did as part of the exam was based around the picture of the young girl in the direction. We were to perform a play, which explained how this girl ended up in a dungeon. The first thing we did was to get ourselves into groups of four, my group consisted of myself, Pavandeep, Stephen, Hassan and Sarah, when then begun to discuss the ways in which we could carry out this performance. As a group we decided that we should use cross cutting, we would begin the play with a still image of myself, who was playing the young girl in the dungeon placed on the floor in a corner- we would then cross back in time to show why my character had been sent to this dungeon. We decided that my character should have been mugged by a group of thugs who captured me and left me in this dungeon.
Our aim with this performance was to get through to the audience the dangers of talking to strangers. The play begun with the still image of the girl, I believe this was a good way to start however I was faced towards the wall and therefore the audience was unable to see my face- if I were able to carry out this performance again then I would face towards the audience and have a striking expression on my face which would grip the attention of the audience, this would also have helped make the beginning image much more dramatic to emphasise how bad the consequences of speaking to strangers can be.
After the still image of my character in a corner, we cross cutted back to a scene when my character has an argument with her mother and storms out of the house. The reason we chose to do this was because it is something that the majority of our audience would be able to relate to, and we wanted to show that what happened could happen to your average teenager- this is the reason as to why I believe that this was a good way to begin the play. We then went on to show my character walking down the road and then being approached by a group of men, this part of the play could’ve been improved by my character being less surprised by this occurrence in order to make the actual abduction come as more of a shock to the audience. By building up more of a climax to the incident we could have made the play a lot more appealing to the audience as this would mean they would be ‘on the edge of there seats.
One of the aspects of this performance that I was fairly pleased with was the use of space. All the space we had for our play was used well the main reason as to why this was done was so that the every member of the audience was able to watch the play properly. We also performed the play in such a way that for the majority of the time the audience was able to see the characters facial expression and body language.
During the time we were given to practise and discuss the play, my group and I found it extremely difficult to decide on a storyline for the play, we spent a large amount of time to settle on one storyline- this meant that we had very little time to practise our performance, which may have been the reason as to why the final performance hadn’t turned out how I had originally imagined. This helped me to realize that the group you chose to work with was very important and perhaps next time I should think more carefully about the group I chose to work with and whether they will help me to achieve my full potential.
Overall, I was disappointed with our performance because as a group we did not work well together in order to perform to the best of our ability. I felt let down by other members in the group and there inability to stay focused whilst practising and performing the play. For this play, I stepped into the role of director and I believe that this was a bad move to take as I was unable to control the group and instruct them properly and next time I will be stepping back and allowing others to direct.
After carrying out the exam I have learnt that you should always approach new things with an open mind to new ideas and possibilities and although I was disappointed with the final results of the first performance, I had enjoyed discussing ideas with my group and learning about different ways in which we could approach the task. In addition to this, I also enjoyed carrying out other performances as part of the exam and overall it was a good learning experience.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 29 September 2017