A most interesting time performing Twelve Wild Ducks to 60 GCSE Drama students at The Ilfracombe Academy.
As always it was a pleasure to perform the play – very physical, fast-moving, a mix of comic and dramatic. What was brilliant for us was how engaged the students were with the story.
This is one of our 13 plays for Primary School children and family audiences. Though at heart it can be seen as a story about a girl’s particularly traumatic adolescence, that is pretty much buried beneath the folk-tale construct. This certainly wasn’t the sort of issue-based drama with which most GCSE students are primarily familiar. It was great to see them allowing themselves to engage their imaginations and to read the metaphor.
It was also interesting to hear them relating what they’d seen to their understanding of Brecht’s practice. As part of their course they’re required to devise a piece of work based around a particular practitioner. Most of them choose Brecht. Though Twelve Wild Ducks is not consciously Brechtian – and really can’t claim to be a socio-political critique – it was interesting to be reminded just how many of the tools he used have become our normal stock-in-trade. Multi-role playing, a particular use of song, indicative scenery and props, narration, an episodic structure, gestus and so on and so on. If nothing else, the session was a useful reminder and reinforcement for the students about the Brechtian building-blocks as they create their own devised work. Hopefully it was more than that in terms of offering them a range of tools beyond the purely Brechtian.
It was particularly interesting to be using a piece for young audiences as a stimulus for their work given that last week we were also working with GCSE Drama students who were looking at Brecht as their model practitioner but this time we were presenting Every Mother’s Son as a starting-point for discussion. Every Mother’s Son is a very different beast. It’s made for an adult audience and is centrally about parenthood. Though it could be described as ‘epic’ (in the Brechtian usage of the word) in the sense that the play starts domestically and opens out to embrace far larger socio-political themes, the style of presentation is much less influenced by the Brechtian heritage.
Which ultimately will be of more use to the students remains to be seen but it is certainly making us think further about what we can most usefully offer to students in Year 9-11 bracket.
The Ilfracombe Academy want us back to perform Twelve Wild Ducks to their Year 10s as an introduction to Brecht.