Brechtian style

In this piece I took on more than one role, as did the rest of the actors in my group. We took on a Brechtian style throughout the whole play, giving a very physical, exaggerated and satirical style to the acting. In a Brechtian production the actors would use gest and exaggerated expressions to become an un-naturalistic representation of their character. In our play we didn’t have a certain character that each actor would play, instead we would change character in each scene, another Brechtian technique.

Our play was about the mail order bride industry, and the bizarre concept that relationships can be bought. The first character I play in the piece is a doll that is a representation of the mail order brides. We chose to use this, as the mail order bride industry is like any other commercial product industry; the woman becomes the manufactured good and we felt that having the bride as a doll puts emphasis on the consumerism.

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Also being a doll implies that the woman has no voice in this, that it’s just a selling process, she doesn’t make the choice in the relationship as she is the ‘product’ and therefore whoever buys her is her ‘owner’. By having this representation it also shows the one way ‘control’ in the relationship, the husband provides the wife with shelter, and then, like any other product, the wife is there to satisfy the man. I was also a doll in three other scenes in the play.

The next scene was quite dream like, it derived from a dream one of the group members had, and with some thought we created ‘The Desire’. There wasn’t a certain setting that we aimed for; we just focused on presenting and communicating with the audience. The scene was a man and his two female assistants, who were asking the audience members what they would have if they could have anything at all. By the end of the song, the man grants someone a wife.

The aim of the whole play is to create shock within the audience, to show the disturbing reality. I felt that the scene should hold some mystery and uncertainty to it. As the male character I wanted to create discomfort with the audience but also show how easy it is to have anything you want, and to exploit the reality; that human beings can really be bought. With this character I used a top hat to give the idea of a magician, someone who creates impossible illusions, and an idea of a game show host, someone who gives away free luxuries.

The next scene was an advertisement of a Russian Bride, after looking endlessly at mail order bride sites, we created our own in a power point presentation. The sites filled with images of Russian girls looking seductively at the camera. We created our own fake profile of a Russian girl and then created her advertisement. Instead of having the advertisement on screen, I came to life on stage and started my speech, this was to create a non-naturalistic sense about the girl.

I presented my character as the stereotypical sweet nervous Russian girl, stating her long list of good qualities and her quest for love. My intention was to create realisation, that you cannot buy love, love isn’t someone to cook and clean for you, and that this advertisement was more for a robot than a wife. When researching mail order brides, we came across a television programme ‘Dawn Porter: Mail Order Brides’ where a woman went over to Russia to explore the process of men meeting their mail order brides. She observed the men flying over from America to select the bride they want.

There were many different traits that the men bared to the camera, but to them, this behaviour is acceptable. Kevin, a ‘purchaser’ who appeared on the programme gave this selling point: ‘I will give you a better way of living and you give me your body’, he was solely interested in the girl’s body and that she ‘appreciated’ him. This came as a shock to me, and I found these men sickening. When it came to the time where I had to act out a man who was buying a doll, I instantly saw Kevin in my mind and so I decided to use him as my character.

I physically made myself crude and perverse, my gest for this character was to snort loudly and sit slouched with my legs apart, grabbing at my crotch and staring at the audience in a crass way. I would stand with my pelvis forward to show the audience where the characters biggest interest is in the mail order bride industry, sex. In the scene ‘The Showroom’, my shallow, brainless character browsed potential wives and so I decided to show the perverse trait by just asking questions about their bodies and touching them.

At the beginning of the scene I play one of the Brides on show at the showroom. There is another bride placed next to me, just like items in a shop. As this scene is in the middle of the whole play I wanted to give the bride a human side and a doll side as she is only half way through her journey. My character breaks down, worrying about her future as a mail-order bride, with the other bride reassuring me that everything is fine. With this image, it shows that the mail order bride industry gives a false image that it can improve your life but in a lot of cases, it is the wrong choice.

The Auction’ takes place after the showroom; here we break down the fourth wall again and treat the audience as the bidders. The bride is centre stage, the item for sale, and then all the characters turn into auctioneers shouting values at the audience. We used the overlapping speech to create confusion; we wanted the audience to feel that this was overwhelming. Humans shouldn’t have a price put on them and by having the image of this doll-like Bride packaged in a box centre stage, shows that the whole act is just inhumane.

The next scene shows the dispatch of the brides, in this scene we put together a small composition of movement, expressing the brides’ feelings. They are no longer humans, they now have strings attached to show that they are owned and controlled. Physically we became like puppets, our characters explored themselves, now they were not human. Next we moved towards the audience turning our doll like smiles upside down and showing a desperate want to escape. Then at the end of the piece they are all put back into their ‘show’ positions.

This was meant to give an insight to what the brides felt underneath all the business and smiling faces. The un-naturalistic physicality follows Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, to create realisation for the audience, to highlight real life issues, and our group felt it was appropriate to show that these brides are being used like dolls. The last scene is the re-arrival of the doll, similar to the first scene. In scene one she is faulty, she is not what the man ‘wanted’ and therefore just like a faulty product, it was returned and in the last scene he gets the ‘working’ wife.

I play the bride in this scene; I arrive in a box and am unwrapped. Mail order brides are a method for men to get what they want by picking and choosing, when the box is unwrapped, I stay quiet until I am spoken to, and when I am spoken to I talk with a false smile on my face and greet my new husband. This is to emphasise the satirical idea that the brides are just as happy as the slimy perverse men. I then follow my new husband into my new home, but before I do, I show the audience the last and actual feeling of the bride, and that is complete anxiety.