The play that I decided to perform for my GCSE Drama coursework scripted piece was entitled ‘Shakers’ and it was written by John Godber and Jane Thornton. Written for four female actors, the play explores the issues surrounding life in a male-dominated world during the 1980’s when unemployment had never been higher. The play, which is set in a cocktail bar, has 24 scenes in total. For our assessment, we decided to perform ten scenes: 1-8, 10 and 23. During the play, the four waitresses, Carol (the character I played), Adele, Nicki and Mel, switch from role to role, playing the many characters that come into Shakers.
The play’s strongest scene that we performed was one in which two of the waitresses were playing males – ‘dressed up, and out for a good time’. The two men mock the stereotypes that there are of males by addressing rude comments to their waitress and calling her ‘lovey’. I think we made this scene so effective because we attempted making these characters so outrageously crude that we created humour for the audience in doing so. We purposely made our voices deep, our words quite slurred and our actions very sloppy.
Dressed in baggy sports clothes, we both sat in typical ‘male’ positions. I was sat with the chair back in front of me and my legs either side of it and the other waitress was sat with her legs apart, pretending to flex her muscles. These stereotypical movements and characteristics helped convey the idea that we were deliberately making fun of the assumptions that there are of typical men. The most effective scene for the performers was the first scene in which we address the majority of our comments to the audience – this scene ends with the ‘Shakers motif’.
This abstract piece of theatre was effective because we use mime and theatrical poses to show how supposedly happy the Shakers girls were meant to be. Because this scene was the first scene, we spent a lot of time improving it and I think it came across in performance because we were word perfect and there was no improvisation in the action – everyone knew where everyone else – this is important because we needed to be aware of the fact that sometimes we would stand in front of another person, blocking them from the audience, without even realising it.
We incorporated props into this scene a lot to busy ourselves, which made this scene appear a little more naturalistic. My performance was strongest during scene seven in which we play young women choosing clothes in a shop (Chelsea Girl) to go to a party. We were in a changing room analysing and commenting on everyone around us. This was a very humorous scene, not only because of the speech but also because of the action.
When making rude remarks about other people’s clothes, I tried to show that I was being subtle about it, but I spoke loudly to create humour. i. e. I would put my hand over my mouth as if I was whispering to someone, but I would shout what I was saying anyhow. The funniest moment for me was when I had to lay on the floor trying to put jeans on which were too small for me. I found this easy to do because it was embarrassing doing this in front of an audience and therefore I could understand how my character would have felt having to get changed in front of a room full of people. The factor that let our play down tremendously was the length of time it took us to change between scenes; at some points, the audience would wait for up to three minutes between scenes.
The reason why this happened was because we could not see our clothes during the blackout and had to rummage around and we couldn’t see what we were doing. If we had a torch or a small lamp this would have helped run things more smoothly. Also if we each had our own separate areas behind the stage to put props and costume down we would not mistake other people’s clothes for our own. This certainly let my performance down during scene 6 (Mel’s first day in the kitchen) because I ran on stage about a minute late because I couldn’t find my costume.
I luckily didn’t have any lines, but it would have looked bizarre to the audience. This scene, however, was a very weak scene as it was. Many lines were forgotten and we improvised some of it too. Some lines when we were all meant to say things, only 1, 2 or 3 of us would speak. I wasn’t certain which parts of the scene were first and which came later so I had to rely on the other people to help me. A line in which one of the characters says something humorous made me laugh when in a freeze, which made someone else laugh – if this was picked up on, this would be something that looked extremely bad.
The pace of this scene was poor too, it droned on very slowly because we were unsure whose line it was next. I found this scene boring to watch and boring to perform, but it was relevant to the play and we therefore decided we would show this. To improve this scene I would have liked to run it several times over during rehearsal and I would also be keen for everyone to be word perfect. I think if we used more props this may have taken away the audience’s attention to what we were saying and perhaps make it more interesting to watch.
More action would have made the scene stronger as we were all sat around a lot too. I was pleased with my own individual performance on the day, however if I could repeat this unit I would have liked to have learned my lines a lot earlier on. I found it a challenge to keep a Liverpudlian accent all throughout the play, especially when some of the other girls purposely had to have different accents. I tended to speak in a very high pitched voice which is very easy to when speaking a lot of words in a Liverpudlian accent so I think this is something I would have like to work on more if given more time.
I enjoyed playing such diverse characters because it would have got quite monotonous if I had to play a twenty-something woman from Liverpool throughout. I especially enjoyed playing Trev because this allowed me to show a completely different side of Carol. I was able to be very crude and vulgar – everything from my walk and facial expressions to my actions and gestures had to be very over the top to create humour for the audience. Even the way in which I communicated with other characters had to be different from how I would if I was playing a female character.
I winked at the waitresses and looked them up and down as would a stereotype of my character. Another scene which I enjoyed performing in was scene ten when Carol is outraged by the fact that Nicki is wearing the shorts that they all had agreed they wouldn’t wear. The person who I performed this with and I found this a great scene to incorporate a more serious mood. Because my character was so angry, I had to show this through my voice (I would speak clearly, but quickly), my facial expressions (when speaking to Nicki I stared at her defiantly, widening my eye