Our stimulus derived from a newspaper article brought in by a member of my peer group, the article was in relation to a young girl ‘Ainlee Walker’ being abused by both her parents ‘Leanne Labonte’ and ‘Dennis Henry’. Due to the unremitting abuse the child died at the young age of six. The editorial was deplorable and touched us all deeply leading to us using it as a supporting stimulus.
We engaged out thoughts on this article and brainstormed ways in which we could portray this through drama. We began with the idea of an estate agent showing a couple through the house in which the abuse took place, and each room the agent took the couple into, for example the bedroom, we would see the abuse that took place in that room re-occurring. We also thought of using the nursery rhyme “Hush little baby don’t say a word” as a mode to convey the repulsion of the whole situation.
We tried this suggestion out but found it extremely hard to perform due to the structure of the house being indistinguishable and we also found it hard to convey what part of the house we were in, due to the difficulty in portraying this idea to the audience we moved on to look at other prospects for our piece. In the midst of further research on the Internet, we came across various true-life anecdotes from the official child abuse website www. childabuse. org.
The stories enraptured various ‘child maltreatment’, which is the general term used to describe all forms of child abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment encompasses physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and emotional abuse. We were particularly moved by an account of a child namely “Joey” who had been raped on Christmas day by his stepfather in the bathroom of his house after telling the boy he had a ‘special’ Christmas present waiting for him. This stories outrageous plot and consequences triggered countless ideas subsequently leading to it being the foundation of our devised piece.
Our ideas for our devised piece developed with the basis being a little boy being abused by his stepfather. We decided to keep the boys name in-order to save discussion. We first began by deciding to re-enact the story of Joey however, due to previous difficulties in portraying the place in which the abuse is carried out we decided to keep the place of the rape unidentified, we found that the issue being conveyed was so big that the place in which it was carried out was not essential.
We tried out many scenes that included the idea of it being Christmas, but by observing the scenes as an audience we found that the main focus was being diverted. Consequently we removed the idea of it being Christmas to it being a normal day, as we determined for our audience to realise that child abuse happens everyday and not only on special occasions when everyone’s attention is diverted, its something that is hidden.
It is common to focus on the abuser or the victim in a matter as demoralizing as ‘Child Abuse’ however, we found that in a number of cases their was a cover-up, who knew what was going on and could have stopped it, yet decided to look away. In the articles we looked at, the cover-up was usually the mother, which came to a huge shock to us all, this is why we decided to focus our piece on the cover-up rather then the abuser or the victim.
The cover-up was an interesting character that we found would surprise the audience like it did us. Whilst developing our piece, we found that their was not a whole lot a cover-up could portray about the intensity of the situation which is why we included the extreme details of what the victim was going through. This idea of ‘extreme detail’ was propagated through material such as a play namely ‘Blackrock’ which at one stage of the play gives an account of the rape of a young girl encountered by her mothers boyfriend.
The extremity of this account left us astounded and therefore we found it a good incentive to integrate into our piece. Another form of stimulus material which we came across was a billboard poster which was advertising help for the NSPCC it was publicised in-order to raise awareness of the abuse children face in today’s society. The poster pictured a young girl’s body whose face was aged. The poster clearly distinguished the concept of young children being put into prostitution at an early age.
Though our piece was focusing on a young boy being raped and not being put up for prostitution we took the idea of ‘ageing’ and planned to show what “Joey” looked like and how he had been affected due to his past in the future. The futuristic element did not establish exactly what we intended however, we showed Joey coming back to see his mother (the cover-up) when he was around 30 years old to see how things had changed for his mother, so we instead portrayed the opposite, showing the mother, being alone and unhappy a contrast to Joey who was married with a job and kids.
In-order to develop our piece constructively we had to decide on one form of child maltreatment in-order to guide our piece in the right direction. In the end we agreed to base it on Sexual Abuse, which was an involvement of developing mentally immature children and adolescents in sexual activities that they do not fully comprehend and to which they are unable to give informed consent. Sexual abuse included touching, fondling and penetration.
In-order to portray this in a mature manner, we tried out many dramatic methods, for example we began conveying it through physical theatre, which we were influenced by a theatre performance called the “Peepshow by Frantic Assembly”. Due to our time constraint the devising of the physicality element was to hard to portray precisely leading to us using abstract drama. We did this successfully as when looking at it as an audience it aroused intense emotion and not humour.
Another form of research was the music we used. We devised an abstract dance piece where we tried to portray the stepfather’s good side being trapped by his dark side. We used Linken Parks ‘Crawling’ to assist us in our sinister dance but towards the end of developing our piece we found that the dance did not really convey what we intended therefore we removed it as it only assisted in confusing the audience and not helping in enhancing the main theme.