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Drama

Approaches to the written paper

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Analysing and evaluating your final performance from a text

Section B of the written exam is linked to your practical performance from a published script, usually performed in April or May.

Dos and Don'ts

  • Do state the title of the play eg The play we used for our practical performance was Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
  • Do state your chosen role. This refers to whether you did the acting or technical option eg

    The play we used for our practical performance was Macbeth by William Shakespeare. My role was acting and I played the part of Macbeth

    or

    The play we used for our practical performance was Macbeth by William Shakespeare. I was responsible for the lighting design and lighting our chosen scenes

    or

    The play we used for our practical performance was Macbeth by William Shakespeare. My role was costume and make-up designer for our chosen scenes.

  • Do concentrate on the strengths of your performance in the actual exam.
  • Don't be afraid to suggest areas you could improve on even if you felt your performance was perfect!
  • Don't discuss the rehearsal process. Remember - your evaluation is painting a picture for the examiner of what happened in the actual performance.
  • Don't evaluate other people's performances, you don't have time.
  • Don't describe but do evaluate and analysis.
  • Don't give a detailed background about the play or playwright.
  • Do remember you only have approximately 20 minutes for this section.

Here are two sample evaluations

Sample A deals with acting and sample B deals with a technical evalution.

Sample A/ Acting

Look at this evaluation of a performance. Look how each area is covered with specific reference to the scene:

The play we used for our practical performance was The Crucible gan Arthur Miller. My role was acting and I played the part of Elizabeth Proctor. We performed the first part of Act two. (Title of play and role clearly stated) When the character first enters the stage she gives the impression of being very cold and there is definitely a distance between her and her husband John. I showed this by keeping my body extremely stiff and holding my arms by my side.

My fists were clenched as I felt she is full of anguish as to why John is late home. In the opening I didn't make eye contact with him at all. I wanted the audience to get the impression that it is a very uneasy relationship. When I was doing the simple household tasks like preparing the meal, my movement became much more fluid and relaxed as I felt these simple tasks would help take my character’s mind off what had been going on.

Also Elizabeth performs these tasks every day and I felt the movement would be second nature. I also thought the way we used the table was effective as John sat at one end and I sat at the other and it provided another barrier in our relationship. My movement in the opening was definitely a strength as I felt it showed the contained anguish of Elizabeth and also her desire to try to provide normality for her husband.

Another strength of my performance was how I showed the changing relationship between Elizabeth and John in this scene. When John asks me for cider I jumped up almost as if I was ashamed of myself because I imagined that she desperately wants to please him. I also imagined that she would feel slightly afraid of him when she tells him Mary Warren has gone to court. I used a very quiet tone to my voice when I said the line “Mary Warren is there today” and kept my head slightly down.

I used Stanislavski's method of emotional memory and I imagined I was a child confessing to a parent. It helped me understand that John, as man of the household, had to have the highest status at this point. However, when he confesses he was alone with Abigail, Elizabeth regains the higher moral status. I used a very cold facial expression and looked at John directly in the eyes and, holding my head high, started to walk from the room.

I felt it was a key dramatic moment when I turned to him on the line “Woman I'll not have your suspicion” and, with a cold and bitter tone, said the line “Then let you not earn it”. The atmosphere had changed from the cold, tense opening and became much more angry and direct. (Outlines strengths. Gives specific examples from the scene. Gives clear performance examples. Analyses rather than describes)

One area for improvement would be to work on my vocal variation. In a short space of time my character showed coldness, regret, anger, annoyance and frustration and I did find it extremely difficult trying to express the different tones and expression. In the part when she tells John about Mary going to court it’s almost as if the words come rushing out and I did find the oval pacing of this scene quite difficult. Getting the balance right between rushing the words and making sure the audience could understand what I was saying was challenging.

One area I am going to improve on is my understanding of the subtext of the scene. By performing this scene I learnt that what a character doesn't say can be just as powerful as what they do say and a look or gesture or how you say a line can give an audience a very powerful message eg when John tells me I should bring some flowers into the house I had to remember that the house, like Elizabeth, lacks warmth but I also had to try to please him when I said the line “Oh I forgot. I will tomorrow.” (Outlines areas for improvement with specific examples) Although I found this scene challenging to perform I found it helped to develop many of my acting skills and helped me understand how to present a character on stage that engages the audience. (Brief but suitable conclusion)

Sample B /Technical costume and make-up

The play we used for our practical performance was The Crucible by Arthur Miller. My role was costume and make-up designer. I designed the costume and make-up for John and Elizabeth Procter for the beginning of Act Two. (Title of play and role clearly stated)

I felt the costumes in terms of performance, historical accuracy and how they defined the characters were definitely some of my strengths. For the character of Elizabeth I had designed a long black dress of heavy cotton which covered all of her body. She wore a white cap and a white pinafore. The costume was in keeping with the period of the play, 1692, and also in keeping with the puritan religion. In this scene Elizabeth has to look cold and self-contained, I felt the design and colour of the dress kept her extremely stiff and upright, especially when she made her entrance at the beginning of the play. I had made the sleeves quite long and I liked the way she held on to them almost as if they were like a comfort blanket.

The apron was important in this scene as she is preparing a meal. I decided that it must look spotless and very stiff, almost like Elizabeth herself and it also helped to define her character as a complete opposite to Abigail. On the day of the exam we had difficulty in fixing Elizabeth's hat as it was essential that the actress didn't feel the need to constantly check it was safe as this would have detracted from her performance. I felt the hat was effective on stage as it helped the audience to focus on Elizabeth's face, especially in the scenes when she was accusing John.

John's costume also looked effective. He was a farmer and a far more relaxed character. I chose brown and grey colours. I made the waistcoat out of leather and I thought that, when John made his entrance, it looked as if he owned it for a long time. It also had to come off quite easily as John washes for supper. This moment worked well and the actor was able to slip it off without lots of fiddling and hindering the action of the play. When they sat at the table for supper I was particularly pleased with the costume contrast. Elizabeth was quite stiff and sexless in her black dress and John looked relaxed and quite sensual in his white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I had also quickly sewn up Elizabeth's skirt prior to the performance as I felt it was a little too long and I didn't want her to trip up at a key dramatic moment.

The costumes also worked well under the lights. The contrast of the black and white made Elizabeth looked very severe and the materials and colours I used for John's costumes looked earthy and soft. (Outlines strengths. Gives specific examples from the scene. Gives clear performance examples. Analyses rather than describes)

One of my weaknesses was not considering how shoes show character and enhance or hinder performance. I chose brown leather boots for John which looked good but when he said the line “I was planting far out to the forest edge”, I realised that they looked far too new and shiny and didn't belong to a farmer.

For Elizabeth I chose a black court shoe with a small heel but in the performance they were quite noisy, especially in the scene when the silence heightens the tense atmosphere. All you could hear were the shoes tapping - it was annoying and did spoil the dramatic tension of the scene.

Also the make-up didn't look particularly effective under the stage lights. I gave John quite a tanned complexion because he is in the fields all day. This worked well but, in contrast and with the black of the costume, Elizabeth's complexion looked drained and her features undefined. I learnt that you must never make up characters in isolation but always compare them and look at them under stage lights. (Outlines areas for improvement with specific examples)

Although I found the design for this scene challenging, it helped me understand the need for historical accuracy and how costume and makeup can have a massive impact on the actor's and audience’s understanding of character and the play's themes.(Brief but suitable conclusion)

Revision Tip :

Immediately after your practical exam and while the experience is still fresh in your mind, you can prepare your answer for the written paper and simply revise it.

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