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Brechtian style performance by year 2 drama students makes audience reflect

Wednesday 27 May 2015

This May, second year BTEC acting students at Richmond upon Thames College provoked the audience's thinking on the pressing issue of environmental degradation in their performance of Earthquakes in London, a stage play written by Mike Bartlett and first performed at The Royal National Theatre in 2010.

Drama lecturer Justin Pierre explains, 'Earthquakes in London is a big production which tackles a number of key social and personal issues from global warming to sibling rivalry. As teachers of drama, it is of paramount importance that we encourage our students to become both independent and individual thinkers, encouraging and allowing them to explore social, economic and political situations for themselves. In addition, as creatives, actors are also responsible for articulating universal voices and through this, if one person out of one hundred makes a positive life change for themselves and or others, then the actor's job has been successfully done.'

The stands of the theatre were folded back to allow for the stage area to be extended. Instead of overlooking the play, the audience sat on the stage, surrounding the four different sets; a government office, two very dissimilar living rooms and a walkway in between them. The lighting followed the scenes as the actors illuminated each set, bringing different relationships to light, all seemingly fractured at first but all tied together in the end to communicate a profound theme of brokenness, both in the environment and in the people who continually and thoughtlessly harmed it.

'People become so obsessed with having the right clothes and opinions and are so desperate to fit in and learn what the society wants them to do, that they end up lost,' says drama student Zachary Trevitt, whose character was a conflicted Cambridge scientist working for a corrupt government. 'But this Brechtian style of theatre is meant to make the audience think and reconsider the way they live.' Zachary explored his character in depth in order to prepare himself to effectively provoke his audience: 'I read the whole play, about his backstory, how old he is, where he was brought up, the relationships he's had in his life, what he wants and what's stopping him from getting it.'

The students had to source their own costumes, block out their own scenes and investigate their own characters. Drama student Mila Tahir had to translate lines from English to Kurdish in order to play a foreign housemaid. In the script, the character is originally Polish but Mila wanted to use her Kurdish heritage to enhance her performance.

'Earthquakes in London has been a unique learning experience for the students and it has truly encouraged them to develop their lifelong skills. These skills range from; an enhanced verbal expression of their ideas, vocal projection and articulation of words, persuasive speech and listening and observational skills,' says Pierre, proud of his students after a successful final show.

At the end of the play, the actors, along with the audience, watched this spoken word piece evoking real emotion and passion about caring for the planet.


Interested in studying drama at Richmond upon Thames College and immersing yourself in an incredible learning environment? Take a look at our Performing Arts courses. Both A Level and BTEC options are available.

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