A key part of PaddleBoat’s devising process is going into schools to deliver our term long ‘Theatre With’ residencies. This involves working with a number of schools (10 in one term has been the most!), delivering weekly workshops for a full term to explore our idea for a new play. During this time, each school will devise a creative response to the stimulus and share it back with the other schools.
Back in 2014, when we were just a fledgling company trying to get started, we desperately needed a school to take a chance on us so we could see if this model worked – and that school was White Rock Primary in Paignton. We adored working with that school, so it was absolutely amazing to be back with them this term, delivering work with their Year Fours around the theme of The BFG.
Now sadly the rights are not available for PaddleBoat to make a new theatre adaptation of The BFG, but that is okay, the parts of the story we’re really interested in anyway are DREAMS, NIGHTMARES & ASPIRATIONS.
So with all the different schools we were working with this term, that was our key focus
- What do you young people dream about
- What is keeping them up at night
- What do they aspire to when they grow up
Since the class already knew The BFG we decided to key this as a framework, but find lots of space within it to pull it apart and add their own ideas.
We spent the first few weeks of term playing with bringing to life the weird and wonderful characters from Roald Dahl’s Story, and playing with nonsense words
Some of the exercises included:
PAIR MODELLING (A personal favourite of PaddleBoat’s)
Working with a partner choose who is A and who is B
A is the Sculptor
B is a big lump of clay
A’s job is to sculpt B into the most detailed character they can possibly make from the following character text descriptions.
“Looking at her, you got the feeling that this was someone who could bend iron bars and tear telephone directories in half”
Can you guess which Dahl character that is?
What about this one…
“How clever he looked! How quick and sharp and full of life! He kept making quick jerky little movements with his head, cocking it this way and that, and taking everything in with those bright twinkling eyes. He was like a squirrel in the quickness of his movements, like a quick clever old squirrel from the park.”
Little bit harder…
Okay last one
“My orders are that every single child in this country shall be rubbed out, squashed, squirted, squittered and frittered before I come here again in One year’s time! Do I make myself clear?”
The group made some absolutely fantastic (and often terrifying characterisations)
From there we decided to really test their physicality by creating even larger scenes from Dahl’s worlds and words, we didn’t give them long to create these but the rules were that each freeze frame had to include:
- A sound effect
- A piece of repetitive movement
- Some dialogue
- Someone saying how they feel
- Narration to the audience
What would you create if we gave you the following extracts?
“Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
‘Come on!’ we cried, ‘The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it.
We will become a screaming horde!
Take out your hockey stick and use it as a sword
We’ll find out where the chalk is stored
and draw rude pictures on the board!
We are revolting children
Living in revolting times
We sing revolting songs
Using revolting rhymes
James could see the skyscrapers rushing up to meet them at the most awful speed, and most of them had square flat tops, but the very tallest of them all had a top that tapered off into a long sharp point-like an enormous silver needle sticking up into the sky. And it was precisely onto the top of this needle that the peach fell! There was a squelch. The needle went in deep. And suddenly — there was the giant peach, caught and spiked upon the very pinnacle of the Empire State Building.
The Year Fours were split into 3 forms. To make sure we weren’t repeating ourselves we decided that each group would get a different part of the story to look at and bring to life.
Group 1 would look at life in the orphanage for Sophie
Group 2 would look at giant country and dream catching
Group 3 would look at the BFG at Buckingham palace with the queen
“The girls knew that they’d get into trouble if they were caught out of bed. The girls were even punished if they get out of bed to go to the bathroom! This was just one of Mrs. Clonkers rules.
Of course, all kids need rules, but Mrs. Clonkers has an especially awful punishment when rules are broken. Mrs. Clonkers would lock them in the dark in a room under the building for a day and night without anything to eat or drink. This was just horrid; the girls could hear rats moving around them in the room.”
With this first group, we decided that we would spend their term looking at ‘object play’ as a key skill. Taking simple everyday objects and using our imaginations to pretend they could be lots of different things.
Using this skill we had lots of fun bringing to life Mrs Clonkers orphanage. A group of Orphans with mops and buckets and washing rags were tasked with using those items to imagine what they would rather be doing. Buckets became knights helmets and mops became jousting poles, rags became a flock of birds, the orphanage transformed into a swamp!
Another group of Orphans in the middle of a tedious maths lesson waited until Mrs Clonkers left and then their books became butterflies, an airplane and a hair salon!
And finally as the orphans settled down with blankets and duvets and the lights went off, the Orphanage became a spooky place, and in the darkness the children couldn’t tell what they were looking at. Wind became wailing, pillows became mountain tops and bed sheets became ghosts!
With group 2 we focused on character creation. Roald Dahl created lots of disgusting giants in his BFG, but we thought we could do better.
In small groups we got the children to lay down on large pieces of paper and then drew around their outlines, then they had to fill in the details of the body as the most fearsome giants the world has ever seen. Here are some of the disgusting giants they came up with!
THE ANGRY GIANT
He’s as strong as concrete and proves it by destroying houses.
He likes to stomp on innocent children.
He’s a fast runner so you need to be quick.
TROLL . EXE
He Angrily steps on kids.
He has two pairs of sharpe evil horns.
His fingers are as sharp as a chainsaw.
That’s’ why you should beware Troll.EXE
The Darkness Monster
Darkness monster has an enormous chainsaw.
It’s a terrible noise to hear!
Hope you’re enjoying your tea. Because a giant is going to come and destroy it all.
He can jump across countries in one big leap. America, England, France!
Sheela the Pig
This is Sheela the Pig!
She stomps on houses like they’re harmless pieces of bread.
She scares little children by eating them.
She’s taller than all the other giants in giant country.
That’s why you should fear Sheela the pig.
Blood Finger Jeffery
Blood Finger Jeffery has just come out of the shower. He’s in a bad mood and ready to squish an innocent boy named Jack. He’s about to eat him! That’s the end of Blood finger Jeffery.
The Tattoed Terror
Look at the Tattooed terror as he stomps on the children viciously.
He gets french family fries and children’s blood sauce.
Here he is getting his third tattoo because he’s eaten another child
With the final group we looked at creating some simple movement routines.
The first sequence was to bring to life to royal guards at Buckingham Palace, and to Vivaldi’s four seasons we created a sequence of guards mopping, scrubbing, shining silverware, changing light bulb’s and rolling out the carpet for the arrival of the BFG.
We then had a lot of fun using our bodies and physicality to play with scale for the giants arrival. Four children all using their arms and hands became the face of the enormous giant, whilst another six became the dining table.
Finally The BFG shares with the queen what his job is in giant country and he tells her he captures dreams. For this the group had to devise two scenes from their imaginations. A nightmare for the captain of the guard and then a brilliant dream fit for a queen.
This group had us in hysterics as they created a nightmare where none of the captain’s royal guards would listen to her and then they burst into laughter as they realised she was in fact NAKED! This nightmare culminated in the captain accidently killing the queen and being dragged off to the tower for treason!
Likewise the brilliant dream was also a delight as the queen woke up to find that all her subjects across all of England had been transformed into Corgi’s and were now much more obedient!
We were so excited to share White Rock’s amazing work at Teignmouth Pavilions Theatre at the end of this term, alongside all the hard work from the other schools in the project as well. For many of these pupils it would have been their first time performing, and to have that experience in such a beautiful space and with all those other schools is a really valuable experience to these young people.
Unfortunately due to Covid-19 this trip had to be cancelled and the group did not get a chance to share their work this term.
But we just wanted to say what an amazing time we had working with them, and how much we saw them grow and learn over the course of the term!
We managed to capture a little bit of feedback from them, bottled up safe in dream jars – this is what they thought of the term!