Before The Performance.
Before the exam, strangely enough, I was never nervous. I didn’t feel scared about the pressure, nor was I worried about performing, but what did stump me a little bit, in all honesty, was my own ability to remember lines; More than a few times the night before I’d simply say them at the wrong time or get two lines mixed up. I wasn’t really sure if the subconscious voice in my head relentlessly drilling the idea that I need to get them the right way around was a good thing or a bad thing, but only time would tell.
At the beginning of the day, we found out that the examiner wouldn’t be arriving until around 10am; this left us with just over an hour and a half to potentially run through lines or rehearse as much as we liked. Luckily for us, we were given an audience… for just a little ways into it, a large group of upcoming Drama students from the year below came to watch us perform; where everything went swimmingly! The lines were well-timed, with only one or two errors which could be fixed with the simple change of a phrase- so it’s needless to say, I was wonderfully confident about the exam to come.
A little over an hour later, the examiner arrived. Surprisingly, she was a delight! She stood before us with a gentle smile and simply said “relax. Have fun with what you’re doing, because I am here to give you marks for the things you do well, not scrutinise for the things you don’t.” This was honestly incredibly refreshing! Given the reputation of previous examiners working at our school we’d heard about, I felt awfully lucky to have a drama teacher from a different school marking our performance. Having students over her own, she understood the pressure not only we were under, but the pressure our teacher was under too. She simply reassured us that we didn’t have to be afraid to have fun with the piece, rather enjoy ourselves– It was the final time we’d be performing after all.
So, from this fact alone I could tell this exam averted all of my possible expectations. In my head, the performance had to be without mistake. No line could be stuttered or slipped, altogether presenting this idea that any mistakes we did make would affect our impression as actors. It’s weird to think that changing ‘being marked down for your mistakes‘ to ‘being marked on the things you do well‘ can change your entire outlook (despite relatively meaning the exact same thing)
In our exam, over on the technical side of things we had to use a bare minimum of six sound effects, with a number of lighting changes (somewhat higher). This may sound easy, however, before the day of the exam we hadn’t actually used any sound effects… but ssshhh, you did not hear that from me. Essentially, we ended up scrambling a song or two from the play’s soundtrack, accompanied by train sound, announcement and advertisement effects. Surprisingly, this did work out well in the end. Largely impart to my unnamed friend on the desk, however over the last year he has become quite the whiz at that kind of thing; but I was proud nonetheless.
Back to centre stage, taking the feedback from the earlier viewing into account, we ran through the two extracts one final time. The first extract spanning seventeen pages with flawless transitions from conversation-to-conversation; which in my last post I did express worry about, but all was fine in the end. Unfortunately for me, my refusal to be self-indulgent disallows me to talk about anything I could have done well, so for the first scene I’ll simply say; I do really think as a group, we performed a really good first extract!
Unto the second, the second extract was in large focused on a piece of ‘Physical Theatre’ in which the audience sees Christopher stranded amidst one of London Underground’s stations, wrapped in chaos struggling to find his way through London. We showed this by placing Christopher in the centre of a swirling crowd. People would be crashing into his left, right and centre (by people I mean me because I’m mean like that) but this was a nightmare for Christopher. Orchestrated even further by a segment in which the crowd completely submerges Christopher, we as actors marching around yelling both extracts from the script and random lines from the media you’d hear just about anywhere such as ‘vitabiotics’ from the script and McDonalds’ famous ‘I’m lovin’ it’ for a random effect.
But I’ll let you in on a little ‘behind the scenes’ secret. That brilliant sequence, which ended up working out so well? Almost completely unintentional.
In honesty, we hadn’t spent much time practising with the ‘voices’, mainly because we thought this was a pointless exercise and that they wouldn’t add much. This was until the last minute, where we compiled them all in at once just to see what happened! On top of us yelling absolutely anything (relevant) the ‘technical-friend’ whilst trying to turn off one ‘train announcement’ sound effect, accidentally instead turned ON a ‘horn’ sound effect at the same time, a loud but not overpowering cloud of noise, which only added to the atmosphere. Unintentional genius.
As for the rest of the extract, not much can be said! The second half of extract two is more or less just spoken word. A standout moment being where my second character ‘Roger’ steps aside to call the police, where I subconsciously quivered at the idea of suddenly whipping out my iPhone in front of the examiner, whereas I’m sure any of you in exam-season would know, just outside are these big, bold posters stating ‘any use of mobile devices leads to disqualification’ – so needless to say, it felt a little weird.
A happy note to end on.
Good morning, Good evening, Good night. Whatever time it is for you at the time of reading this, I hope you’re having a truly wonderful day! That being said, I’d like to apologise for this post being a day late; to celebrate the completion of our exam, the rest of my group and I headed to the movies to watch ‘Black Panther’ and finished the night with a celebratory dinner, which was delicious!
anywho, though all examiners may not be as much of an angel as our’s was, I hope all of the exams to come turn out just the way you’d want them to. I wish you the bestest, bestest of luck until those days come and most importantly enjoy yourself AT LEAST a little bit, mmhkay? Promise me. More importantly, happy Easter weekend everyone; I hope you have an amazing time with family and friends.