The weight of a role

With phase one of Triple R over, the focus has moved to other upcoming projects in the Unique Voice office; rehearsals began this week for the Young Carer’s project, which has lead Sarah to this this week about developing and distinguishing characters.

The sheer diversity of roles and activities I undertake when working for Unique Voice is just one of the things that gives me so much enjoyment in my work. It keeps me on my toes and requires me to juggle a certain number of metaphorical hats (which is good, ‘cause I’m rubbish at real life juggling), in order to perform each role within my work to the highest standard I can. This could be my approach to a particular group of children, or a particular session, but this term in particular it has also applied to the various characters I’ve been playing.

For example, last week I was Carly- bolshy, influential and often unkind; she is an image obsessed, manipulative yet painfully insecure girl. But this week I’m Chloe, a 13 year old with the responsibility of caring for her mum and young brother- the roles are poles apart in many ways and it’s important to me to do each one justice.

During a visit to any school the team has approximately two hours to enlighten students about a potentially sensitive issue, to allow them to relate to us, to understand what they need to about whichever topic it is we are covering, to have the opportunity to recognise aspects of their lives within what we show them, and to ensure all students know who they could turn to should they need to discuss or disclose anything related to the visit either now or in the future.

In order for this to happen it is essential that we present the children with engaging, believable and three dimensional characters with a clear journey from the start of the performance to the end. There is no way I can expect other people to invest that interest in my character if I don’t understand who they are. So, I work to explore and understand the person I am playing, ensuring I know each of my characters inside out from the rehearsal period to the tour dates themselves. Some of the things I do may seem trivial- keeping an eye out for things my character would like when I’m shopping (be it a pencil case or a top), whilst others take a more creative approach- such as taking a few minutes every now and again to jot down some of my characters thoughts or opinions either about other characters from the project, or whatever happens to be running around my mind at the time. Often I match each character with a particular item of jewellery- in many ways like the metaphorical hats I was talking about earlier, only this perhaps allows me to wear each one with more subtlety. Most importantly, these things help me to understand exactly who it is I’m portraying.

Often, if I speak to people who work outside the field about theatre in education, I am met with a response which plays down its importance or necessity. I have even been met with laughs when sharing some of what I’ve written about above.

Given my own experience of some incredibly shoddy and patronising TIE during my own school days I can understand this misconception, but that will never stop me arguing my corner until whoever I’m talking/ranting to understands EXACTLY why the work Unique Voice do is so important and indeed why I take each role so seriously and feel so determined to portray each character I play to the best of my ability.

OK, it’s not like I’m playing Juliet, or one of literature’s infamous characters, nor am I preparing for a west end run- but arguably TIE work of this nature stands to have a far greater and more crucial impact on a young person’s continued social, emotional and thus academic development than any work of Shakespeare’s- and for that reason I wouldn’t change my job for the world.

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