The Last Resort - Performance Hints

 

 

The Last Resort

 

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The Plays

 

The Last Resort 
A Mother's Voice 
Bridges 
Jabberwocky 
Children of the Blitz 

 

The Last Resort is an extremely flexible piece of theatre that allows for any company to give it their own unique twist. The first decision that you will need to make, however, is the size of cast you are going to use as this will impact on many other elements of the performance.

A small cast will necessitate multiple role playing and will mean that actors will have to move seamlessly from one role to the next. A large cast will provide opportunities for the wardrobe department to go to town.

 

 

Just when you thought it was safe to back to the beach!

The real life Eric, Norbert and Stan?

In order to present a cohesive feeling for the piece you will need to make decisions about how  props are going to be used. If you use no props and rely heavily on mime how do you ensure this gels with the rest of the performance? If the play is fully costumed, for instance, does this sit well with a strong use of mime? Perhaps the design of the costumes will need to take this into account and avoid being simply naturalistic but perhaps be "super-realistic" suggesting types rather than characters?

The Last Resort is not written to be a naturalistic piece of theatre. The characters we meet are emblematic of particular "types"  - yet they should not be interpreted as stereotypes. This can produce bland and uninteresting performances that fail to convince. Neither should they be caricatures. There is a cruel, sneering edge to the word caricature that is incompatible with the piece. Your ambition should be for the cast and audience to celebrate the characters - not put them down. Whenever I have directed this piece, the actors have showed great affection towards their roles and enjoyed showing their eccentricities and foibles to an audience.

Of course the introduction of talking donkeys and seagulls and living puppets rather veers the piece away from naturalism! Your approach  must prepare the audience for these elements so they accept them as part of the whole! Here is an opportunity for the art department to get involved in creating masks or an imaginative use of make up to ensure these roles are clear from the start. Again, ask yourself whether mask work fits in with the overall piece. Remember that although masks can help define the characters (you could use masks for the whole piece taking a Comedia del'arte approach) they also substantially take away from facial expression.

Most schools approaching The Last Resort tend to go for defined roles and use masks for the animal roles intending to use a large cast.. Colleges and adult groups tend to go for the more open "performance orientated" method that makes greater demands on the performance skills of the cast. Either approach is valid and enjoyable, providing diverse experiences of the same piece.

Whenever I have directed the play I have used no "character" costume at all but rather dressed the cast in "summer wear" (shorts & T shirts with the colours taken from a limited range in order to provide a cohesive stage picture.   I do not use masks at all, instead relying on the physical and vocal skills of the actors to  convey the roles to the audience. Thus the seagulls are portrayed as aggressive "skinheads" in their tone and manner. Vocally we try to introduce a seagull like element to the delivery without ever actually making gull noises. In terms of movement here we do take on that seagull walk - chest forward, behind sticking out with sudden darts and lunges - one moment running up to another and the next backing down! Arms do occasionally flap but for the most part are held awkwardly out to the sides like a gunslinger waiting to draw.

For the donkeys the actors simply turned their chairs so the backs faced the audience and then they knelt up on these. Effectively the chairs became the legs of the donkeys and the actors were the neck and heads. This may seem restrictive but if you look at donkeys on the beach for the most part they are very still standing together when they are not taking children for rides. Also by restricting the actors in this way it really made them think about how to use their upperbody and vocal skills to portray the roles. The use of braying laughs and occasional whinneys mixed in with the dour Yorkshire accents can be very effective.

The published text is written as individual roles. It may be interesting to consider how taking on multiple roles might look so I have given two examples below:

Male  playing: Chorus, Vic Eastwood, Wayne Killjoy, Stan (Donkey), Kevin (Lad),                          Clive (Surfer),  child watching Punch and Judy.

Female playing: Chorus, Nellie Crabtree, Carrie Killjoy, Norbert (donkey), Dot (old                              lady), Shirley  (feminist puppeteer) & Homerun (Bouncer)

Incidentally, I have always cast females as the two bouncers Psycho and Homerun