A Mother's Voice - Performance Hints
Performing A Mother's Voice
There are numerous hints and tips about performing A Mother's Voice in the support pages of the published version. These include advice to the performers and suggestions for exercises to be used in the rehearsal process. In this section, therefore, I will focus on areas not covered in the published version - or at least go into greater detail about elements mentioned in the published text.
I am happy to respond to questions about the text and give advice where possible. I will use these responses to expand these pages further as time goes on. The areas covered at the moment include the use of language and the dance for the festival.
Use of Language
A Mother's Voice is set in an un-specified South American country. I kept this as vague as possible as the problem of "disappearances" occur all over the globe and I wanted groups to be able to set the piece against the background that they felt most strongly about at the time. Therefore it is possible to "move" the play simply by changing names and one or two other references (and I am quite happy for companies to do this).
I had no wish to use foreign accents within the piece - I think this is a dreadfully old fashioned technique. Within a country there are regional accents and dialect is used. I think it is much better to use these accents as the audience can then identify with the characters much more effectively. I did however want to establish the "foreignness" of the piece in the audience's mind.
In order to do this I adopted a particular approach to the writing style. I deliberately chose to use an overly formal and grammatically correct use of language. This is principally noticeable in the avoidance of contractions in the speech. For example a character would say, "I do not want to do that!" rather than, "I don't want to do that!"
In performance this proved to be very effective. It also had the bonus of actually making the cast think about their lines a little more! the challenge to the cast was to make the style sound natural and fluent without slipping into using contractions. This took determination and discipline but it worked. So the tip is to use this approach and adopt the discipline. Remember you want it to sound natural and easy on the ear with just that hint of strangeness. Coupled with the use of poetic expression this has proven to be an effective and engaging technique.
The Festival scene marks the change from light to darkness within the play. Until then the darkness has been present at the edge of the character's lives - now it threatens to overwhelm them. I do discuss this dance in the printed text but thought a little more detail would be useful here.
Remember this is only how we did this in the original play - you are free to take an entirely different approach. This will however, help you to see the effect we were trying to achieve which you could then try to emulate using your chosen approach.
This dance shows everything the festival is about, celebration ( with a hint of wildness in the face of oppression), community (in that it brings the whole community together) and romance (the relationship between Ernesto and Baptista).
This dance is obviously one of the highlights for the festival goers. It begins simply with a single dancer and expands to include everyone. As the music begins (see music section) it is instantly recognised by the crowds and they straight away look to Ernesto to take the lead. He feigns reluctance at first, protesting and being dragged into the centre of the onlookers. On an appropriate beat, however, the protests stop, he stamps his foot emphatically and adopts a "now watch this attitude!". This immediately grabs the crowd's attention and they roar their approval.
On another beat, he raises arms to either side and then begins a simple yet dramatic step sequence on the beat - moving first to one side and then reversing the pattern to return to his original position. This repeats a number of times but as the music speeds up he stops and looks across at Baptista. She and the crowd knows what is going to happen. Ernesto takes her hand and pulls her into the centre. She does not have Ernesto's confidence but she is lifted by his presence. The crowd cheers as they place their inner hands on each others shoulders, outer arms out straight horizontally. Now as a pair they begin the step sequence again to the approval of the crowd. Soon others join their line on each end and others form another line behind them.
By now almost all the performers are involved. The music speeds up again and it is getting too fast for the step sequence. The lines break and a huge circle is formed with all the dancers holding hands. They circle first in one direction then the other, getting faster and faster. As the music reaches its peak the circle breaks up into pairs of dancers who spin together at breakneck speed, collapsing with joy and excitement into each others arms as the dance finishes. Positioned in the centre of the stage Ernesto and Baptista's embrace turns into a passionate kiss. This for a second draws the attention of the crowd but a moment later the news of the discovery of Ramone's body shatters the mood.