Love Drama & The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know Five Minute Theatre Show! By Katie Fegan
The National Theatre of Scotland’s Five Minute Theatre is a very familiar project to us here at Love Drama, as I’m sure it is to those of you who are regular readers of this blog. So far we have entered in a whopping 7 entries over the years, the most recent being as part of this year’s running- the theme of 2014 being ‘Independence’. Now, I’m sure a lot of you very much enjoy watching our young representatives do these performances, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the camera? Allow me to take you on the journey from planning to performance, with a little help from the actors themselves of course!
Katie Fegan, 17, Love Drama Assistant & Blogger.
Firstly, without giving too much away, I’ll explain a little bit about the entry. Two of our wonderful actors from the 12-16s group, Hamish and Rachel, play parents with very opposing views on the upcoming Scottish Independence referendum. But, rather than just have an outright political debate, these views are hidden within a fairy-tale that they share with their young son, played by the vibrant Robbie, age 7. The story features all you would expect from a typical fairy-tale- a king and queen, princes and princesses, dragons, fairies, gold- but these are purely symbolic of course. This clever use of symbolism contributes to an overall fantastic entry filled with wit and humour, and I’m sure it will appeal to an audience of all ages. But, I’m afraid you’ll have to tune in on the 23rd of June to find out more. No spoilers…
Although Rachel has appeared in Five Minute Theatre entries before, for both Hamish and Robbie it was their first time. I asked Hamish how he felt representing the group in this entry, and he had this to say:
“To be honest it just sounded like it would be good fun. It felt weirdly strange to be the ‘No’ side representative, I almost felt somewhat responsible to not misrepresent that side of the argument. But the piece was not really about trying to convince people onto one side or another, it was more about putting the debate into simple terms, showing what it was all about and having fun with that.”
I also asked Rachel how it felt to be invited to represent the group again:
From these quotes we get a true feel of what Five Minute Theatre successfully achieves. It allows people to express their own opinions, but also having fun with it rather than turning it into one giant debate. I had real faith in this cast as I’ve worked with Rachel in the past in these sorts of pieces, and I’ve seen Hamish in other showcases and I know he is a superb actor!
“I was pretty happy ‘cause I was going to be able to express my opinions to a wide audience”
But, the actors weren’t alone on their journey. Fellow Love Drama veteran, Denise, very kindly volunteered to direct this year’s entry. She was a valuable asset to the team and her contributions are very much appreciated. To begin with the rehearsals consisted of Rachel, Hamish and Denise working together to create the building blocks of the piece. I was very intrigued about the origins of the fairy-tale idea, so I asked Denise how this idea was brought to life. She responded with:
Since the ages of a Five Minute Theatre audience will vary, this was a wise decision. It also added to the overall humour of the piece. But, where there is a fairy-tale there must also be a child to hear it. Enter Robbie! Now, I have had the privilege of working with Robbie for a few months now and I knew he would make the part his own…and I was not disappointed! He was given a basic description of his role and just went with it:
“Well we all thought of ideas that could be used to create a metaphor or a different way of making the debate understandable to kids and ended up choosing a fairy-tale”
Having been alongside Robbie at weekly classes I’ve always loved his improv work. When I was his age I wasn’t confident and talented, so I really admire him for just going all in and doing such a good job!
“The first time I just improvised it was just really easy and so much fun!!”
Unfortunately I wasn’t at every rehearsal, so I wasn’t really able to witness the creation first hand. However, I was curious as to what went on in rehearsals, and from what I heard from Hamish there was a fair bit of tweaking involved before reaching the final plot:
So, now there was Rachel on ‘Team Yes’, Hamish on ‘Team No’ and Robbie on ‘Team Please-Shut-These-Guys-Up’! The tweaking was done, the piece was polished. It was time to record!
“The concept took a little bit of developing, the fairy-tale idea came about quite quickly but it was more how to implement it best; by a kids play or a story book, I think there was even talk of sock puppets at one point…all of which eventually led to the mother and father argument idea [mother arguing ‘for’ and the father arguing ‘against’] The beginning of it never really changed much from start to finish but the arguments part with me and Rachel changed drastically from rehearsal to rehearsal as we find the easiest way to keep the arguments clear and entertaining with the fairy-tale metaphor. Robbie also kept us on our toes once he joined in our rehearsals with his craziness, hilariousness and unpredictability.”
I sat in on one of the rehearsals, and to my delight was asked to attend the final recording. It was weird to look in without actually acting within it, but it was great to see the piece chop and change so it fitted both their original vision and, of course, the time limit. I know from experience that it’s really hard to cut a piece down as they’ll have had so many ideas that they wanted to cram in, but they did a really good job! The final recording took place in Robbie’s house – thanks once again to his parents for accommodating us – which gave the piece a more authentic feel. Having Robbie in his own room created a more relaxed and homely atmosphere which added a lot to the sketch. There were a few practice takes, and then the final piece was recorded…all on an iPhone! Welcome to the 21st Century, right? Denise told me later that this was her favourite part of the whole process- watching all the ideas come together in one final performance. Although, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one kind of sad when it was all over. Though, the feeling of pride and ecstasy will always override any sadness, as Robbie proved to me when I asked how he felt when it was over:
“AMAZING!! I just felt amazing after it!!”
It’s easy for me to comment on how this experience was different from any other the group has done- I mean, for one I was more a spectator than a performer – but this is not about me. So, I asked Rachel how this recording was different from others that she has been in:
Well Rachel, looking at the final product you could not tell that a section of it was improvised- it looks so polished! I think another reason that this experience was a tad different was that it revolved around a political issue rather than social issues, to which the group have addressed in the past. The media is currently bombarding us with TV adverts and other forms of propaganda…it’s hard to escape from it! But, the one common thing I’ve noticed is a lack of input from younger generations. Myself and Hamish are eligible to vote in this year’s referendum, so I thought I would ask him if he agreed with me on this:
“It was different to my other recordings as the cast was smaller, and the final piece was much more improvised than the other FMT pieces I’ve done”
I admit before I asked this question I had completely forgotten about the use of internet, and on closer investigation I have found sites that try to showcase how a yes or no vote will benefit youth. But this is, like Hamish said, from the bias and sometimes exaggerated views of each respective campaign. I thought I’d try and ask Robbie what he knew about the referendum, just to see if the whole debate is reaching the thoughts of our younger generation:
“Hmm…the media is over simplistic when it comes to the debate. On the one hand the ‘no’ side seem to scaremonger and even exaggerate potential risk while on the other hand the ‘yes’ side often fail to acknowledge many uncertainties and the risks of becoming independent; like Europe, currency and oil. It is near impossible to find any unbiased coverage on the debate as it seems every media outlet has picked a side from newspapers to TV stations- even the BBC- so there really is a minefield to navigate to find any really solid data on the issue. As for young people’s views, I do feel that they will share the same thoughts and feelings as their parents. Having said that I do feel many younger people feel like citizens of the world as well as their country due to things like the internet and people being more connected, thus changing their approach to the whole debate.”
“It’s a vote to see if Scotland should be a country on its own or if it should be a part of England.”
Pretty much, can’t really argue with that! Though, it seems that the pros and cons of the argument could be better explained to young people, whether they are eligible to vote or not. It affects our generation the most, so we should be better informed!
Maybe it would be best for us to take a break from the coverage on the news and get involved in healthier debating, whether it is amongst friends or through projects like Five Minute Theatre! Maybe it could help get the views of youth across? I would say so, and Denise agreed with me that it could contribute to getting our opinions across:
“I think it’s a start but there is a lot more to be done to get young people’s views across ‘cause it is really important they are heard since a lot of decisions being made concern their future!”
Couldn’t have put it better myself!
Once it was all over there was one thing that was made loud and clear: everyone wanted to do it all again! I don’t think they could recommend this experience highly enough! After his first taste of a Five Minute Theatre performance, Hamish would love to go through it all again:
“I had a ball making our FMT and I would really like recommend it to anyone with even a passing fancy in drama as it will force them to make something very unique and personal and also allows them to share it with others. FMT definitely encourages people to look at their subject matter in a new light. In this case it allowed me to discuss independence with people with separate views to mine which forced me to better understand why people hold different opinions to me, giving me a broader sense and a better perspective on the issue as a whole”
Even someone like Rachel who has now featured in 3 entries would love to get back in front of the camera again:
It was so brilliant to see that this group were able to make something so personal to them, and have such great fun with it! That’s not only important to us at Love Drama, but I’m sure to the organisers of Five Minute Theatre. When I asked Denise if she’d do it again she immediately said yes, just because she always has so much fun creating them! There was so much laughter at the rehearsals and the final recording, and it was brilliant to watch.
“I would definitely do it again as the experience of preparing a FMT piece is a lot of fun. It is also good to know that it will be seen by a massive worldwide audience!”
I am very lucky to have the 23rd of June off work, so at exactly 5pm I will be glued to my laptop ready for an evening of fantastic theatre, including of course my friends at Love Drama. There will be over 840 performers from countries all over the world, ranging from 3 months to 80 years old, and amongst these performers there will be a dog and 2 sheep! Can’t wait to see that! I hope you will join me in both watching the amazing talent that National Theatre of Scotland are choosing to showcase, but also in wishing luck to the performers representing Love Drama. Furthermore, I hope you will join me in wishing the best of luck to ex-member, Calum Johnston, who is going solo in his own entry! You are a very brave guy indeed, Calum. To finish this blog off, here is a final comment from Robbie:
“It was my first ever proper acting role and I put in loads of work to make it amazing and I can’t wait to do it all again!!”
Good luck everyone! Watch these guys at 3.45pm on Tuesday 24th and also don’t forget to wake up early to watch our own Calum Johnston at 7.15am!
The cast of this Five Minute Theatre piece are all members of Love Drama, Musselburgh which runs on Fridays for ages: 4-7/8-11 & 12-16. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any new membership enquiries.
Performers: Robbie Hanna (child), Rachel Heller (Mum) & Hamish Mackinnon (Dad)
Devised by: Denise Boyle, Robbie Hanna, Rachel Heller & Hamish Mackinnon
Directed by: Denise Boyle
Facilitated by: Kirsten McCrossan
Devised, directed and performed by members of Love Drama Musselburgh.
With special thanks to Robbie’s mum and dad for our theatre, Katie Fegan our blogger, Youth Theatre Arts Scotland for our rehearsal space and to all the members of the 8-11 and 12-16 groups at Love Drama Musselburgh for their invaluable feedback.