Down On The Line

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Joshua Holdcroft and Matthew Brown perfroming in Down on the Line

Project: Down on the Line
Roles: Characters of Denise, Julie, Unnamed Protester 3 and Voice 4, Principle Script Writer and Set Designer

Summary and Plot: For the completion of Unit 3: Exploration of Dramatic Performance of my Drama and Theatre Studies A Level qualification I was require to devise a group performance. For this performance I was allocated to a working group with four other people, we were then provided with our stimulus of ‘bystanders’ from an article for The Guardian entitled ‘The Bystanders: photographers who didn’t step in to help – in pictures’, see here.

We entitled the piece Down on the Line for its doubled, amalgamated meaning of being down on your luck and being in the line to the dole office, as the performance was a deconstruction of social change and division under Thatcherism. Employing naturalism, physical theatre, audience interaction and audio-visual technologies the piece tells the stories of four principle characters and attempts to analyse the effect of Thatcher’s privatisation of British industry on their lives. Presented as a mirror to Cameron’s 2013 Conservative government, Down on the Line grapples with socio-political change and endorses its audience: ‘don’t let the past repeat itself’

The Rehearsal Process: Each member of the group then went on to individually research the stimulus further and, after compiling this research together, we came to the collective decision to focus our piece on a particular time period. We wanted to do this so we could explore the different socio-political events that people were bystanders to at the time. From this we choose to focus on the nineteen eighties as we felt the period provided wealth of exploratory material, in particular Margret Thatcher and her time as Prime Minister, British Industry, privatisation and the effect of this on the British people.

Over a period of two and a half months we spent six hours a week devising our piece. In the beginning, we wanted to juxtapose the lives of the wealthy and the working class in the nineteen eighties, in order to highlight the dichotomy of their lives under Thatcherism. However, after devising a number of small scenes we felt this manner of approaching the issue was far too broad and that it would be difficult to easily incorporate the idea of being a ‘bystander’. Thus, following this we took part in a number of workshop sessions which led us to focusing more closely on the working class in particular. Out of these sessions we came to the collective decision to focus on four characters, highlighting how their lives are effected by Thatcherism and they are bystanders to the socio-political changes happening around them. Upon this we thought it would be interesting to juxtapose nineteen eighties Thatcherism to David Cameron’s 2013 Conservative government, deconstructing how the British public are simply bystanders to the decisions made in government. Out of this, a fifth and final character was a born who was an omniscient narrator of sorts who commented over the events of the piece and how it was similar to what was happening in 2013.

Set, Costume and Props: When discussing our set we wanted our piece to have an abstract feel to it, almost though it could transcend time between the nineteen eighties and 2013. In order to create this we covered two stage blocks, which sat in the bottom left and right corners of our traverse staging, in newspapers, cardboard and political posters. We choose to do this as we felt it would suggest that the news and political landscape from the nineteen eighties felt very similar to 2013 and, most importantly, still relevant. By using cardboard as well, we wanted to suggest that under Thatcherism and Cameron’s Conservative government society felt, and feels, as though it can be changed and broken down; as disposable as cardboard.

In the piece we kept our costume quite simple with white shirts and black leggings or trousers, in order to signify our characters we each had an individual costume prop. For example, my character of Denise it was a school tie and for my secondary character of Julie it was a blue blazer. However, one costume prop that we all had the same was the faceless masks we wore as nameless protesters in order to remove our identities.

Awards and Achievements:

  • Received an overall grade A for my contributions to this production
  • Received the ‘Christopher Lewis Award for Drama’ for my work in this production

Explore Down on the Line Further:

  • Down on the Line mentioned in Coppice Performing Arts School newsletter,see here
  • Read the script for Down on the Line in full, see here