The development of a piece of drama about a young girl and her mother leaving Jamaica and arriving in a racist Britain in the 1950’s Essay

W e were introduced to a character, a black character that has left home known by the name of Grace. This is all we knew. It was up to us as individuals and small groups to develop Grace and her history as we interpreted it. We worked in small groups of six members and over a period of three sessions we developed our character. Our key objective which was set as part of the task was that we would show our exploration of her history as memory flashbacks. This applied for all who took part in this activity. All members of our group originated from an Asian ethnic minority situated within the east end of London.

Living as part of a minority within the multicultural city of London we have also encountered racism as did our parents. This provided the key element which we were going to use to base our whole story around. Another advantage for us was that our parents and relatives had also migrated from their homeland in search for work during the period of civil war leading to the independence of our homeland of Bangladesh. This meant that by conducting interviews with the various members of our family would help us unlock key information which would help us developing the ideas and feelings we thought that a person in such a state would have.

Many of us found emotional letters and artefacts showing the pain of leaving ones homeland. This key advantage helped us to explore more ways of showing our characters grief. We came across a section of an emotional letter which was produced as part of the drama planning by a member of our group. The letter belonging to one of the member’s parent included their emotions and feelings about being separated from their family. This gave us an insight in to how Grace might have felt although her mother is with her.

This meant that with this first hand account of a person separated from their family we were able to express the emotions of our character in a more realistic manner rather than using our inexperienced artificial ideas. We were also able to find out things like how they felt when they first arrived and the reactions by the racist communities around at the time. All this information had provided us everything we required in order to produce a piece of drama showing how a young black girl left her country to work and sustain her family.

We realised that by just looking at a topic which is very common and may cross everybody’s mind our story would be of a very typical nature. We decided to add a twist. This twist in our story would involve a young black man and a young black woman. We decided that the issue of racism would be introduced to this story by the means of a mixed relationship. This idea had crossed our minds after viewing a video during a lesson based around the people who had come to England during the 1950’s in search of jobs.

It described the Britain of that time and the attitudes the white population had towards the black minority. This video had inspired us to set our story within that period of time which was probably the worst period of racism in Britain. This idea helped us embark on another idea showing rejection via movements. We know from sources that there used to be signs which would restrict anyone of black take part in certain activities such as dining and attending public schools as well as enjoying the various leisure activities that were being provided.

We thought that by introducing the idea of a mixed relationship we could also show that not everyone saw the incoming flow of black immigrants was a bad thing and were prepared to socialise with them. This also helped us show a deeper side to racism as for many families this would come as a shock and lead to anger and hate which is worse than what already exists within them. We know that in every community a mixed relationship has a very negative effect on people and is often not tolerated. People prefer intercultural relationships than multicultural ones due to their restricted ideologies regarding these relationships.

This often causes a problem as traditional beliefs restrict a person from marrying a person of a different culture and having never experienced or encountered a mixed relationship people have negative ideas towards it. Although this sort of ideology has died down it still thrives within many communities. By touching on this subject we can relive the situations that couples were in during the racist era. Story Board: Our story is designed in an abstract manner as we thought that producing the drama in this way would help enhance our story. We were able to put across

Memory One: During the course of this memory we introduce a few characters to the piece of drama. These characters are: 1. Uncle Jonathan 2. Landlord 3. Landlords Sidekick 4. Grace’s Mother We chose to have two characters to play Grace, one being the young victimised Grace in the memory flashbacks and the second being the old and frail remnants of the young girl who came to Britain in the 50’s. This helped us to create quite a lot of symbolism between the two age groups. We had a rough idea of black people having to live in rented houses rather than proper accommodation.

We decided that we would have the newly immigrated Grace and her mother settle into their cousin, Jonathans rented flat in the east end of London. The beginning of this memory starts immediately with their first encounter of racism from the white landlord owning the house. This we thought was quite effective as we were immediately able to show the hostile environment that the pair has come in to. The memory begins with the landlord and his useless sidekick shouting in front of the property in a desperate attempt to retrieve the rent. After persistent knocking the door is answered by Grace’s mother.

After interrogating Grace’s mother the landlord violently pushes her to the floor. Both Grace and Jonathan run to defend the fallen victim. Grace supports her mother to the next room while Jonathan in anger vows to take revenge. Ironically after the landlord makes it clear of his presence and that the injuries caused to his cousin is of his doing Jonathan’s urge for revenge dies down. Here we try to show their vulnerability. Jonathan is then threatened to pay the rent but unable to sway the landlord’s decision Jonathan is forced to hand over Graces passport. We end the memory there and then move on to a narration by the old Grace.

This leads to a small speech which is said by both the young and old Grace side by side both expressing their feelings and fears regarding their first encounter with the racist landlord and his mate. During the course of this memory our prime aim was to focus on symbolism but instead we decided that we would use a lot of symbolism for the second memory as it is a very emotional time for her. After a short while living in this hostile environment would mean that our character would be very emotionally hyped up therefore we tried to balance all the skills we used for the first memory.

We attempted to use an Afro-Caribbean accent as well as a typical east end cockney accent to help us get into the character deeper. By being able to speak like the character would we would feel more confident. When we first using our initial ideas planned this moment we had it a lot longer than this edited version. We realised that in order for our piece of drama to be effective we had to try and make the flashbacks look genuine and insure that we do not narrate a story whilst doing so.

We sat down and discussed the key elements which shaped our drama and our characters life and decided to emphasise on those points rather than go in to details. By doing this we didn’t intend to just produce a piece of drama with a simple meaning such as racism is bad but we tried to keep the complexity of the meaning and subtext but portray it in a simple way without losing it’s original meanings. Memory Two: During this memory we attempt to show the sorrows of the young Grace who is being tormented by her emotions and the racism she is receiving from the members of the local community.

We start the memory of the distraught girl in an abstract manner. We start it off by showing Grace alone crouched up near a wall and talking to her self. Beside her lie two characters stranded in one hoop to symbolise her rejection. These two characters also represent her conscious. We try to put across the mixed emotions that Grace feels. We do this by the use of voice which can prove to be very powerful alongside stern and quick and movements. Although we couldn’t fully implement our ideas one of them was for Grace to be dressed in black to help create a moody and dark tension.

Another idea which we did implement was the use of passports. We used two actors to represent the landlord and his friend who were in possession of her passport. We thought that by having these two figures walk around Grace and mock her with her passport within their grasp it would help show the audience the type of worries that are eating her away. This also would help the audience understand the furious flame which burns within Grace. We used some bad language to show what kind of treatment Grace was receiving. We used a lot of derogatory terms such as “nigger”.

This was done because this is the sort of treatment people receive in the real world. Our idea was that by masking what was going on in the real world our piece of drama would be just as what other campaigners are trying to do. We wanted to show some of the real brutality that still lives on in today’s civilised society. Whilst creating this scene we were lacking ideas and tried to keep it simple but our initial idea of Grace expressing herself evolved in to something more complex by using characters to represent her conscious. Memory Three:

For this memory we wanted to show a few elements of happiness within Grace’s life spent in Britain. We thought that we would show two happy memories but this then led to another idea. This new idea meant that we would link one of her happy thoughts/memories to something very tragic. This would mean that her life in Britain has given her such a hard time that to remember a happy memory in her time she spent here can turn out to be impossible. This is where we linked the idea of a multicultural relationship. This would involve a character who would remain shadowed.

This characters identity is only clarified as the landlord’s sister. We start this happy memory of with Jonathan preparing himself to be married, it’s his big day. We also show Grace helping to prepare her uncle. At this moment this happy memory is shattered as the landlord makes his dramatic yet violent appearance only to reveal that Jonathan’s wife to be is none other than the landlord’s sister. As the landlord approaches Jonathan to lay his fateful blow we change to a different memory. This new memory shows the family ornament being handed down to grace from her mother.

This memory is short and quickly links back to her first “happy” memory. We end this whole dramatic compilation with Jonathan falling to ground and his death whilst his niece Grace mourns. We thought that this whole concept of multicultural relationships would fit in well with our story about racism as this sot of narrow- mindedness stems from racism. This is also a factor that is evident within our community so by adding this concept in our drama we were able to put across our views as well. As this memory is quite violent we decide that we would focus around vocals more than physical movement.

This memory is quite revealing so we thought that using the voice in different ways rather than a lot of movement would help create tension. We had ideas about using lighting but were unable to do so. We decided that as this memory is quite gloomy performing it wearing dark clothes and under a weak dim light would create the perfect atmosphere for the performance. Dialogue: Here are a few selected lines which we chose to use from two poems. These poems are written by Edward Kamau Brathwaite and an anonymous poet. 1. I know that you’re not a child, I can’t tell you what to do

We decided that we would use this as part of the small section in the third memory where Grace is given her family ornament which has been passed down for decades. We wanted the mother to say this small piece of dialogue to Grace after giving her the emblem. This should be said in a soft and calm voice as one would speak when giving advice. 2. Drum stick knock and the darkness is over me This part was chosen for memory two because during that section Grace expresses herself. We wanted Grace to say this in a tone which would both express her anger and her sorrow.

This is also to be accompanied a sudden movement which would make it more effective. As we got these lines from poems we decide that we still wanted to use the original poetic rhythm whilst we said these lines. By doing this we thought it added a pace and rhythm to what we said rather than a gloomy essay being read out, although this should never happen. We wanted the audiences’ full attention so we had to ensure that it had an element of excitement which we tried to do using poetic language. My Personal Contribution:

I have contributed in this drama by not only acting in it as part of the cast but played a larger role as a director. This allowed me to see our work from a different point of view and suggest improvements on how we use the key drama elements: 1. Voice 2. Rhythm 3. Pace 4. Body 5. Movement By doing this we could all see were our drama skills were lacking and were we could improve on. For example during memory two we were lacking ideas and sought to create something simple but our skills as directors for our own work allowed us to take this simple idea to a new level and to enhance its complexity and meaning.


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