Over a couple of months our class have been working on our final theatre production. It is the last big thing our class does and what we’ve been preparing for during our three years in the estetiskaprorammet. For the final production we’re all responsible for the work that is takes and with our teachers help we have been going through all the stages of creating a complete production.
The first thing we did was find out what script we were going to take on. It was a script called and based on the classical “Jungle book” but with a different story. It was written by Alexander Mörk Eidem. It had familiar faces in it such as Baloo, Bagheera and Mowgli but they did not live in a jungle and they were not animals. It all takes place on a futuristic Sergels torg that’s been overgrown and turned into a jungle. We read the script out loud and our first reaction was that it was interesting and funny. We did not fully understand the concept at first and how this new world worked but we knew that as we worked on it we’d get a better grip on this utopian story and its message.
We were not allowed to choose for ourselves what character we wanted to play but our teachers still wanted to hear who we were interested in playing and how big of a role we felt ready to take on. I was pretty open to any of the roles except the too big or too small ones, I wanted something in the middle. I did however feel like the jackal Tabaqui felt like a fun role to play and if I would have been allowed to choose it would have been one of my top choices. Mostly because the lines were funny and I felt like it’d be interesting to play the type character I’d normally enjoy watching.
Another important part of the production, except for all the dancers and actors is that there needs to be a nice looking stage to perform on, costumes and other effects to bring the story to life. We were split into five groups that all focused on different areas of work. There was multimedia, costume, make up, scenography and marketing. I got to be in the group called multimedia with four others. Our job was to find suggestions on music the dancers could use, sound effects and all the films that we wanted to play in the background. My main task was to edit together and create films for the videos. We wanted them to play in the background as the dancers danced to give it all an extra effect. The videos were fun to work on and since we could download whatever we wanted from Youtube it was easy to find the right effects. It was also fun to film and edit it all together to the music, seeing it all put together on stage was so cool. At times the timing and colors turned out just like we had imagined! We used a lot of films with footage of fighting, bananas and colors! If it was for example a fast paced dance with a lot of action we tried using bright colors and fitting clips to match the feel of the scene.
Besides learning the script another important part to work on before we could start to rehearse the scenes was to get to know our characters better. In order to do so we got to write different analysis with questions on who they were, why they did certain things and what their goal was. We also did different theatre exercises were we got to place ourselves closer or further away from certain characters based on what our relationship to the others was, were we above them in rank or not? Who does my character dislike? And so forth. I ended up getting to play Tabaqui, who was the blood thirsty Shere Khans lawyer. It was fun to work on the script and to try and understand who she was. It was interesting to analyze why she’d go with someone like Shere Khan who treated her so badly. In the end I understood that she herself was pretty bad too, she was not loyal in the slightest and didn’t mind taking from those who had less. She seemed to hate the humans just as much as Shere Khan did and until Shere khan lost she didn’t seem to mind the idea of Mowgli getting killed. It was fun to play a character that at time could be such a nuisance.
Once we started the actual rehearsing it was a lot of fun both to try and develop the scenes along with our director who helped us, she came with advice on how we could react to certain things or where we would stand. There was a lot of things to think about while playing a scene, if you walked somewhere it had to have some sort of purpose. Some things you could of course do out of impulse but there still needed to be some sort of through or planning behind it, or at least that it was done in character.
At first I was pretty nervous about performing for an audience, I had however tried to imagine there being a bunch of people in the seats when we rehearsed so I wouldn’t be as nervous once we did it for real. Whenever the other actors or dancers would watch us as we practiced our scenes I tried to perform the same way I would have done if all the seats were filled. I had a scene where I would walk out on stage alone where Tabaqui would break the forth wall and tell the audience that it was time to take a break and to “get lost”. I was nervous that the scene would be awkward or strange but in the end it was one of the most fun scenes to do. The dancers from the previous scene were still on stage playing dead so I could improvise around them and joke about it as I went along. I learned a great deal from it and it was cool to see the audience up close and to get to adapt my performance based on what the audience was like.
In the end this whole production has given me so much. It was so much fun to work on it and it never felt like it was a pain to get to school, sure it was stressful at times and there were sometimes long discussions about how we wanted to do certain things. But the end result was so worth it. After having worked on this script and story for so long we began to understand the message behind it and why certain things were changed from the original. The “animals” were just people who over time had begun to associate themselves as for example “wolves” or “monkeys”. They represented different groups in our society and Mowgli represented a person from another country who felt confused about who she was. It was a fight between the rich and spoiled, the people who had nothing and the terrifying humans with their guns and helicopters. Our jungle book was about the outsider Mowgli and her journey as she tried to figure out who she was and where she belonged. I liked that the message we worked with was not so “in your face” and obvious, it took some thinking before you fully understood it. I think working on the story really helped us understand its meaning. I’m pretty sure the audience was just as confused as we were the first time we read the script but perhaps seeing the story play out on stage with all the dancing, acting and effect some sort of message stuck with them as they left.