Year 12 Drama Performance at Upton House
The Upton House Project was first introduced to us by Mrs Frater and Mrs Barrett after our exams had finished. Upton House is owned by The National Trust but feels very different to other properties because you can interact with all of the props and objects in the house. Upon visiting the house on the 22nd of June, we found the 1940s style of the house really inspiring. We wanted to portray the role of women in the war to the visitors of Upton; both the land girls and the bank staff. From here, we researched the fashion and style of 1940s land girls and the fashion and makeup around the time. Victory rolls and red lipstick was the key, we found. We developed the physicality of our characters by adopting techniques from Rudolf Laban; creating certain movements and giving them specific personalities. Some examples of this that we found were a ‘flick’, a ‘glide’ or a ‘punch’ underlying our movements. Preparing our vignettes was based on improvisations, based on the settings we'd seen when we initially visited. We found we wanted to perform in a mixture of outdoor and indoor settings to portray both the working environments for the land girls and the bank staff. After concluding our research and rehearsals we were incredibly excited to finally be able to perform it on July 13th.
And so we came to the performances. Our aim as a group was to create little scenes that were like windows into the lives of the women living in the 1940s. Seeing as Upton was home for both land girls and bank staff during the war, we decided to produce scenes as both groups. These were to be performed around the house and gardens.
For the two weeks between visiting and the performance, we drafted and rehearsed our improvised scenes. First, we were the land girls. Finding costumes wasn’t actually too hard – just a white blouse, high-waisted trousers, and ankle boots – and we all created backstories for our characters. Then we split up, decided on the location in the house or gardens where we would perform, and prepared conversations in-character. The bank staff scenes were created in much the same way, taking inspiration from the items and information we found around the house; we sat at typewriters and worked and then we moved upstairs to the dormitories and chatted. The house was a plethora of information, so we sat discussing everything from homesickness to home-made makeup.
These vignettes were meant to be unobtrusive but informative; we went with the aim of turning Upton House into a living museum. We were, essentially, part of the furniture. In this way, people could listen in on our conversations and even interact with us, without us disturbing anyone who just wanted to look at the paintings or just walk on by.
Performing at Upton House was a brilliant experience for us; we learnt more about the land girls and life in wartime, and had a great time dressing up and producing the scenes. Hopefully we managed to give the visitors a bit of extra entertainment as well.
All in all, it was a jolly good show!
Year 12 Drama and Theatre Studies
Take a look at the fabulous video, put together by Mrs Barratt!