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Paper Birds Workshop Review

Post-16 Theatre Studies

Friday 23rd September 2022

Written by Grace Chadwick & Caitlin Connolly                         

Year 12 and 13 A-Level Theatre Studies students took part in a workshop lead by Gabby from the Paper Birds Theatre Company. The company is a devising theatre company, with a social and political agenda. They are recognised as UK leaders in devised verbatim theatre who take on complex, multi-faceted subjects and making them accessible to a broad range of audience members.

The group of A-Level students took part in a variety of different activities to expand their portfolio of techniques, one of which was an exercise exploring verbatim, this translates directly to ‘word for word’ and is a key technique used by the theatre company when delivering and expressing key political messages. Gabby told the students to pair up with someone they rarely talk to or haven’t talked to before, before asking a question to the class. One person in each group then answered the question whilst the other wrote down everything that person said. We then used this piece of writing to depict our own style of character, how we felt that this character would be portrayed simply based on their response to the question.

The class then joined into larger groups and combined these different characters and responses to create a larger devised piece of work. In addition to this whilst performing the final piece each member of the group would break the fourth wall and talk to the audience as themselves, the actor, to discuss their opinions of what is being said by their character. This is another key skill used by The Paper Birds. We felt that this exercise was deeply engaging and made us think about how we would portray a character. We also found that this opened our eyes as to how each character can be performed differently based on each actors different perceptions of the lines.

Gabby then conducted another exercise in which the class explored the use of movement to tell a story. Gabby split the class into pairs once again. Each pair was given a chair and told that at least one person in the pair must have contact with the chair at all times and some sort of connection with the other person as well, for example by holding their arm. The students were then left to create their own movement sequences but at various points were stopped and told to add different aspects of movement such as rewind, fast forward or slow motion movements, adding a level of intricacy to each piece. We found it very interesting to see how a story and a character can be portrayed without dialogue, just using movement, and almost forcing the audience to think further into the backstory of the characters they are watching.

Overall, we believe that all the students on the course thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, taking on board some of the techniques Gabby taught for future use in their own devised performances.

Thank you to Gabby and The Paper Birds Theatre Company for this extremely successful workshop.

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