Lockdown unlocks new levels of creativity for DMU performers


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Transforming what would have been a stage performance into a digital format due to lockdown has been a challenging yet rewarding process for De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students.

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Regular Zoom meetings have kept the group connected 

Collaborating with the city’s celebrated Curve theatre is an annual highlight for many Drama and Performing Arts students, but this year their plan to perform Evan Placey’s reimagining of the classic gothic novel Jekyll and Hyde was thwarted by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Forced to abandon physical rehearsals at Curve and with the production cancelled, the second and final-year students have adapted to a new way of working online in order to complete and be marked on their crucial end-of-year assessment.

Working both individually and in groups, they have produced a continuous audio recording of the play, which will air to an invited audience through a podcast streaming platform.

As part of their assessment, they have also produced a suite of accompanying materials, such as video and audio journal entries of their unusual experience, which they are launching on a dedicated website they have built themselves.

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Rehearsals at Curve before lockdown was imposed

With support from their tutor Louise Peacock, students formed new working groups based on the additional skills they needed to complete the revised project, including audio and video editing, scene writing, narrating and web design.

As well as playing a lead character – one of five parts allocated to Hyde - final-year Drama and Creative Writing student Regina Toth was involved with writing and narrating new scenes, editing audio files and building the company’s website.

The 24-year-old from Hungary said: “Even though it’s been very challenging, we’ve gained a lot of valuable insight and flexibility. We’ve learned new ways of performing and how to fit together as a cast in challenging times.

“It’s been amazing to see everyone pitch in with new ideas and volunteer to take on extra responsibilities. Second-year students have been particularly supportive, helping to take the pressure off final-years like me who also have dissertations to do.”

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Company group shot taken at Curve

Final-year Drama student Barnaby Nyombi juggled a number of ensemble roles, including playing a police officer and a scientist, with recording narrational parts.

“Our tutor Louise led a really open process in terms of adapting this project to the current situation. She took our opinions on board on how to move forward and how to develop characters differently for an audio performance,” said the 21-year-old from Leicester.

“She has been running weekly video calls with the whole group to discuss our progress, and put a lot of effort into providing us with a new structure because we felt a bit lost at the start of lockdown.

“The other helpful thing is that DMU has given all students free access to the various software programmes we had on campus, so we’ve been able to do all of our editing from home.”

Alistair Beeson, a second-year Drama student, is playing a detective chief inspector and also volunteered to write narrational parts and edit audio files.

“We’ve pulled together to turn the situation into an advantage, playing up to the different strengths of individuals within the company,” said the 22-year-old from Milton Keynes.

Students did benefit from an intensive introductory week at Curve before lockdown measures were imposed, during which they worked with director Andy Reeves and gained valuable behind-the-scenes insights.

Regina said: “We got to meet the set designer who showed us a working model box to get an idea of what the set was going to look like. Seeing what she was inspired by and how the whole thing works was very interesting.”

Alistair added: “I didn’t think the week would be as collaborative as it was. We had the opportunity to give as much feedback as we wanted to, and even if our ideas weren’t developed further, they were listened to and that felt fantastic.”

Posted on Wednesday 27th May 2020

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