Recorded between January and March during lockdown using TEAMS it explores the teenage brain from the perspective of the teenager’s themselves. ‘Brainstorm’ by Ned Glasier and Emily Lim, is a half-devised and half scripted play for an ensemble, exploring how teenagers’ brains work, and why they’re designed by evolution to be the way they are. The play was designed to be adapted and performed by a company of teenagers, drawing directly on their personal experiences. It is extremely honest, informative and may make us all rethink our assumptions about teenagers and what goes on in their minds!
The Middle School production is always an important event in the Drama year and knowing we were likely to have restrictions (bubbles and the like) we chose a play we could do as a parallel production for year 10s at Warwick and King’s High School. In November, when the rehearsals started we envisaged producing the play with separate boys and girls casts in March to a live and ‘streamed’ audience simultaneously. A group of Y10 boys rehearsed with Miss Ray and Miss Tong at the same time as a group of girls with Mr Perry and the enthusiasm from both groups was tremendous from the outset.
Lockdown came in early January and the original plan had to be abandoned- there was no time to rehearse a physical production after the expected end of lockdown, and so it was decided to amalgamate both casts in a single production using TEAMS as a vehicle.
Working through the script it became obvious there would be some challenges (especially during the audience participation sections) but given the part scripted/part devised nature of the piece it was a challenge worth taking. And so, from early January Mr Perry worked twice a week with the combined cast, preparing individual sections alongside those as a large group.
The large group sections certainly had their challenges. Normally a play’s rehearsal builds pace, energy and expression to the text, everyone being in the moment and responding and reacting accordingly. Now the actors were faced with trying to simulate this remotely and perhaps most importantly independently. Despite this lack of immediate feedback and allowing for timing issues, poor internet connections and Microsoft TEAM’s haphazard way of displaying video the cast were tremendously professional. They were more self-conscious ‘acting’ at home than in the rehearsal room continuously reminded of their image. Given the play’s subject matter this brought a whole new level to the introspection and self-consideration demanded by the text.
After a few failed attempts to get the group all online at the same time a series of recording rehearsals took place with me silently observing (camera and mic off). Indeed, even remaining quiet was a directorial challenge. When ‘muted’ a microphone still picks up sound and occasionally takes were abandoned as my microphone sent an on-screen message reminding him of the fact he was muted over the faces of participants!
The cast were encouraged to prepare a number of sections themselves- Bedroom tours being the most obvious and given this new format a move from the theatre’s simulation of teenagers’ personal spaces to actually being able to record footage in their spaces was lots of fun. Amongst the most enjoyable sections is the part showing cast members in dialogue with a parent. The opportunity for some editing and even some split screening was a challenge taken up by many in the cast.
Towards the end of the process a message went out to staff asking them what they would say to their teenage self. The cast were inundated with suggestions, so many, in fact, that we chose to display many of them alongside the choices of the cast. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
Credit must be extended to the huge efforts of Mr Roberts who spent many hours editing the footage, titling sections and getting it formatted for watching. As always we are very grateful to him for his creative input and commitment to the highest standard of production. Thanks must also go to Miss Ray Miss Tong, and Miss Price who supported the project throughout its unusual development.
Despite the unique challenges of this production, I am very proud of the resulting performances of everyone involved. They have created a most thought-provoking insight into teenagers’ minds which we all hope, will both inform and entertain. This has been a special project and this film is a unique product from an unprecedented year, something for us all to treasure and look back on fondly in years to come, when I hope we will have forgotten about bubbles, distancing and can once more enjoy theatre in a theatre! Mike Perry