Round Midnight recently returned from their annual trip to Wellington International Shanghai, where we were invited to join a team of artists from all over the world to celebrate the theme of Jazz! Over the course of a week, team RM delivered drama workshops that explored techniques surrounding improvisation and devising, forging the link between jazz and its influence on other art forms such as drama, art, music and poetry. These workshops culminated in an immersive performance held in the black box theatre space, which overnight was mysteriously transformed into Shanghai's coolest new Speakeasy in time for their performances! Audiences were invited to drop into the immersive style performance to watch brand new comedy sketches, vocal jazz bands, and spoken word poetry.
The basis for all our workshops with year 6, 7, 8 and 9 was to encourage students to devise and improvise as creatively as possible, by making use of a stimulus. Just as in jazz music when a band "jams" in a chosen key, we provide students with stimuli including objects, jazz song lyrics and music. Over the course of the week, students learnt how to string ideas together, swapping and changing elements of their work in order to create a final product that they could perform. This kind of theatre practice differs from more traditional forms, as it requires a great deal of collaboration, imagination and the capability to test things out. There is no script to follow, or director to take charge of blocking and staging, the students were tasked with creating every part of their performance, under Round Midnight's guidance of course!
The pupils produced fantastic work - we had comedy getaway mimes, physical theatre based on the jazz classic "It's Only a Paper Moon" and even a spoken word poem about football! It was immensely gratifying to see what the students came up with and to watch them immerse themselves in the character of the time and place that they had created. We had a wonderful time and look forward to working with Wellington International Shanghai again next year!