GCSE REVISION NOTES (DRAMA)
Answering Questions (Written Exam)
What type of questions could you expect to get?
Here are some examples, and some ideas of how to answer them :-
1. Say what costume you would choose for . . . . ? . . . . Give
reasons for your choice.
You should decide in what style your play is being presented and then look at what sort of character you are costuming. Write in detail about the style of the clothes, the colour of the clothes, the texture of the material, and the condition of the clothes. Are they clean and fresh, or dirty and creased? Be very precise in your details e.g. knee-length floral skirt, or elbow-length flared sleeves. Are clothes tight-fitting or hanging loosely? Do not say that someone would wear an "ordinary" article of clothing. What does that mean? Say what you see as "ordinary". Sketches should be included if you have time but the question does not ask for these, it says "say". Come back at the end, if you have time, to do sketches. The second half of the question asks for reasons why you would choose this costume. If you do not say why, then you may well lose half the marks.
2. Say how you would position the actors and actresses playing the
characters of . . . ? . . . and . . . ? . . . in Scene . . ? . . Give reasons.
Here you need to think about the kinds of characters involved, and what the relationships are. You should refer to the enclosed diagram on stage positions, and write using the theatrical terms for the acting space, e.g. downstage right, upstage centre, etc. etc.
You should draw a simple sketch (but neat and clear, too) to illustrate in the acting space where you feel characters could be positioned. It may be a good idea to use a key, so that a colour or symbol can be marked in, instead of the full name of the character. Reasons, again, are important. Say why you have put them in this position - you must have good reasons, e.g. Sebastian and Antonio stand upstage left, away from the other nobles who are centre stage, so that they can plan together and show that they do not fit in with the others. Alonso sits downstage right, as he wants to be alone in his grief, and not be part of the conversation.
3. Say what suggestions you would make to the actors and actresses
playing the parts of . . . ? . . and . . . ? . . . in Scene . . ? . .
Here you can "go to town" on using your imagination to help portray a realistic character.
Voice :- soft, harsh, lilting, quiet, brash, stuttering, an accent, slow, fast, - think of your own descriptions.
Movements :- lumbering, slow, lethargic, fast, light, scampering, upright, proud, head in air, etc. - think of your own descriptions.
Gestures :- what do they do with their hands? Hands are very expressive and they tell a lot about a character, and what is going on inside that character. Tapping, nervous, tense, drumming, highly strung, het-up, constantly "twiddling" hair in fingers, etc. etc. There is no end to what you can include here.
4. Say how . . . ? . . . should say the speech . . . ? . . .
Here, you should visualise in your head a picture of the character and what they are like, and what is actually happening at this point in the play. Sometimes speeches have changes of mood in them. The character may start in one mood and go through a variety of moods in the course of the speech. So do not just give one standard way of presenting the speech, but look carefully to see where changes occur, and then decide what those changes are, and how they may be practically implemented by the actor.
The practical skills that an actor has at his or her disposal obviously involves use of voice, body, face, and the space provided. Think about how the actor may change his or her voice at any given time during the speech. Think about what actions the actor could introduce at given points in the speech. Think about how the actor could use his or her face to show what they are thinking at any given point during the speech. BE WARNED! You should NOT say, for example, the actor should look puzzled at this point, you should instead say for example, the actor sinks down to the floor, his mouth open, scratching his head with a pencil, and staring wide-eyed at whatever puzzles him. You should also indicate how the actor could move about within the space, saying at what point he or she sits, stands, kneels down, jumps up, etc. etc. You should indicate at what point these things happen, by pinpointing a line of dialogue, phrase or word that corresponds.
5. At the ending of the play . . . ? . . . how might a director
build a dramatic climax?
To answer this question you need to know, obviously, what a dramatic climax is, and you need to be able to state in your answer what it is. A dramatic climax is where, within a play, something unexpected and memorable happens, as a result of what has happened previously. So there is always a build up in a climax. This build up may be put down to situations, happenings, character interactions, relationships between characters, use of sound, and other effects. There is an obvious dramatic climax in the play Abigail's Party, where Laurence has the heart attack. A director would need to analyse the build up to the heart attack and then decide how the dramatic climax could be played out to full effect, e.g. what actions would Laurence employ just before and during the heart attack? Does the music give any added effect, i.e. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony? It is very loud, stirring, and the characters in this section find themselves shouting above this noise, which adds to the dramatic impact. Three characters spring into life. What do they do at this supercharged point of the play? What is Beverly's contribution to the climax? Think about the use of voice and movements in detail of all the characters involved, Laurence included. Always remember to pinpoint exact details. Do not make general statements like "Angela takes charge" - instead be very analytical about how each character uses voice and body.
6. Describe how the character of . . . ? . . . is developed in the
play . . . ? . . . and suggest how the part should be performed.
A character develops when happenings within a play and characters within a play have an influence upon that first character. So there will be changes occurring within that character as the play progresses. What might start off as a shy, timid character, may well end up as a strong, forceful character (or vice versa), due to the effect of the happenings in the play. For example in Abigail's Party there is some kind of development in most of the characters. Beverly, who starts off strong and confident, ends up weeping and devastated. Angela, who at first appears silly and stupid, ends up organising people and controlling the situation, etc. etc. You should be aware of how and why the characters develop or change, and then work out how these performances may be implemented practically from the point of view of movement, voice, etc. Again be very detailed in how you see parts being played.
7. Say how you would design a set for Scene . . ? . . or Act . . ?
. . of the play . . . ? . . . , or in the case of Abigail's Party, the whole play.
This type of question may occur on the paper as a 3, 8, or a 20 mark one. So be careful with the amount of detail you include in your answer. If only a few marks are awarded then your answer should be short and not take you much time to write. On the other hand, if it is the final question on the play worth 20 marks, then obviously you should spend a great deal more time and effort on your answer. This of course applies to all questions - look at the marks awarded for it and construct your answer accordingly. There are many notes, diagrams, and suggestions provided in this folder to help you plan and devise your set. Please read, learn, and use them. Remember, for a high mark question on the set, you should always write about, and neatly draw diagrams.
8. Give reasons for and against the play . . . ? . . . being used
as a school production.
This is a favourite question of the examination board, and as such they always award 20 marks for it, and expect a well planned, detailed essay. Before going into the examination, and in order to save yourself thinking time whilst actually in the exam, you should think through, plan, and learn your essay answer well in advance. Then there is no excuse for saying "I didn't have enough time!" While on the subject of using time, in most cases a mark is awarded for each point that you make, or comment or opinion that you give, so if a question is awarding, say, 4 marks for an answer, you could make 4 points in about 4 to 6 lines, and you need not spend any more time on this low-mark question. Similarly, a 10 or 12 mark question requires more information, and therefore more time. A 20 marker, needless to say, should take the most time and effort you can afford. Never write more than a few lines for a 2 mark question.
So, back to the question - . . . ? . . . as the school's production. Keep separate your reasons for and against a play being suitable for a school production. This gives a better structured essay, and makes it easier for you when writing out your answer. Always jot down notes or a very rough plan to help you with the structure, ensuring that you leave nothing out. What do we look at when deciding suitability? There is a long list of criteria that we can apply, for example :-
a) Audience appeal, i.e. storyline, themes, topics covered. Analyse this area with reference to your two plays.
b) Characters involved in the play. What is the size and nature of the cast? Can the characters be acceptably played by young people? Would we get sufficient numbers in the audience if it is only a small cast?
c) Look at the language in the play from the point of view of swearing, difficulty in learning the text, etc. Perhaps a play may be suitable in this context for only senior pupils. However, the content of the audience should also be taken into account.
d) Availability of costumes and scenery/set. Usually, in this case, degrees of cost and difficulty are up to you, e.g. some productions are presented "on a shoestring". So in this section of your answer, say what you would incorporate for costumes and set, bearing in mind that the school is footing the bill. Very often, simple things are very effective, enhanced by the use of lighting, sound, etc.
e) Music and movement. Are there any times during the play where these things are incorporated? Say when, where and what the style could be, and then analyse how effectively young people could be involved, or not as the case may be.
In this type of question, always say why you feel something would work, or not. Always back up your opinions with direct reference to the play, sometimes even including quotations.
N.B. Try not to be TOO negative in this answer. Look for more positive points if you can, as the examiners have chosen these texts because they "rate" them. Even in the case of Abigail's Party where the theme is adult, the language is adult, and the relationships are adult, this does not preclude the play from being a senior school studio production. However as a whole school general production it may present obvious difficulties.
TRY TO ANALYSE THE PLAY FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF THE POTENTIAL AUDIENCE AND THE AVAILABLE ACTORS. AT THE SAME TIME, TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE FULL POTENTIAL OF THE PLAY WITH REGARDS TO AVAILABLE SCHOOL FACILITIES AND FUNDS.
Written Paper - General Hints.
* So go for it! Good luck!! *
For other notes which may be of use to you, see my Home Page.