Our GCSE drama students’ latest trip was to see Broke, a production based on real-life interviews about people’s uneasy relationships with money. The show, devised and performed by The Paper Birds, offered a disturbing and wry insight into Britain’s increasing indebtedness and consumer culture. It combined references to children’s stories with a game-show genre, rapidly moved between characters and methods of communication with audio clips, projection and puppetry all heavily layered upon the on-stage action.
Actors Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh and Shane Durrant portrayed multiple characters and shared their own honest financial details with the audience. The story of Sally, a single mother, managed to be both emblematic of millions yet intensely personal and finely portrayed; a tear-stained performance that summed up the daily grind of families across the UK. Prior to the show Kylie, who is also the company’s Education Director, led a workshop with our students about the research and development process they used.
Broke, a dialogue-heavy production provided a counter-point to Light, the previous play that the students had seen a few weeks ago. Both plays will give students plenty of material and inspiration for their written and practical work and exam examples.
Teacher Mrs Duguid-Yeomans said: ‘With Light being about Edward Snowden’s disclosures and Broke being about the current state of minimum wage and poverty lines in Britain they are both current topics and contained important lessons.
‘Broke is a verbatim piece of theatre so Paper Birds have interviewed lots of people and taken artistic licence with that content and turned it into a performance. By using Brechtian techniques such as alienating the audience from relaxing into the action they remind us that we are watching it for a purpose.
‘It was reminiscent of the style of modern TV such as Benefits Street and flicking between the channels. It grabbed the students’ attention and one of the highlights was when the character of Sally cries as it was so powerful and important for our students to see that kind of raw emotion up close in such a confined space.
Our GCSE students can refer to the workshop in their exam and by seeing drama they see different possibilities of what we can do on stage and exemplary performance such as the crying moment. Broke was a really good example of how to layer material and above anything, the moral and lessons behind it were of managing money.’