Michelle Strutt, member of the People's Company ensemble, tells us about the latest workshop at Southwark Playhouse:
After a brief discussion about the history of melodrama, and its significance to the Coronet, our group split into pairs to discuss what we felt were the essential elements of melodrama. Overhearing the animated conversations, it was apparent that each member had a visceral response to this popular theatrical genre.
It was agreed that in order to be classed as a melodrama, the following elements had to be present:
Melodrama mood board by Charlotte Nicod
Interestingly, many members recognised a link between what is considered traditional melodrama and modern day film and televisual drama e.g. soap operas, and even some reality shows are all designed to ramp up drama and tension through strategic use of intense music, atmospheric settings, and suspenseful storylines.
We were then split into two groups to devise a 5-minute melodrama of our own using the stock characters/archetypes that would have been familiar to a contemporary audience. These include:
Our group decided to work on a classic scenario - wedding, interrupted! We devised a scene whereby the nuptials of our hero and heroine were jeopardised by a dastardly plot cooked up by a scheming ex-wife and her evil servant.
We had great fun with it, as it allowed our imaginations to run riot. The only rule we followed was that each beat of the scene had to heighten dramatic tension - preferably through the means of some jaw-dropping revelation.
The other group chose the classic scenario of the body in the library, but cast with a completely different set of archetypes, e.g. the apparently grief-stricken lady of the house, the interfering housekeeper, the stalwart detective who conveniently pops by just in time to solve the crime. All driven at break-neck speed to the devastating conclusion - "the butler did it!!!’
By the end of the session, we all agreed it was immensely freeing to see what outlandish suggestions we could unleash into the space and still make the scene work. Without the constraints of naturalism, we were able to exaggerate our physical and emotional reactions to an extent not normally encouraged in traditional theatre.
It was an exciting, action-packed workshop, and by the end we all understood the sensational appeal of melodrama, and why this genre has endured throughout the ages.
Reflecting the views of artists, actors, residents
and participants in
The Melodramatic Elephant in the Haunted Castle.
An art project about the Coronet from 1872-2017.
Past present future
Music and animation
Euan Vincent on Horror
Tiberius Chis on Chaplin
Final Curtain Call
Directing and acting
Jacko at the Coronet?
Ale and steak pies
This Is Where I Came In
Pollock's Toy Museum
Adventure with the Mayor
Reach for the stars
Ghost of Marie Henderson
Shop till the zombie drops
Faith, Hope and Charity
Singing and sketching
History and legacy
Dark Side of Metropolis
Walworth Street Festival
Interview with Sam Porter
Blood and Thunder
Culture and Capital