Rise Up - Theatre Centre Performance

Early this month, a group of Year 9 students watched a performance by the Theatre Centre as part of their Pathways Drama studies. Below is a detailed report from one of the students who watched the play.



Review by Jasmine Aldridge, Year 9

‘Rise Up’ was a mainly stylised play that aimed to educate and make people think more about racism. It was set during the American Civil Rights movement and told the storey of the Freedom Riders and how they changed America! The four actors played up to twelve roles each and clearly displayed the different character perspectives about their role in the fight for equality in 1961. The most powerful scene was the bus scene where the Freedom Riders were locked in a burning bus by a racist mob. This scene was full of emotion and really made me empathise for the characters. It made me realise how brutal people were toward black citizens and made me ask yourself - what would I have done in that situation? Would I have had enough courage to do what they did?
The emotion that they put into their voices really passed on through the audience. Another good point was that they didn’t overcrowd the performance area with props and pieces of set. This allowed the audience to imagine the scenes for themselves and therefore it instantly became more powerful. For example, the group mainly used the different height stools to create the bus, prison cell and speech stands.
All of the actors played numerous roles throughout the play. At some points I became slightly confused about who was who but for the main sections it was obvious. They managed to do this effectively by really emphasising their body language and facial expressions. A good example of this is when one of the male actors took over the role of a young, white, American girl. Instead of doing a ridiculously high, comedic voice and going down on his knees to show that he was a child he used clever body language to sell the role. He sat on a high stall so that his feet couldn’t touch the floor and he was facing out to the audience. He used this to his advantage by swinging his legs in a childlike manner and creating a, not high, but young sounding American accent. He gave us the impression that he was a curious, naïve and opinionated young girl who struggled to keep still and accept what people are telling her. These techniques really made us believe in the character.
Another example of a well-acted character was with the policeman. The actor of this character was a black man and I think it was this that really made us believe in the character. He used a policeman cap to demonstrate the character he was playing. Then there was his vocal expression, which was loud and authoritative with an edge of swagger and danger. This along with his gestures really set him apart from the other characters. He stood tall and proud and he constantly pointed out toward the audience. This was a very effective gesture as I instantly felt as though he was directing his anger at me and began to see him as the Freedom Riders would have done!
The play gave a clear message from the start. The minute we began to see the different characters and hear their side of the story I realised that this should be heard about more. I think the big message in this play is linked to racism and the civil rights movement. It made me think about all those people who risked their lives to help each other and the courage they must have had However I do believe that there is an underlying moral to this story as well as the main message. The moral to me is never give up. If you believe something is wrong then fight to change it. Believe in yourself and you can’t go wrong.
A really effective moment in the play was when the Freedom Riders were in jail. This was effective because they used the stools to make the cell walls. This helped me to imagine the state they must have been in and what they must have gone through when they were arrested. But this scene also showed something else, whilst in the cell the Freedom Riders began to sing, which gave hope in their dark situation. This was extremely powerful, I felt as though I was right there in the cell with them and me realise how determined and defiant the Freedom Riders were.
My experience of watching the play was very close and emotional. I personally haven’t been affected by racism but a number of people I know have been. It is for this reason that really made this play a success and a great experience for me. It was nice to be able to fully understand what happened to those Freedom Riders who stood up to America and changed the lives of all the black people who lived there. The play was intense and full of emotion meaning that it gripped me and pulled me into the story whilst I focused on the characters and the overall feeling of the play and those involved.

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