The stimulus for this devised piece was a workshop on the book the Arrival by Shaun Tan, an Australian who comes from a migrant Chinese family who are also part Irish. The book is a series of drawings about immigration and a man’s story of moving away from his family to another place. It included other people’s stories on migration including ethnic cleansing, education and war. In our workshop session we looked at the pictures in the book and we improvised the images in our own way and created small scenes of that image. The images were sometimes detailed, they were sometimes close up or far away, they always held very strong imagery.
This sometimes determined the mood of the scene or how much emotion we already could use from the image and how much emotion we had to create ourselves. Our group decided to use the strong symbolism, and bring up questions for the audience, making the audience think about social issues in today’s world. Our plays were to be about an arrival and so we researched different reasons for arrivals and departures. We became interested in looking at the evacuation of children in World War II, focusing on a child’s journey to the country and back home.
We found the subject hard to make interesting and new to the audience and the topic is very broad and well-known. We still liked the idea of evacuation, as it could be used as an arrival or departure. We looked at different evacuations and came across the Australian brides being shipped to the UK during and after World War II, women who fell in love with servicemen from different countries and were shipped to be with them. Whilst researching we came across the book ‘The ship of brides’, a true story of four women sharing a cabin on their journey to the UK in 1946, to meet their husbands who they hardly knew.
Through this idea, we thought about how women today, are still shipped in a similar way to the Australian brides, to other countries in the process of mail order brides. We thought that this would be a really strong topic to follow as it is a current issue that people are not really aware of. Mail order brides are women who list themselves on internet site catalogues, to be selected by men for marriage. We researched the different websites and also watched a programme ‘Channel 4; Dawn Porter: Mail order brides’. This gave a great insight on the journey of men going to Russia to select their mail order brides.
The women were there for a social event, whereas the men were showing a very controlling side and were there to find their brides. We took the character of one of the men, Kevin, and decided to use him in our play as one of the men looking at the showroom of women. It was decided that we would act in a non-naturalistic manner, using element of Brecht and Artaud. The first scene would be the arrival of the bride in her box at the husband (consumers) home. The scene would show how the bride is treated like a product, and so she appears like a doll in a box.
It also shows how the man does not want people knowing he has bought his wife as it would be frowned upon. This scene shows the husband being upset with his product and phoning the company to replace it. The second scene is a dream like scene where a showman and his two showgirls are offering to the audience anything they wanted. This was to emphasise how demanding a wife is a ridiculous thought, but it is possible. The third scene was an advertisement, we used the idea from mail order websites, where the women we filmed advertising themselves to men. In this scene we portrayed the unsure nervous girl promoting herself for her future husband.
The fourth scene was the showroom of girls, where we used the character of Kevin from the programme, and another man we created as two men selecting their future wives. We are portraying the girls as dolls in the play as they are made to be someone they are not. They are a consumer product rather than a real person. In this scene the audience sees the girls talking but they are not happy with where they are but feel it is too late to change anything, being a mail order bride gives the chance for a better living. Many of the women who actually sign up to be mail order brides do it to escape their life and find a better life.
The fifth scene is a sequence of movement of the dolls/girls; this scene is the dispatch of the girls to their husbands. It shows the girls feelings through movement; they move like dolls and can’t speak like dolls. They are nervous about where they are going. In many real life cases, the women aren’t fully informed of where they are going, and sometimes are sent to abusive controlling homes. The last scene was made to be like the first scene, where the doll arrives in her box. This time the husband is pleased and invites her inside. The girl walks behind slowly and faces the audience with fear in her eyes.