Unnatural Acts?: early screen performance.

JRJ Adams

    Research output: Non-textual formPerformance


    A devised multimedia theatre production directed by John Adams. Presented publicly (1995); revised version presented as a practice-based research project at the international 'Moving Performance' conference, January 1996. Role of Researcher: John Adams - script adaptation, director. Participants: Undergraduate students. (University of Bristol). Primary outcome: presented at the Moving Performance conference, 6-8th January 1996 (see below). Documentation available: video tape record, photographs, production documentation. Research aims: The project developed through a series of theatrical and video workshop explorations around specific topics, producing material that was incorporated into the production. These workshops took three related points of departure: the co-existence of an extraordinary range of acting styles in the early C20 film, the rapid evolution of cinematic conventions to 1912, and the theatrical conditions of early production and exhibition. The scenario was based on an 1844 theatre melodrama, The Drunkard. Workshops provided the means of practical research into aspects of 'performance' defined from a reception perspective as ways in which cinematic convention and conditions of exhibition mediate enactment. Some thirty short films from the period 1896-1912 were viewed and variants in acting style were analysed, modelled and explored with reference to: evolving forms of narrative address in early film; camera strategy, editing style and rhythm; interpretative elements at the point of exhibition - live narration and improvised dialogue, for example, and the use of live music and sound effects; conventions and conditions of melodrama in the theatre; social and cultural conditions of reception. Very little research work has been undertaken in the field of early screen performance, as defined above, and virtually no practice-based research of the kind initiated in this project. Dissemination included (a) public production, four peformances, December 1995, Wickham Theatre, Bristol; (b) public lecture 'Unnatural Acts?: Acting, Performance and Cinematic Convention In The Early Movies', Bristol, December 1995; (c) creative contribution to Moving Performance, an international conference on early film performance Department of Drama, Bristol, 1996; (d) aspects of argument in book chapter (Boxed Sets).<
    Translated title of the contributionUnnatural Acts?: early screen performance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 1996

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