Drama Exploration of the theme Peer Pressure

To present the theme of Peer Pressure, I’ve used the stimuli of the 1953’s Case of Derek Bentley. He was a 19-year-old with a mentality of a 11-year-old, due to the bad injury he experienced during the Blitz in WWII. This lack of mentality gives him the innocence of a child with the physical features of a man. He was unable to think as an adult and often gets aid from his sister to go through his daily life.

Due to his parent’s very strong will for him to go out and explore the outside world, Derek often kept himself in and sat around in his room, smoke and read comics, isolating himself from the outside world because he was afraid of it, showing the amount of stress he receives from his parents and peer pressure in such ways. When Derek met Chris Craig, this is when the true form of peer pressure truly emerge. Derek was introduced to Chris’ gang and was forcefully pushed to take his first cigarette and to change his appearance to gangster-styled clothing, a trend that was very popular of that time.

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This strongly depicts how Derek was frail, afraid and helpless, he only did this to fulfil his father’s wants of him to get along with children of his age, even though this crowd would be the type his father disagrees in. His lack of knowledge allows him to do things he thought it would be ‘cool’ and to be accepted in the group because his ‘friends’ told him to, a clear representation of peer pressure. By having him being clueless and unaware of what was going on, this enchants his vulnerability to Peer Pressure.

His parents whom Derek was very fond of disapproved Chris very much, but Derek chose to ignore the fact and kept going with Chris, dominating his life. Chris would make Derek do things he didn’t want to, such as drinking, smoking and sneaking out at night, only to do things that he later on regrets. We can also see how his innocence and childlikeness responds to the theme of peer pressure from the events in the courtroom. On his trial, Derek was called up to stage and asked questions, in which he responded with his heads ducking down, to avoid eye contact, and a low, shaky and shattered voice.

Indirectly, he was gesturing for help, like a child who’s in trouble and needs his mother for protection. He was also indicating that he wanted aid from Chris to defend him, thinking that he would help Derek because he already helped Chris with the shooting, but Chris stayed silent instead, conveying the peer pressure given off by Derek to Chris. A read-through of articles of teenage life in the 1950s and news articles of the case, provided from the internet helped us to give an idea of how Peer Pressure relates closely to Derek’s case.

Through this activity, it helped me with in-depth definition and understanding the terms of Peer Pressure. The first task we did was exploring how Derek and Bentley could have become friends. We got into groups of three; I played the role as Derek Bentley and Amber and Iman as Chris Craig. We had a five-minute discussion of what happened and planned the forms of drama we would do to show to the class. We used Hot Seating with each other to get more information of the motivation and thoughts of how they became friends.

As Derek, I played my role with low, shaky voice with monotonous tone, lacking eye contact, shaky legs and tapping and taking apart my pen to the table all the time to convey me nervousness to the interview, which can be categorised as Voice, Movement and Gestures. Slumping posture was used because I wanted to picture how Derek was resigned to the situation, that he is prepared to say anything to get out of the room and to skip the interview.

These techniques works well because the questioner received the message my character was trying to send and stopped the interview immediately. As all of us played in roles of different characters, we used Role Play and Characterisation to show how different characters respond differently to the questions. This Hot Seating includes Content, which was the information given by each of the characters. The theme was strongly depicted when Chris coerced Derek not to tell the truth. This greatly affects Derek’s choices of words and actions.

As I go along in-character, I learned that Derek is a childlike character who can’t think for his own, where he looked up at Chris for help all the time. I felt that there were missing elements that could be added to intensify the feel of Peer Pressure in the workshop, such as stronger uses of spoken language to depict Derek’s nervousness of how Chris urged him to cover up for him. The next task was a five-minute improvisation sketch on the Case. I worked together with my assigned partners, Iman as Chris and Amber as the Cop.

We had a discussion of how to show the themes effectively for few minutes, without practising the actual scene to be performed later on. After we did so, we were called to the front of the class and preformed. For this workshop, we used Role Play and Characterisation as our Drama Strategy, because we got into different characters to make the performance happen. Space and Levels were used to portray the moments when Chris and Derek were hiding from the Cop, where they ducked down and crawled through the imaginary shelves, using the space available from the whole classroom.

Movement and Gesture was used to depict the nervousness of Derek, from his chattering teeth and shaky legs while Chris pushed him to steal the ‘gun’ from Chris’ pockets. Voice and Spoken Language functions as the media for Derek to express his anxiousness, where he stammered on every word, afraid that he will be doing the wrong action and being left by Chris because of it. The Climax of the performance would be when the Cop entered the shop and looked for Chris and Derek, which is a Contrast of the previous parts of the performance, where the boys just sneaked in the shop to avoid the Cop.

Symbol made by the hands of the Cop, forming a gun was used to enchant the climax, where things got more intense. This could be defined as the Signature Element of the performance. All those Dramatic Elements was successful in demonstrating the theme Peer Pressure. The teacher thought it was a good performance, but there was too much lag between the climax and the rest. More timing and actions should be put in the performance to fix this. She also pointed out that we worked together very well to perform an improvised sketch.

As I did the sketch, I learnt that Derek is very dependant of other people due to his mentality of a child, will follow your all orders like a puppy and stick by your side, because he doesn’t know what has to be done by himself and needs the orders of other people. The third activity of the workshop is another Hot Seating, where all the students from the class participated. This truly tested the concentration, where the Christophers were being interrogated by different people at the same time and we have to stay in character no matter what the whole time, resisting to any obstacles and distractions form the other characters.

The activity also challenged our skills in working together and for the Cops to cope with the contrasting responses from the three different Christophers. The session started immidiately without any preparations nor discussions, to achieve an immediate and surprise response from each character. All the Good and Bad Cops started questioning the Christophers at the same time, indicating the Peer Pressure from the Cops where they require an answer with any possible way. In this workshop, I played the role as one of the frail-sided Christoper, the side he never showed before.

I choose to act in this manner because it reflects on the fact that he was brought up in a broken family, and all the loneliness and lack of attention from his parents have lead to this. He never show this side because he chose to have impression that he was strong enough to go alone and to be the most powerful one in his peer, an example of indirect peer pressure. This frailness of Chris can be seen from the way he was being very self-reserved during the interviewing session.

In the first few minutes, I refused to respond to anything, because the fear Chris experienced has brought back his traumatical memories of his father questioning him the same way the Cops did. This was one of the main feature of my workshop, because I think that this traumatic event has played a big role in his life that has led him to his high favouring of peer pressure. Without this, Chris would have not become the same character he is now, inconsiderate, insensitive, careless, selfish and foolish.

The theme peer pressure came across by the actions of the Cops and the reactions of the Christophers. Ameenah, who acted as one of the Bad Cops, would fire lots of questions at the same time, giving stares and fist pumps, indicating with body langauge to show that she dislikes Sophia, the Chris she was hotseating. Sophia responded cooly and seems as if she was testing the Cops’ patience by using body language, putting her feet on the table and folding her arm together, a sign of disrespect toward them.

The use of levels in her case, where she was positioned lower than the Cops shows the lack of status and power she shold receive, as the suspect of the crime, but the body languange displayed overpowered the lack of power, thus resulting in a disrespectful manner. This character reflects the character of the Chris that was often seen, thinking that he is the grandest person among the others, and in my opinion Sophia has successfully conveyed the messages.

In my opinion, some things can be altered as a group to improve the workshop. For example, I felt that many of the participants lack in connection of one to another, and how they can relate more to each other. In order to fix this, thought tracking should be included to convey the personal opinion of each participant about their actions and how it would affect them. This can also help the rest of the participants to understand more of the character they are interacting with to create a more enthusiastic feel to the workshop.

I would put a thought track in the moment where Salman, a Good Cop, bangs the table infront of Siwar, one of the Chris’, to show what he really wanted her to understand through his action. His intention was to bring a sense of peer pressure without any rage (since he was acting as the Good Cop, not a Bad one) to her so that she would open up more answers to the interrogation, but the mesage Siwar preceived was that Salman was furious towards her and by banging the table, she felt threathened.

The result of this was that it did not bring any benefit for either parties, where Siwar felt even more unsafe and unstable by refusing to answer any questions and Salman was not able to obtain any information he nede from Siwar, although peer pressure was used and it was suppose to be a successful technique to mentally torment someone to do things they did not intend to do.

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