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Year 9 Drama Students Explore the Magical World of Trestle Masks

18 November 2016

The study of Trestle mask technique complements the students’ study of the plain white neutral mask and the anarchic world of Commedia dell Arte where characters wear half-masks and are allowed to speak!

 

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Report from Drama teacher, Mr Michael Thomas:

Trestle Masks are based on the work of Trestle Theatre Company based in the UK. The unique design of the mask reflects a rich history of the development of mask theatre starting with the mask of Greek and Roman Theatre, the Commedia Dell Arts masks of the Middle Ages up to the Venetian Carnival masks and the neutral mask which formed the basis of the work of the 20th Century French theatre practitioner, Jacques Lecoq.

Trestle masks (made of hand-crafted resilient plastic) are distinctly playful in their impact, with the power to transform performers and quickly delight and transfix audiences with their almost magical beauty and sense of mystery. The Basic set shows obvious emotions such as happiness and sadness but the more challenging Intermediate and Advanced sets demonstrate more ambiguous emotions which the students enjoy unlocking and exploring in their devised scenes.

The students soon learn that it is not enough to merely place a mask on the face to make it somehow ‘come alive’. Mask actors need to bring considerable energy and a certain understanding of the human condition in order to physicalize their characters into life. Furthermore, to unlock the full power of the mask, actors also have to conform to basic rules such as never to touch the mask; never to speak through a full mask; always to face the audience and treat the mask with due respect.

A typical mask scene might be set in a hospital waiting room, office, restaurant or school classroom: any location which might invite the co-mingling of different sorts of characters. The study of Trestle mask technique complements the students’ study of the plain white neutral mask and the anarchic world of Commedia dell Arte where characters wear half-masks and are allowed to speak!

Hopefully, the students will show the results of their work in the KS3 Showcase Performance in Term 3.