Change and Continuity

August 18, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in creative process, creativity, Ensemble, Physical Theatre, pleasure, Psychophysical Training, Theatre | Leave a comment
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Well, we left Whitestone. We had a couple of days rest aand then reconvened in Studio 2 of The Milton Building, University of Huddersfield where, next month, ‘The Shattering Man’ will be performed. The shift of space – indeed the complete change of environment  that was involved in leaving Whitestone – raises questions for me about the relationship between change and continuity.

This Duende ensemble met, made preliminary contact, grew and flourished, in a beautiful, small converted barn in a rural setting. Our soundscape was the wind, the birds, the sheep. Our rehearsals were book-ended with a shared breakfast and a shared evening meal. We were our own community. The ensemble comfortably filled the space we worked in. If we chose to be loud or highly energetic, we could dominate, almost threaten the space. We were free  to take the work outside the studio and into the natural world, where we could not dominate but we could be part of the landscape and the soundscape.

Here, in Milton, there is a different rhythm. Our days are bookended with ‘real’ life – travel to and from rehearsal surrounded by people who have nothing to do with ‘The Shattering Man’. Breakfast and evenings are spent in our permanent (or temporary) homes. Though the University campus is quiet, as is the building we are working in, it is inhabited. We are a small part of a bigger community. The studio is a beautiful converted, huge, nineteenth century church hall – immensely high and with a huge window at one end. The set is already constructed and so the space is assymetirical. We have to bend our training round the performance space.

Training exercises that had one flavour in Whitestone have quite another one here. Here we can fill the space – aurally and physically – but we do not dominate it. Here we cannot take the work outside – it becomes a constrained experience, more theatrical and less environmental. The feeling is different.

So what remains? What have we brought with us from the first part of the process into this second part? As so much of what I ask of an ensemble is to do with responsiveness, about being able,  in the moment, to respond to changes in the performance environment, it is inevitable that the experience of the work changes here. That’s necessary. If things felt the same here we would not be responding to the changed circumstances we find ourselves in. Paradoxically, if we were to try to hold onto how the ensemble was in Whitestone, we would be betraying the very essence of the ensemble we constructed there  – an ensemble of open and responsive, interconnected individuals. It is only by letting go of what we had there that we can preserve the spirit of what we made there.

Yet some qualities remain constant. The connection between the ensemble is pretty much intact. The nature of people’s individual struggles changes but has continuity. When the group improvises, certain languages and energies that have become familiar between us re-emerge, though often in new and unexpected ways. We still listen and respond.

When things change, when fantastic periods of time are over, we want, naturally, to preserve what we made and experienced. We want to keep the past and continually relive it. But we are making live theatre here. Live theatre does not exist in the past, it must vibrantly and boldly exist in the present, otherwise it is no longer live. So at the heart of what remains of the experience of being at Whitestone, the very essence of the ensemble we formed there, is our willingness to change, to grow, to build.

Things change, and the only continuity is our willingess to change with them.

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