Excitement. Work. Fear.

August 26, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Posted in creative process, creativity, Ensemble, Physical Theatre, pleasure, Psychophysical Training, Theatre | Leave a comment
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We’re deep in the heart of the rehearsal process. The work is developing rapidly – both in terms of the scenes and number of pages we are covering and in terms of my/our understanding of the style or aesthetic that is emerging. It is a time of rich excitement, of very hard, disciplined work and of fear.

The excitement manifests in many ways. It is extraordinary to see the developmental work we did in Whitestone (a time that feels so long ago now), underpinning the rehearsal of scenes. Two, three pages of complex work can be rehearsed in half an hour because the ensemble can work quickly, wordlessly and in full trust to discover how to make a piece of text, an image, a sound world come to life. There is deep excitement in seeing individuals in the ensemble making personal breakthroughs, suddenly seeing weeks of disciplined, painstaking self-exploration coalesce into moments of practical realisation – not realisation in the mind, but embodied realisation, when an individual suddenly experiences themselves as being able to do things they never thought would be possible for them. There is deep excitement in collectively finding solutions to seemingly intractable script problems. There is – always – the deep excitement of improvisation when I get to watch (and the performers get to experience) the spontaneous eruption of extraordinary moments of collective or individual expression – moments that erupt and evaporate in the blink of an eye.

Yes, there is excitement in every hour of the long rehearsal day.

Hard work? People arrive between 9.00 and 9.30 to start personal warm-up. We work collectively from 10.00 until around 5.30pm.   Usually I leave the building at 6.00 to go home and prepare for the next day’s rehearsal. The performers are still there, working with full attention on their personal physical scores. During the long working day we train, physically and vocally, we improvise, we sing, we develop complex physical images, we rehearse scenes, we develop personal elements of performance, we work on physical characterisation, we dance wildly….. . In the evenings there is always line-learning or remembering the details of physical scores. It is gruelling work, requiring the full attention of the self on every aspect of our psychic and physical being. It is emotionally tough, physically tough and gloriously relentless. How did actors get the reputation of being somehow lazy or self-indulgent?

And fear? Yes there is fear. Each of us has our own fears and only some of them do we share with one another. I find myself up against old and ingrained habits which I desperately want and need to break. Though my work as a director is generally ‘experimental’ (unless I’m working to a specific directorial brief), nonetheless I have a strong desire to ‘please’ my audience. Often that comes at the expense of ‘pleasing’ myself – or rather I should say, at the expense of following my vision or instinct. Perhaps I do not trust my instinct enough. Perhaps I am afraid that I am too strange, too idiosyncratic and so instead of making the work that I really want to, I make work that I think the audience wants to see. Generally that’s successful enough as a strategy – people mainly like the work I make. But….. What if I really follow my vision through to it’s logical conclusions? What if I did not seek the approval of the audience but instead do what I really admire in others – pursue a vision and allow those who like it to like it, and those who don’t, not to. What if I really work as an artist (pursuing a vision), not as an entertainer (seeking approval from an audience)? There is no value judgement implicit in those two terms – both artist and entertainer are to be respected for both do difficult jobs – but they are, sometimes, different jobs. So my fear is of risking disapproval from my audience by pursuing my vision rather than second-guessing what I think those who will come to see the show will want to see.

Excitement. Disicplined work. Fear.

In training performers I ask that they boldly confront, embrace and work through their fears to realise the untapped potential they possess as artists. As we enter the crucial stage of development of “The Shattering Man’ do I have the courage to do that too?


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