Re-Writing Grotowski

As I start writing this blog, my predominant emotion is curiosity.  I'm wondering how you feel as you begin reading it.  Specifically, I'm curious how you feel about Grotowski.  He has always been a divisive figure in the world of theatre and performance, from his first days in the international spotlight in the early 1960's.  He seems to invoke either adulation, or outright rejection.  Richard Shechner famously called him "shape-shifter, shaman, trickster, artist, adept, director, leader".  If you would like to satisfy my curiosity, and tell me how you feel about Grotowski, I have outlined ways of doing that further on.

At the beginning of the build-up of his international reputation, Grotowski was still a youthful director, just 30 years old.  He was bursting with ideas that challenged mainstream theatre and mainstream culture, and he was desperately trying to keep afloat a small experimental theatre company, in a small parochial …

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Fishamble's 'Silent' by Pat Kinevane making its London debut at Soho Theatre

Fishamble: The New Play Company was in New York, presenting Pat Kinevane’s first solo play, Forgotten, when Pat came to us with an idea for a new play.   He wanted to write about homelessness and mental health, and the silence that often surrounds these issues. I knew that his passion for the subject matter, and his anger at how people who need help can often be ignored, would drive Silent.  I also knew that Pat’s wicked sense of humour and highly theatrical imagination would ensure that the play did not become too serious or worthy.  Throughout rehearsals and performances, we have tried to create a piece of theatre that engages very directly with the audience, is challenging and provocative, funny and moving, physical and inventive.

Silent tells the story of Tino McGoldrig, a man from the small Irish town of Cobh but living in Dublin, who is called after Rudolph Valentino (‘Rudolph would have been a disaster in Cobh’). …

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Moving from rehearsal to performance

I recently directed Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory of Water for an MA final production, and once we’d done all the basics and established the imaginary world of the play and the actors began to embody the characters vocally and physically, as always another challenge presented itself: How to make the transition from rehearsal space to theatre? How to communicate with the audience without losing connection between the actors?

   Our rehearsal space was actually quite large, but the Guildford theatre we were to play in was substantially larger with over 170 seats and a difficult acoustic. We’ve all seen performances that didn’t make the transition into the theatre, lacking energy, clarity and a reach beyond the first row of the audience. I knew the venue could be difficult, so prepared well in advance of the Tech and Dress rehearsals because, as usual, we weren’t able to get into the theatre for any rehearsal before this time.

   First …

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Physical and Vocal Expression and Integration

Physical and vocal expression and integration

I last wrote a piece on directing Measure for Measure and the importance of first using imagination to explore the circumstances and action, and using the imagery and metaphor of the language to give full expression to that imaginary world. As Stanislavski made clear, we go from the text to the subtext and back to the text, where the subtext means all the given or imagined previous circumstances, character background, relationships, thoughts and feelings etc. that give rise to the text from the writer’s and actor’s imaginary viewpoint.

Once we get into the later stages of rehearsal, we need to make certain that the imaginary world and  complexity of language are actually being communicated. Technical voice and movement work are not enough in themselves to achieve this. How often have we witnessed voice and physical skills being left in the skills classes?  Body and voice need to be fully integrated into the …

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Imagination and text

Imagination and text

I’ve just started directing Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with BA acting students. This coincides with the publication for Bloomsbury of my new books: Acting Stanislavski – A practical guide to Stanislavski’s approach and legacy, and, written with Christina Gutekunst, Voice into Acting – Integrating voice and the Stanislavski approach. One of the problems often encountered by actors is how to connect fully with text, circumstances, and action – not just intellectually, but in an integrated way with mind, body, imagination, senses, feelings and will – and we focus on this a lot in our books.

   What always strikes me whenever I start on a play, whether modern or classical, is that the vital key we need to unlock a text is not a degree in linguistics or a fascination with the technique of rhetorical devices but - imagination! Imagination opens the door to the imaginary world of the play created by the writer, and which …

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