I entered the first year of university not really knowing what to expect. Being the eldest; I wondered how I would fit in.
Would I be accepted by today’s youth and would I be able to let myself go and be part of the year, both on a professional and social level. These were genuine concerns, thankfully the structure of the course stripped us down and put us in a place where we were all equal; we had to forget about the outside world.
How I stand in the street is not how I stand in workshops or the stage. I was to become a neutral figure, stripped of habit and traits. We started to build, to find ourselves as performers, and with that our roles with in the group.
The games that we played in the first few weeks were just an agent, the rules of the game were not specific and it was up to you to bend them and break them and open your mind in order to be successful.
The point was not to effortlessly roll a ball to a person and receive it, but to develop concentration, build personal discipline and trust in others that you can then take to the stage.
It’s not only games that have rules, we as people do, and we are bound by them.
In the first term the object was all about discovering our limitations and finding the point to which you say “I can’t do that” and then breaking through it, developing, physically and mentally moving forward as a performer, a thinker and an artist.
The games helped me to let go of any inhibitions I had, in particular activities that required me to be extremely close to relative strangers.
Looking back at our time playing games as a company, the members of the group who invested and committed, are in my opinion the same people who have created the best work, or at least strived to do so.
I have always enjoyed collaborating and being part of a well-oiled, tight ensemble, so naturally I was excited by the devising project. However on a personal level I found this project very difficult, much time was wasted talking about external projects and activities.
I felt I was treading a thin line between wanting to get our heads down and concentrate and work with the task in hand without out-casting myself as the group nag.
I found the project to be a constant juggling act, we had undoubted talent and creativity in the group, but as part of the package came big egos.
I found the best way was to lead from behind, I was pleased with myself that I had the personal recourses and patients to organise the group in a professional and harmonious manor.
As much as I found the Empty Space and Devising projects a personal struggle approaches to character was a joy.
I was to learn the art of being somebody else, make others believe that I am that person, to have his hopes, fears, joys and disappointments.
I would soon learn that this is not the art of pretending, it’s the search for truth – as Stanislavsky says ‘the more you have of conscious and creative moments in your role the more chance you will have of a flow of inspiration. To play truly means to be right, logical, coherent, to think, strive, feel and act in unison with your role (Stanislavski, an actor’s handbook, p149-150)
The module was called ‘Approaches to Character’ but it was so much more.
Before I could begin to understand the hopes and dreams of my character Claudio, I would have to understand the written text. ‘In life, feelings are in search for words; on stage, words are in search of feelings.” (Stanislavsky, Method.vtheatre.net/breakdown.html)
I understand that Shakespeare was a genius and that he is regarded by some as the greatest play write of all time; but I did not understand his plays. The depth and detail of the learning in this project has taken me to a new level of Shakespearean respect and understanding.
I was stunned at the exact nature of the text, each word was organic and precise – nothing thrown in or added for good measure.
When I reflect on the approaches to character module I would have liked to have taken that extra bit of time to work on my character, to engage with the lessons we had learned in the early stages of university, primarily ‘Le Coqs seven stages of tension’.
I feel that would have helped build a blue print of the scene and allow me to navigate through my emotions with more control and precision.
My first year at university has opened my mind and broadened my gaze to a new world of devising, character and collaboration. The idea that you can take such a simple idea as ‘The Ice Man’ (By Complicite) or a day at the Tate Modern and a newspaper to create a piece of theatre, with depth, structure, truth and Character is staggering.
There is no need for a grand stage and lights to perform on. We can use our bodies, nature and the streets.
As much as it has shown me what I can achieve it has also taught me of how much more I have to learn, in fact the more I learn the more I realise I don’t know, but rather than deter me, this inspires me.
Names the have sprung through our lectures and workshops such as, Brecht, Le Coq, Berkoff, Stanislavski and many more, despite being legends of their fields and having such a huge impact on the theatrical world all died (or will in Berkoff’s case) wanting to know more.
During theatre histories lectures you realise that we are part of an ancient tradition, from the Greeks through Shakespeare, Brecht, right up until the present day people have been performing, but very few can be thought of as legends of the arts. There are few shining beacons through history that have bent the light and changed the face of theatre, this ever evolving art form is always searching for the next person to come and evolve the engine that drives theatre forward. As quoted by Brecht “Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” (goodreads.com)
I have realised that to become even a small cog in that machine dragging thousands of years of history in its wake you have to be committed and immersed in the arts.
Looking forward to the second and third years, I know that I have to be more of a theoretical scholar if I’m going to maximise my learning potential. At times I have taken on too many practical commitments inside and outside of university and they have limited my time for reading, watching live performance and PDP.
My aim is to spend a longer period of time on my essays and theory studies which I believe will enrich me as a performer and give me a greater chance to succeed in the business.
Merlin,B.2001. Beyond Stanislavsky. Nick Hern Books LTD.London
Milling,J and D.2006.Devising Performance,Palgrave and Macmillen.
Stanislavsky,C. 1963. An Actors Handbook. Theatre Art Books.