Over the past few weeks I have been looking into various directing processes and techniques that could fit into my own practice. With very little experience of theatre directing I was starting from the very beginning hoping to find some little gems of information that for one would suit my practice, and two offered a different way to explore the creative process.
I began with the director Declan Donnellan, artistic director of Cheek By Jowl who’s show I had seen at Warwick Arts Centre. The aspect I identified most within his writings was his focus on space both in the rehearsal room and within text allows both the actors and audience to take an outside perspective with the ability to view from the inside of a character as well. This he achieves by ridding himself and the creative process of assumptions, allowing for a freer experience. This open mentality to working with actors and their characters gave me an insight into a possible way that I could approach devising theatre as a director. That I can have an open conversation with the performers to speak objectively about who each of the characters are and how they fit within their own individual identities.
I then visited Glenn Noble to discuss his process within long form improvisation and his work as a director. With the same mentality as Donnellan’s, Noble prefers to take a step back and allow the performers to explore ideas and collaboratively create together as an ensemble. Working more with improvisation than with classic text like Donnellan, Noble creates a storyboard as a visual stimulus for all creatives, while leaving everything else to practical exploration. The idea of director as facilitator rather than authority is Noble’s directing technique and I have found it could fit incredibly well into my own practice. I truly identified with the role of facilitator, as it leaves so much room for a genuine collaborative process and allows others access to creative authority. Both space and facilitation are terms and ideas I will continue to explore within my own practice either as a director or choreographer.
Movement directing began as a workshop with both dancers and fellow actors in two separate sessions. Working on the task ‘everyday hands’ and an extra exercise with the dancers. Initially I thought it would be different working with dancers and actors as their focuses are on two separate ideas, however with the help of the tasks that I used to create this movement I had very similar experiences. My worry was that these tasks would not prove to be enough to stimulate anything interesting. On the contrary, the simplicity of the exercise opened a creativity that allowed both the dancers and actors to leave their experience behind them and create from a purely non-theatrical point.
The only issue I had with both workshops was that I had very little time with them, we were on a very strict time schedule and I had to finish things up very quickly. This meant I could not explore the tasks as far as I would have wanted. I wonder now what would have happened if I had pushed them further, or began to play with subtext. We only hit the superficial outside layer of the process. Everyone was completely on board and very responsive to the directions, which made the process efficient and fast.
I have learnt these simple tasks are a fantastic way to begin generating movement and to settle your mind into the process. I can also envision choreographically, these types of tasks would be great to utilise if one has hit a creative block. To start from things you know is a safe and understandable place to begin, that allows the imagination to start from somewhere solid rather than an abstract idea. This way of working is a direction I would like to head into for future developments. I am fascinated with collaboratively working with both actors and dancers and believe this process is an accessible way to link both disciplines seamlessly.
Potential For Movement
The potential for movement is the idea of the rise in suspense within both movement and text that are the moments of silence and stillness that make the audience cry out for the finishing action. I Explored this mentality through both personal studio play, and live theatre shows. When I began examining this concept, I was only focused on how it fits into movement and found examples in works by Pina Bausch’s ‘Fall Dance’. But after having seen The Winter’s Tale a Shakespearean play, I noticed that this use of silence to build suspense is used throughout the entire show and more importantly used in any performance, only I had not been able to express it as a solid concept until now.
Through my studio play I developed the use of stillness, but also wanted to see whether it produced the same effect if it was taken away and all movement continuously fed into the next. What I found was that these small moments of stillness are imperative to any moment in theatre, without them there is no variation of pace and speed. This example was produced in the Belgrade Youth Company of Rise, and was the most important element that was missing from their production. Pace I have discovered is the crux of this mentality, for a story to continue from start to finish constantly moving at the same speed leaves no surprise for an audience. This has affected how I watch and analyse any form of theatre, I am so aware of the pace and whether they are continuously playing around with dynamics and speed in both movement and text. It will also direct how I create theatre in the future, as I now have an understanding of its importance I will be so aware of whether it is missing from a moment.