It’s all about me…. it’s all about me baby.

IMG_0080The above title needs to be sang to the tune of the popular Mcfly tune ‘It’s all about you…’

Just as many a painter has practised their craft reproducing images of their face and body and singer/song writers have sung a life that feels familiar to you in lyrics and melody; so the performer has a canvas and aria of their own. A life lived; no matter how, can produce material for a performance.

I remember an exercise that I took part in at drama school many moons ago that involved just such a moment. The task quite simply was to tell a story of something that had happened to you. The memory that sprung to mind on this occasion was the day I avoided death with a few scatches. I recalled this memory to my group, going into the details of the event.

I was six seven or perhaps a little younger. It was week night. I know this because mum was downstairs watching Coronation Street. My brother and I should have been asleep but we were playing ‘shops’. She wasn’t aware we were still awake as we were jumping from the tall boy chest of draws under the window to the bed. It was warm and still light at 7o clockish outside. I opened the window in the bedroom and my brother and me continued playing our ‘let’s pretend’ game. There was a point when Paul, my younger sibling exited the room to search for more ‘shopping’ in my room. It was then that I sat in the windowsill and went to lean on the pane. Much to my shock I fell through the open window and time slowed as gravity did its thing and I went down,down,down.

It was only a first story bedroom so I suppose not that far and I was lucky; completely avoiding the rockery below. I landed with a thud that knocked the wind out of me. My bare feet landed in the muck and my bum on the lawn. I’m not sure how long I lay on the edge of the grass like that but I did get up and took myself to our back door. It was locked, my dad was at work and mum wasn’t expecting any visitors so I had to knock on the door. Waiting for the door to open seemed to take for ever and I truly wish I could recall the look on my mothers face as she seen me standing there. When she asked me how I got there all I could do was point to the window and cry. Up to that point I hadn’t cried… there was more to the evening as neighbours came round and mum had to go to a neighbour to ring for an ambulance and it was quite an event in my mothers life and mine. I got to watch this moment unfold during this short exercise at drama school as my group recreated the moment. The twist to the exercise was that I couldn’t be me and so my part was performed by someone who could only imagine what I thought and what I felt.

I’m sure there are countless episodes in people’s lives like these and all worthy of recounting. To perform something autobiographical as a performer seems an instinctive thing to do. After all it is a way to explore the effects the world has had upon you. To explore the emotions of what made you react like that or make observations that are useful in being able to store to that ’emotion memory’.

For tackling autobiographical work I have seen many productions that use direct address; it’s  a simple and truthful way to approach it. There are many ways to approach it and removing yourself slightly from the event and being able to collaborate and get ideas on what other perspectives could be very useful. I say this as I recall a piece that I did during my HND studies. I poured my heart and soul into something that was a hugely traumatic part of my past. My lecturer told me at the time that it was ‘Self Absorbed’ and I don’t think to this day I truly understand what she meant. I don’t even think it was a criticism. Looking back I found movement, monologue and tried to create a stylised set with what we could, even a Eddie Brickell track that seemed to tell my story for me. If I had the chance again I would get direction and ideas from others to provide me with that essential eye to provide a lens on what you cannot see yourself. As above all even thought is about me there needs to be a truth in the telling which can be lost in the truth of what we remember as it is personal. There will be a connection with the audience, others will have experienced life changing events also.

Regarding the near window experience It would be great to explore that moment, the childhood activity to the falling from the window. What would be the soundtrack?How could I use the set and stage to explore this. Just like in the exercise we did at drama school, It would be interesting to see the interpretation of another performer bring that moment into the present. To use physicality and the frantic build blocks that work with movement and create that fall. The possibilities are endless. The autobiographical journey can be fearful to reveal things about yourself and fun to give life to a moment once past. I think as a performer we have all looked at potential moments that could be part of a story even if it’s not all about me.

The cake analogy

So now something close to everyone’s heart, cake!

The cake analogy  is very simple concept and I’m sure I’m probably not alone in using it. The idea of that students are given the Same basic ingredients to produce something. Let’s call it a cake for now.

You have the right equipment and you are set up ready to go with an idea of what you want your cake to look and taste like and there is a time frame in which all this needs to happen. You have Flour, eggs, milk, butter and bowl. The oven is on, the timer is set. You have the tin in which to put the mixed ingredients or maybe paper cases for lots of little cakes with the same ingredients.

How does that cake turn out? If you follow a certain recipe and make sure you have got all the instructions right your  cake should be light and fluffy in texture, sweet to taste and give you a moments of pleasure as you take a slice and eat it. Maybe it will make you want more, if done right.

What happens if you leave it in the oven too long?

What if there is a key ingredient missing or you missed out a vital part of the process in the mixing of the ingredients?

will it taste as good? Will you want any more?

Too much sugar, not fluffy but stodgy- the analogy could continue.

I am of course trying to break down the practise of rehearsal for devising drama and collaborative theatre making. The point I am try to make for my students when I start down the cake route is not just the fact that I like cake. But ultimately given the right ingredients and tools and equipment. For drama; acting , character skills, staging, time frame, stimulus, drama conventional and techniques. A chance to discuss, decide and then do. They should be able to attempt a presentation together. These basic cakes are also just the starting point. They maybe perfect as they are but there are also many toppings and fillings they can add. Icing, decoration and many other options there maybe in the patisserie of life.

the plain and simple cake may suit the pallet as much as the chocolate ganache filled one and of course some cakes may look great but when you really bite into them they can be disappointing-something is missing.

SO the idea that theatre is a massive cake, it’s not for everyone but most people like cake!

You want your audience to be sitting forward, not sitting back.

During our two weeks with Frantic assembly aspart of our introduction to Collaborative theatre making we got to meet some of the artistes that have and do collaborate with Frantic and others as part of making theatre. They werepivotal in understanding that it doesn’t matter how successful they were, they were human and fallible. Adrian Sutton was a hugely personable speaker, humble and very down to earth given his success. As a composer who can put the soundtrack of well known productions such as ‘Warhorse, and ‘Curious incident of the dog in the nighttime’ as part of his portfolio, he was open and very honest in his dialogue with us about his career and how he works.

Adrian started with a great approach, he set up a clip of Warhorse played with 5 different soundtracks to accompany the scene. This was a leading exercise  in seeing how important the soundtrack is within a piece and what that music adds to the scene. It certainly highlighted the influence and powerful subtext that music has on the overall context and meaning that is conveyed to an audience.

Adrian discussed the idea of the rehearsal room being a safe place as fear can lead to paralysis. Being able to see something that didn’t work was something that could have a positive perspective, after all not everything can be premeditated.

It was interesting to see where a composer starts in the collaborative process and the information they need to get to the heart of the subtext that needs to be invoked. Adrian said for him it can be the theme of the story, Warhorse for instance there is a definite essence of human suffering. It can also be the central character. Adrian spoke of the struggles he had with ‘Curious incident’ until he realised that it was about the main character and that ‘he’ was the key to him being able to unravel what the audience needs to understand about that character. Adrian talked about how music can characterise quirky things, traits, idiosyncrasies about a character. Adrian found his way in for the main character of Christopher in ‘Curious Incident’  through the character’s love of numbers and counting as it was also his autistic nature that was part of the story. ” Music was the centre of his universe ” Adrian had to get inside the characters head. When we explore the actors role, this is something that you would very much expect to hear about how an actor gets into character and how they would approach the part they were playing. So this was surprising to see how this was just as useful a part of the process for the composer as an actor or director.

Another key thing that came across was that it was essential that a soundtrack didn’t duplicate information (Mickey Mousing) telling us something that we already knew. The music should unearth something that is going on, something that is not being conveyed by the actors or text. “You want your audience to be sitting forward not sitting back”, this was a phrase that came up time and time again in the mantra of theatre collaboration. It was something that clearly mattered to Adrian and he was clear in emphasising the idea that absence of sound was very important too.

I learned that there is a danger that if you  can overstimulate the human brain. The rule of 2 and  a 1/2 , something to do with 2 elements being blended is a technique that works but when you start looking at doing more than that it will become a mishmash. You have to be able to hear the actors and you can start with an idea that is small and simple and just give it clarity. I really understood that that we need to be ruthless and we have to serve the drama. Adrian ended his session with a Sondheim quote that went something like this… ” If you can take the song away from the scene and nothing changes, then the song never belonged there.”

Adrian was clear in his overall message to us, yes he has a catalogue of work but what he wants for his work is not to be rough and ready but to have clarity. I really got the underlying sense of his ability to give space and trust his  collaborators and to invite people in. He told us that the best directors were the ones who could tell him what the play is about as he needs to know what motivates the main character. Music has the power to influence scenes and it can get misunderstood.

Time for a little analogy..

As the time draws on a pace and the another week is almost drawing to a close I have continued to change key vocabulary when practising in the class room. It is interesting as it is a simple change to begin with. Establishing the values of  what the warm up achieves and getting student s to recognise the value themselves. This week the focus has shifted slightly in letting students  make their attempts at creating pieces of work and putting their ideas together to how to move onto what happens between the attempt and the presentation.

We spent an exercise with Simon during the introductory course on the MA in collaborative theatre making, cogitating and discussing what order this sort of process might take. I didn’t do the same with my students but I asked them what they thought would happen between the two . It was good for them to explore their vocabulary with ‘rectify’and ‘improve’and ‘practise’. I stuck consolidate in there and let them fathom out the meaning of that. I also made a point of sticking with the word ‘presentation’. Explaining that it wasn’t a performance they were necessary putting together, but this was another opportunity to run through their ideas. The pressure wasn’t on performing, of course if they were fully committed to their ideas then a performance is something we might get but I felt it was really important to let them know this was another stage that was open to change, improvement and further developments.

using these key words and terminology seems simple and I am looking to gauge a difference in the rehearsal room in the coming weeks. At the moment it seems too early to tell?

I have to at this point share one of my little classroom analogies, occasionally I’ll find myself going along that root in class. They pop out quite unexpected and they can also be a useful tool and getting a class to visualise what it is they need to do to be making progress. My most recent one is the little green ball. I demonstrate holding the ball in my hand and saying what happens if I go bonkers and just chuck it anywhere with as much force as I can. I mimic the ball bouncing off the wall and ceiling, maybe even careening off a few heads and bodies along the way, adding a few sound effects for emphasis.

Then of course we have the little or no effort in throwing the ball so that it drops to the floor and just makes a couple of dull bounces until it comes to a standstill at your feet.

And finally where I have focus and direction, I take aim I throw the ball it can be caught and then the next person can follow. The whole enjoyment and building of skills is built on the effort that goes into the ball. The ball is not a ball it’s the  the work in the room but the effort is key. The work will fall dully to the floor and stay there if there is no attempt made to generate ideas and work well together. Equally there will  be no direction or focus if you come at it from all angles chucking it around the room. Maintaining focus and skill and the right amount of effort keeps that work moving around, fresh and if you do drop the ball at anytime anyone can go get that ball and bring it back in to play. Surely  that’s collaboration .


‘I love silence and stillness on stage…it concentrates our gaze on the characters whose stories they tell’ Simon Stephens.

So now it is time to start thinking where I need to direct my gaze…

As a teacher and youth theatre director it is very easy in some respect to see how I can best utilise my new knowledge or practise my ideas. It is fascinating to explore the practical elements that I have taken part in and start to engage with this and development the skills of those I work with daily/weekly. One: it keeps it all alive and in the memory and two: it leads on to being able to share in the experience and perhaps stimulating a discovery That will be of creative value.

I recognised the value in this when talking to Scott and Simon in my check in with them. I spoke about the opportunity I had between the two weeks to work with my youth theatre and how in an improvisation task I had set them off on before my MA introductory course with Frantic I was now able to take the exercise and experiment with some new material.

The improvisation in its self was a fun task, they had played with status but not really fulfilled the brief of applying the numbers I had given them. Also it became manic, there was no focus. I had let them play it out without really giving too much other direction other than maybe to spotlight any key moments but once the spotlight had gone it descended into chaos once more with none of the performers really able to find some key moments.

Having started off the following session with Hymn Hands and Round,by,through the students had to find focus in the putting together of the string of materiel and trying to remember the actions, when we played about with them we came up with relationships and information about the characters some then put these into that cafe scene. It was an altogether different experience. Having to remember  the moves gave them a deeper focus, it wasn’t just “I have got to perform and be loud or funny !”

Scott said this was a good opportunity for me but not just a case of thinking how I can use this with others but to be ‘selfish’ and find ways of developing how I can benefit from these exercises too. How I can start to direct with more detail.

The chat with Simon and Scott was really to touch base with. I think overall the two weeks highlighted insecurities with not being able to have that outside eye when actually involved in practical exercises. ‘Was I as good as everyone else seemed to be when modelling work?’  Vanity on some level, feeling that bit older and frumpier. But a real sense of insecurity none the less. I also spoke to Scott and Simon about the pressures of the academic side of the course and how also there were insecurities there also but mainly in trying to get my head around the  wordiness of the books and information that I am trying to absorb. So as part of my study I am trying to build on knowledge of other practioners, already there are avenues of exploration that is an absolute must as part of the written work but also these books and their authors lead us to explore other people, authors and other practioners whose work and experiences may open up connections with what I want to do and how I want to do it. Become a better director, know how to lead an actor to a place of discovery. Anne Bogart writes that a good director needs to give the actors breathing space and room. I want to know that I can do that too.

I’ve already talked about how I was happy with my fitness and the way I had undertaken a level of attack and felt myself through the week getting fitter. Even the other day the exhilaration I got from my work out at the gym in a group training class was still there. Luckily I am familiar with the instructor and we can have a laugh but I genuinely felt that motivation  and acted on it shouting ‘ Come on!’ And the odd ‘woo hoo’ I just felt the need to have that ‘ we can do this!’ vibe that we were encouraged to build in the rehearsal room. This is also part of my practise I want to instil and develop as part of my self study. Not just the team vibe but the way we get students to engage and use terminology. To get them thinking about the motivation they need in a class to be successful collaborators and to get their heads round using those phrases and key words. To see the importance of the warmup, how it highlights the way they may interact with each other. I want to get the ones who don’t or won’t engage and find how you can get them to feel this is a worthwhile investment, conditioning them, opening them up to be more considerate and responsive In their attitude to tasks and people. Creating  the right environment and how I develop my practise is important I often have great ideas but then the executing of those can be bogged down in administration and lack of quality time but if the right foundations are set there is something solid to build on and expand, the  course has made me realise that in the use of the devising blocks. And the ethos behind these can also be there in the classrooms. Even getting the students to see themselves as collaborators after all in its simplest form they can be an effective collaborator by listening to the ideas or instructions of others and performing the task.

So speaking to Andrea today has been helpful in highlighting a few things as Part of my self study. There have been a few things that occur to me frequently and it is good to review your own practise. One thing was to reintroduce music to my workshops. Seeing that the environments changes and it was something I had lost touch with. I perhaps need to listen to more music myself. It is often a source of great inspiration and opportunity. I went through a phase in the days of lime wire of illegally getting hold of music (shh don’t tell anyone) and in doing so discovered numerous artists I would never have listened to. I don’t listen to as much music as I would like and so this would be a great habit to get into. Perhaps cataloging artists and the style of music. I have already joined Spotify so Hopefully the app  can enhance  and build my digital technology awareness as well my music collection.

something else that I have been thinking about is what I will do on the advanced course. I have mentioned it  in part of the conversations that have cropped up and that is the idea of writing. To ‘Wright’a play.  This will certainly require me to see a bit more theatre and read more plays. Simply however just starting with some writing practise, of putting my ideas down and starting with some automatic writing perhaps. Or even blogging!!!!!

I have written plays in the past as I devised with groups and we would need scripts. Perhaps revisiting these and seeing their merit and look at ways I would improve them. I never thought of myself as a writer when creating these, but as something of a necessity when students needed to remember what had happened in rehearsals. Finding time to do this may be an issue so my thoughts also turn to organisation of time and thoughts. I need a process through which I can make clarity of all this. The way I collate my thoughts and how. Books, files, I don’t know yet this will be something that is part of my study. Only through possibly doing this will I be able to get on top of  developing some key strategies. And then it’s just getting it done!

I have generally learned more from my mistakes and my so called failures than any sucesses or instances of “being right” Anne Bogart



I am am missing my frantic mornings of sweating to chemical brothers as I endure and push myself to my physical limits. To engage with my colleagues in exploring new and revolutionary ways of devising and thinking  while we explore frantic building blocks, which have been utilised so effectively within all frantic productions. These having been born of a need to find a way to invest more deeply with in the story, to use imagery and movement that tells a tale using more than just the dialogue. And something I connect with totally and having spent these two weeks working with Scott (Graham),Simon (Pitman) and Neil (Bettles) I feel that I understand and can explore these concepts even further.

Looking  back over the fortnight, so much has been achieved. It was interesting reading the letter that we wrote to ourselves at the beginning of the first week. I was reading a letter from someone that had belief in me, and hopes and aspirations for me. I hadn’t remembered what I had written until seeing it again and thinking that this person can see what I need to do. Yet I don’t think I believed it when I wrote it, if I even wrote it with any conviction or were they just words that I needed to hear. And yes I certainly did. Seeing them and reading them again made them real. A concrete statement in crumbling conscience that is splintered with doubt.I wonder why sometimes it feels so hard to admit what makes me tick. It harks back to what Simon spoke about early in the first week about needing permission to call yourself an artist.

I have made so many more observations about my self since beginning the course. I am really chuffed at the way I can handle the physicality of the warmup and can be part of that team, the way I will have a go despite what ever doubts that may be going through my head.

It reminds me of when, in some of my most challenging days and emotional periods of my life I have used my fitness classes and yoga exercises as a way to free my mind. For when I was working hard physically I was able to find a restbite from the din that preoccupied my brain. The exertion gave a quietness and stillness to my thoughts as while I was busy keeping time or balancing on one leg,my thoughts couldn’t go elsewhere. It strikes a chord with me that this has come full circle and I can see how this can work in a dramatic way, regarding the brain and how it is able to see connections between characters and their untold story by creating the movement and situations first. How busy it gets inside my head when watching material that has been put together from a simple string of movements with no narrative and then can be coaxed and cajoled into revealing something that no one could have predicted and so it begins to find A life of it’s own.

A notable observation I have made this week is I feel fitter and better equipped when doing back to back classes at school and leading practical and energetic warmups. That I can engage my classes in the high energy, focused physicality is very important to promote key aspects of team work within the rehearsal room. It has also made me look at how the students approach the lesson and the way they engage with each other in the room. The class dynamic of each group varies so much and I can see that by promoting the sense that the warmup is a huge part of the collaboration in the room they can really start to build trusting relationships and the mind set of a student that is willing to have a go and be supportive of all those they work with….

I’m now starting to build on these thoughts and see what areas these two weeks have highlighted for me.

Certain outcomes I want to have gained and what has been revealed to me is that I need to admit to making mistakes, that it’s not always about being right, or having the right idea. I also need to focus on myself and developing my knowledge, see and do more, practise practise practise and prepare prepare prepare. Lose the lazy habits that have crept in and made me complacent…. I’m sure my list will get longer as I try to weave these ideas into what I want to do and how I want to do it and wondering all the while can I do it?

Unlike a book, the theatre has one special characteristic. It is always possible to start again….Peter Brook

Starting again has an interesting connotation. A chance to reevaluate, or remember what it was that made you want to do something in the first place and somewhere along the line you steer off course. Maybe you take the ‘crooked path’. Starting over may feel like you have failed at something and if anything should be taken away from our work with Scott, Neil and Simon and all the people we have spoken to who have collaborated with these guys is that there is nothing wrong in failing. Not trying is the problem, not testing things out may be the problem!

The cooked path is something we have hit on this week, it looks at the alternative journey that you take knowing that you want to get somewhere but maybe there are other directions, more interesting ones than if you just headed straight there because you think that is where you need to go.
At 42 years of age I would certainly say that my path has been crooked. When I look at my younger MA students I see myself 20 years ago. I see their creative spark, their thirst for knowledge and their yearning for an intellectual and inspired grasp on the world and an imaginative and groundbreaking way to tell their story. I know I still have that.
Trying to get my head around some of the aspects of this and what daunts me the most, I know I’m trying and I know I’m getting things wrong. I don’t know if I look right when I’m presenting my ideas and I have the age old concerns of looking fat and clumsy . But I’m normal, my doubts are natural. I think I hide them better with age or can shake them off abit quicker and try not to dwell on them for too long. The doubts still nag me. The critic, the voice in your head as Simon quite eloquently calls ‘the little fucker’likes to stick his ore in. The other voice being the witness and allowing you to take stock of what you do well and where you need to start over and re-evaluate your thinking or your methods.

This week has all been a build up to preparing us to work on the advanced part of the module. How projects get made.
Key points that came up are the simple starting points. Having the moments of clarity and realising that not all the stuff is there at the beginning. Taking us back to the crooked path again.
I remember some of my early work with my youth theatre and the drive and impetus I had to take a show to Edinburgh with them. They came from the simplistic ideas. And in some ways they worked and the show was, what it was at the time. There were some fabulous moments we achieved and the experience of taking that show and organising the event in itself was huge. I certainly know now however that I would approach these things in a different way. The initial spark however is still the same, but how I would explore that spark and ideas would be different. Exploring the possibilities in a style that has given me again the desire to create better, more meaningful pieces of theatre. Something that all involved feel they have an investment in.

Before we got our brief on Tuesday afternoon we played with more exercises that worked us as a group. Quad as a counting exercise which started to fuck with my head as I struggled with the beats and jumps and the whole multitasking thing. Something I get frustrated at but know I need to practise so that my brain can switch into the right mode. We looked at lifts and making people fly and played with the strops. A task that got us using straps so we could pull our partners and see what happened when you try something different. It can play about with the dimensions of the body make it stand or move in strange ways. How might this work in apiece? Frantic have used them in a couple of pieces to great effect. Creating characters that stand at odd angle on a set ‘The Believers’when they wanted the audience to get their sense of being out of kilter in the world because of the events that have turned their world on its side.
The crooked path is one that encourages you to try out these different approaches as the result may be one that yields more riches than if you try to get out all your ideas at once.
I think I do like to explore my ideas and I hope to think that I am a generous collaborator. In this sense there will be lots of space to generate ideas. I think during this process that I can be the one to steer things along too.

A task that we did was to look at how the process of putting a play together should/could be mapped out.
It was pointed out at the end of that task, that this was the first time that all of us has had the opportunity to work all together and how frustrated some of us got. I felt that I was one of those that did get frustrated I stood back for a while and as it seemed so obvious to me the order in which I would do things. But of course the operative word was I. However this wasn’t why I got frustrated. It was clear, apparent that there was a definitive beginning and end to the structure and there just seemed to be so much talking. Practically I just needed to say we know what the start and end of the process is can we move on to the middle. I got a chance to go through how I would structure it and I felt confident that this was right. However I could see the way that others worked was equally practical. This is the crooked path even there. As the only thing that really seem solid is the start and end… how you get there can be any route, development will happen. Some ways will need more direction though, so this falls back to the point that was made that in the collaborative process there will still be a hierarchy, it would be necessary. I was prepared to jump in and go through my process really quite quickly. I think the group could have talked and moved bits of paper, talking about the benefit of putting one action over the other for more time. And time once rehearsals begin will be very valuable.
It was very illuminating to hear how others structured the process, and I liked the thought Nicola put out there and very generously said how she knew her answer, but she didn’t know others and that she wanted to see how others minds worked because that was fascinating. Watching us work in that group also alerted her to people that she wouldn’t want to work with.
And so a little mantra that might work for a successful collaborators is to be Generous unto others
Sensitive as we are all fragile
Respecting others as we deserve respect
Resprocity breeds resprocity….
And here Endeth the lesson …

A weekend to reflect….

So Friday brought about another day of physical realisation, having worked hard all week and Felt the burn and the pain and cramps setting in in the evenings, the body was getting used the the demands being put upon it. Now it was the turn of the mind. We worked very quickly with Simon this morning and having seen BeautfulBurnout, watched it in parts and even broken down some of the movement with Scott earlier on through the week and looked at how they tackled the process of creating the physicality of the boxer it was our turn to put that into some choreography. We worked swiftly following the routine that Simon had put together, using the music, starting and a reasonable bpm while just linking each move together and then bringing the speed up.
It I was tough, programming the mind, working at such speed. In essence however we as a group worked impressively hard. I don’t think this would have been achievable in twice the time, if we had tackled this say at the beginning of the week. Had there been a moment where Simon had decided to do this with us early on even to give us an idea of where they were coming from and what you might expect from a piece of frantic choreography, I think the engagement part would have been lost on us. We may have got up to speed, we may have committed to the idea, maybe. However I think it is important to recognise that as group we had now got behind the process and ideas of where movement can start.
I still made mistakes and I had to check myself with what came next, this was the mind that needed more training, I know if we had spent another 10/20 minutes then I would have nailed it completely and the group would have had the complete unison that we were looking for. What was important in this was how quickly and succinctly we were able to work with the movement. It wasn’t just a dance routine.

Simon Stephens was our guest speaker and it was interesting to get his perspective as a writer from a collaborative point of view. He spoke about how the position of the writer can be problematic when he is in the room with the actors. It can cause a paralysis that means the actors are unable to interrogate and investigate the text. Which is a key part when working collaboratively.
It was very interesting to see how he, even as successful as he maybe has doubts and has to try things out. He clearly defined the essential tool with any partnerships when working together was trust. I got from this that it was vital ingredient and certainly worked in two ways. The idea of the playwright handing his work over to the actors and directors etc and they in turn listening to each other and how they approach the work.simon really went a length not to describe himself as writer but a wright, like a shipwrights, some one of craft who builds something. He just happens to use words but he embarks on something that is solid and needs trying out. A ship has to have voyage I suppose and there needs to a moment to see if she is seaworthy and not sink to use that analogy further.

There always has to be a spark, this can be an idea from a director and taking to a playwright or vice versa. What was apparent and at the essential heart of beginning work was how much of the self is invested. There needs to be a question asked of what ever topic is the starting point. The offer and the response to use some of the frantic vocabulary: what frightens me? What gives me hope? What makes me angry? What makes me feel shame?
To create interesting characters, those with empathy or those who can’t empathise for example.

Another thing that stood out to me was that outward eye, that even a writer who has set out with these ideas and characters in place and can create or write about a situation, to give Simons example a story he thought was about a young girls yearning to leave home and that had a euphoric sense of adventure to him, when he came to a read through with the director, she pointed out to him that he mentions the word death 53 times and so the director has a completely different perspective. So in terms of how they approach this could be completely different and that it was good for that other eye to challenge what is written and find the space to show the things that are not being spoken and told to the audience but to look for the subversive ideas that breathe life into the characters..

Over the weekend I got a chance to practise on my youth theatre some of the tools that we had been looking at. It is something we have looked at before and it was really good to come back to this week as last week we had started to play around with an improvisation set in a cafe. I had given them number and asked them to play status rather than situation. It all a bit chaotic at points but interesting to see how they used their status when I imposed a situation on them. It was busy with people speaking and getting ‘coffee’from the harassed waiters behind the counter, there was no attempt at real relationships or conversation. We spotlighted a few moment and tried to give them the opportunity to have the lens on them and then see what happened when they we no longer in focus. We played at it for over 30 minutes and it was good fun but certainly nothing but really substantial came from it in terms of story or characters. This week I revisited it after explaining to them the principals of two of the devising blocks, hymn hands and round,by,through. They were given a fair amount of time to get them to memory and then we watched them back playing around with the focus and the speed of each one.
They made really lovely observations of the work when performed for each other. They saw a narrative in the movement despite the fact that they were told not to play any narrative. It came from the music and the outside direction that was added to the movement, they could see the events and ideas and relationships forming. They struggled when first asked to look at them straight and then see what was added by a change in music or speed or focus. It was one of my youngest members that was the first to engage with what was his interpretation from the moves and my assistant commented on that it was some of the most interesting work they had done. She had never seen them so focused. The music really helped too. Having found my old iPod I put it to good use, it was something I used to do and use all the time but had gotten lazy within the rehearsals space unless we were using a particular song or sound for rehearsals but it made such a difference to the way, whether they were aware of it or not of how they engaged with the tasks…

Day all 4 one and one 4 all…

Today I found very revealing about myself and flagged up some things I hadn’t realised about myself. Or maybe I had but it was still a surprise even a shock at my response to one of the task that we were asked to do.

Towards the end of the day after what had been a truly excellent practical session, that worked us hard as a group challenging our physicality and strength, stretching out our bodies after 3 days of physical exertion.
After all the intricacies involved with working on blindness on hand and chair duets. I’ll come to those later. We returned to look at the statements we had wrote about ourselves and our partners from Tuesday afternoon.

This hadn’t been an easy task. I think it is always hard to describe yourself as an artist which was what we had been given permission to do and after all we had the right to do it. We are all on this course to make collaborative theatre after all. But still sometimes trying to put your ideas and fancies and aspirations onto paper can make you sound like a bit of a pretentious twat. The group were all in agreement with this, we found it difficult. The task however was done and suddenly didn’t feel like such a climb. We listened in our pairs to each other and then had the task to take our partners words and write a statement for them using what we had heard. Again this wasn’t easy but during the task we had just the job to listen and to absorb what it was about our partners that they really cared about. So at the end of today we now had the statements we had written and revisited first our own statement, reading it aloud to ourselves and then revealing to our partner what we wrote about them.

So what I wrote about me:
I am an artist, at teacher,a developer of ideas- someone who supports and cajoles and believes that there is a attitude to life that needs to be nurtured.
To take what I do into words can be literal, I teach. Sometimes I do it well. Sometimes I get frustrated but the aim is to create stories together. It maybe something that is hard/emotional or it can be trivial and fun. I do it for those moments when years later someone will say I went to drama school because of you. I found my confidence because of you. I do it because I have ideas and energy and it needs somewhere to go.

What was written for me:

She is a teacher, an actor, a creator of worlds. She is passionate about creating a lasting effect on those that she teaches- one that will take them through life with a new confidence or lead them down a path of creation that they would have otherwise felt/thought impossible.
She is interested in creating work,exploring pain but also interested in the banal. She lives to inspire- leave a creative legacy amongst others.

There was definitely a warm fuzzy moment and my partner also said how well I had caught her thoughts and essence, I suppose. Having heard back your own ideas of yourself but reinforced by someone else in their words for you; A translation of yourself, made it feel like it really was ok to describe yourself in these artistic terms.
What was good is that in doing this we had ‘sifted’ to use a phrase by another in the group, a lot of the unnecessary and found the gold. In just listening to our partners we could focus on the highlights. We were able to absorb.

Following on from this however was the most unexpected moment. We went back to the questions we answered about various things. The question starters like. I want to…
I believe…
We just started to read ours out going round in the circle. It was really interesting getting to know people that bit more, see them more in depth. I
felt I had been that as in depth with my responses but there was no right or wrong answers to these questions. I could connect with all of the answers people gave, there was a common factor within all of our responses.
As I read through mine, which were succinct and sometimes simplistic there was one line that started; People don’t often realise… to which I finished off I’m insecure and sensitive.
It was true and so that’s what I put, but saying out loud had a profound reaction. I suddenly became very aware of how true it was and here I was saying it out loud. Was I embarrassed? I felt flushed and I felt my voice breaking for which I fought really hard to gain control over again. My ears were hot I knew my eyes were watering as I kept my head down and continued to read through the sheet of answers. I hadn’t expected to react that way. I know what I had written, I had no problem writing it or reading it to myself but saying out loud for the room to hear… such a discovery and not one I’m sure I have fully understood. We continued around the room and I heard many other things I wish I had said. And there were others too that found a personal struggle. It was fine though. Having used the week like we had, being in the space with each other , touching each other’s bodies getting on with what was expected as part of the frantic workshops it just makes me think about the clarity of how words and simple things can have such a strong resonance. I was in a safe place to say these things and even at my age there are things I still haven’t grown a tough skin for to hide from the world. But in exploring relationships and the world around us it certainly helps to understand how we function ourselves if we want to explore the complexity of lives and situations of others.

Day 3 and it’s time to chew the fat.

With a serious lack of cheese on the nachos it’s good to sit and digest the past couple of days over a couple of beers in a London tavern… OK it’s tiger tiger in picadadily circus but but the ethos is the same. The idea of sharing ideas and thoughts with a fellow Ma student is comforting.
Seeing where we have been what we have done and how we have both ended up doing a course like this. It’s been a gruelling and tiring couple of days. I spoke a bout fitness yesterday but it is also a mindset. You can get bogged down in why your body won’t respond but what happens when your brain just doesn’t want to play either?
Among other things we played with hymn hands today. A devising tool that frantic developed when working on Hymns. A very simple concept to.put together a string of moves by placing hands on yourself or your partner. playing with speed and getting down the moved the idea there is no narrative to the movements. I struggled with this in terms of really trying to remember the moves and allowing the muscle memory to take over. It was OK I got the sequence but was disappointed that I just never really synced the brain with the rask. I don’t think it was because I was thinking too hard but just what I like to call my baby brain. The need to retain the moves or information for more than a nanosecond. So something I definitely need to improve on. An will get better at. Reminds me when I first attended step classes and could have cried because my legs wouldn’t respond and my brain was being a that. The minute I gave into the music and stopped thinking about it it all became easier. So I hope the same switch will click.