Sunday, November 16, 2008

Animals and Psychosis

This was a very busy week followed by an even busier weekend. We filled the whole week with rehearsals, classes and seminars in Lecoq’s movement training and Alexander Technique.

What is Lecoq you ask? Well, it’s French for put a mask on your face and move! Jacques Lecoq developed a method of movement and physical theatre that is greatly respected and celebrated. Lecoq’s widow; Fay and son; François of The Jacques Lecoq International Theatre School in Paris were teaching at RSAMD this past week. The technique is very physical and uses mime, clown and mask work. I had heard of Lecoq’s work but really knew nothing about it until this past week.

Also this week was a master class in Alexander Technique given by Don Weed. F. Matthias Alexander was an Australian born actor that set out to find efficient ways of accomplishing movement and vocal tasks. The idea is to use only the energy needed to accomplish the task and no more. A lot of the focus is on body and breath awareness, finding the tension held and allowing it to be released thus resulting in greater focus and ease in performance. Good stuff!

Saturday some of my classmates and I went to a show. It was a performance piece (not a traditional play with a linear story). The piece was called: 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. It was an interesting work and quite a technical achievement. When it was time for the audience to be seated we were led in groups of five, single file, holding on to each other’s shoulders. An usher headed our train and another brought up the rear. The ushers wore night vision goggles and we were taken in to complete blackness. Chairs were several feet apart and so we felt very isolated from our companions. We sat alone, in complete pitch with sound effects of street noises coming from the speakers (wherever they were) until the show began. The show was done in the round and incorporated lots of sound and lighting effects. The script was a poem and different voices read different segments via voice over. There was one performer on stage. The set was the frame of a house which made it look very much like a cage (in the round, so all four sides were built). The subject was mental illness. The performer illustrated various stages and effects of mental illness. He spoke very little as the voice overs were doing most of the narration. He gave a very physical performance. The end? Well, let’s just say he didn’t live happily ever after. It was very intense and not for the faint of heart. I have to say I have never been to a performance that was so engaging of the audiences’ senses. I can’t really say I liked it. Let’s be real here, it wasn’t the “feel good show of the year” but it did make a strong impression and was an experience I had never had in a theatre before.

Scene work continued this past week at school. The class is divided into groups of four and each group is working on Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov and scenes from a contemporary Scottish play. The wonderful thing about the contemporary scenes is that we have all had the opportunity to meet with the playwright of our piece and ask questions and receive guidance. This is a remarkable opportunity! How often does an actor get to consult the playwright while working on scenes?! My group is doing Mancub by Douglas Maxwell. It’s about an adolescent boy, Paul, struggling with the transition into manhood. It’s based on an American novel called The Flight of the Cassowary by John Levert. Paul finds he is relating to animals more than people, believes that he can converse with animals and also believes he sometimes turns into animals. So my scene partners and I decided that in order to really grasp this scene we needed to take a field trip, to the zoo!!

Sunday: Zoo Day! The zoo is in Edinburgh which is just an hour bus ride from Glasgow. First thing this morning we are off and running. The four of us had a blast today (and got a lot of exercise!) Lions and tigers and leopards! Oh my! Sorry, we didn’t see any bears today. We did see a lot of monkeys. The Spider Monkeys just recently had babies so they were all cute and cuddly and clinging to their moms. The Rhinos were having some kind of cage match that was very exciting. The camels were chewing and so were the zebras. The penguins marched up a path right past all of us silly human spectators. And the line at the café was ridiculously long. It was a fantastic time! Photos below!

Are Lucy and I at the zoo's gift shop or are we working on Lecoq technique?!

Stay safe my friends! More next week!

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