February 15th, 2014
TAKING THE LEAD
Last night I led the warm-up.
There are a couple of exercises I’d done before with people that I knew would fly – a bit of walking round the space, a bit of jogging round the space and a bit of highly physical jumping-from-your-feet-to-the-floor-and-back-again-lots-of-times that I think wiped out almost everyone in the ensemble. So far, so normal.
The other thing I wanted to try I was a little bit worried about. I hadn’t done it before with a group of people and I wasn’t sure that it would really work.
To give you a bit of background, back in 2008 I was lucky enough to go to Italy for three months to study Commedia dell’arte, a style of theatre that dates back to the 16th century (or thereabouts) and uses masks and archetypal characters to create stories and comedy. My idea was to teach the group the physicality of three characters for use in one of the pieces we were working on.
In truth, while various bits and pieces of what I studied pops up in my work all the time, I haven’t really revisited Commedia a whole lot in the last 5-6 years.
So imagine my delight when after I demonstrated each physicality, everyone just jumped in and started doing them fantastically. All of a sudden there were 20 Zannis (servants), Pantelones (old misers) and Inammoratos (Lovers) walking around in front of me. Brilliant!
It brought back a lot of good memories from my time in Italy as well as memories that were difficult at the time but that I can laugh at now – I’m talking specifically about when we had to make work together. You’d be working with 8 or 9 actors with 3 or 4 different languages in play. There was no director, you just all mucked in and getting anything done was a nightmare.
So when it comes to this process and the various challenges that it presents, I sometimes remind myself that at least I can get my point across without relying on my extremely dodgy Italian language skills or asking nicely for someone to translate for me.