Warming up for an Execution

I have the great honour of being, temporarily, part of an ensemble theatre company for a pretty special production. “Mary Stuart” was written by the German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller around 1803, and while it is considered part of German classic theatre, it is rarely performed in English. Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble have chosen to present this play with a very specific, brief rehearsal schedule. Two rehearsals a week, over three weeks, followed by 2 techs, and then four performances.  This is something you can only do (well!) when you work with a team who have developed a shared vocabulary, shared ideology and shared aesthetic. In this case, the entire company apart from myself have been working together for …

I Talk of Dreams

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on”, says Prospero, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  I have a good friend, a very experienced Shakespearean actor, who would happily change that to “made of”, claiming that otherwise nobody understands what it means. I disagree, for more reasons than I care to enumerate.  But I will say this, we ARE such stuff as dreams are made on, we have imaginations, we thrive on metaphors and fables, fiction and mystery. We constantly adjust the way we use words; we invent new words and new ways of using old words.  We hear someone speaking words we’ve never heard before, and we figure out for ourselves what they might mean long before it occurs to ask us …

Did My Heart Love Till Now?

My students hear those words a lot these days, whenever I need to demonstrate a particular teaching point that involves placing my voice at the disposal of sounds that combine to make words that combine to make phrases, sentences – in other words, text. It makes a change from “the quality of mercy…” which is usually the first text that comes to mind when I am teaching – “to be, or not to be” is usually the second. There are many reasons why I choose these texts, not least being because I am so unlikely to ever be cast as Portia or Hamlet, so it’s an opportunity for me to play with these words. You’d be forgiven for assuming that …

Clarity of Thought and how to get it

I once wrote a poem about trying to write a poem. It goes like this: It’s never enough The words inside my head Scrambling for freedom It’s never enough The space between the words Inviting interference. It’s not enough To know, to have, to feel. There must be Space Outside my head A clear perceptive silence Room to manoeuvre. Then I decided to include this poem in a play about an actor who was also a poet. It became a shared moment between the actor and her grandson, a way for him to demonstratte to her that he had read her work. But as soon as we (I played the actor) began rehearsing the scene, I realised that it was …

I have just had the weirdest experience, where two worlds appear to have collided, and changed places in the universe. The two worlds are those of theatre practice and theory of theatre.  They are mythical worlds, because only those individuals who try to maintain that they are, indeed, pure or separate or totally independent of each other actually believe that they exist. I was one of them once, as a practitioner, before I embarked upon my own academic research project and began to understand something of the value of theoretical scholarship. But it is fair to say that there are still many academic theorists who have little understanding of the nature of actual, on the shop floor, theatre practice, and …