Exercises or what might grandly be termed ‘non-situational protocol-based interventions’ are of course a vital performer-training tool and an increasingly popular and valuable/primary element in any directing strategy.
In a performance-directing context, their use can contribute to the development of particular skills, sensitivities and affordances in ensembles, while instigating and culturing performer impulses and ‘primary-process ‘ creative material. They are a way for the director to intervene, guide and shape without dictating or [in any sense of the term] blocking. They are also often used to keep work fresh and to find new perspectives on dramatic/situational material. A key area of directing ‘creativity’ is arguably in their selection, adapting and deployment. Many directors have their own small repertoire, endlessly adapted or rigidly deployed and sometimes closely-guarded; others borrow and adapt freely.
Each of the following Fundamentals are practically explored in workshops led by professional directors and are held at Rose Bruford College.
Directing through exercises
One of the key ‘releasing’ directing ‘tools’ and usable at several stages of the process. The key is to adapt/customise and to use specifically and tactically – either pre-emptively as ‘priming’ or responsively to specific blocks.
Directing through improvisation: achieving the undertow
Complementing the use of exercises, improvisations can be thought of as ‘situational exercises’, enacting ‘located’ encounters to intensify, release, complicate, and contextualise the drama’s interactions. These can be linked to the play’s world/situation as past/future or contextually, or be analogous situations. Alternatively, the key scripted encounters themselves can be realised as improvisations.
This workshop will explore the tactical deployment and enacting of a variety of improvisation techniques in the realising and intensifying of three contrasting scenes.
Directing through induction
Aside from the play itself, there are two potential sources/fields that necessarily contribute to the performance: on one axis, the pre-conscious interiority of the performer; and on the other, the observation, interpretation, and induction of specific material from the exterior world, especially the social world. Different modes of performance draw on these tow axes in varying degrees. Brecht advocates the prioritizing of the latter almost to the exclusion of the former. However, any production can benefit hugely from the detailed, insightful, and clinical induction of material culled from observed experience. Arguably, this in almost all cases an ethical imperative, as much as the aesthetic.
This workshop explores how material from observation and research can be practically integrated, especially in distilling to what Brecht terms ‘gestic’ behaviour.
Directing through the unconscious
This is the necessary corollary to Induction and the source of all renewal. Induction together with and the ‘givens’ of the play – especially (in most cases) its text – offer a set of parameters framing what might be termed a ‘creative space’ within which the continual ‘present-tense’ unconscious of the performer must necessarily be stimulated and brought to bear. The size of this space varies depending on the nature of the performance being undertaken, but both in rehearsal and through the performance run must never be wholly absent. Similarly the director’s engagement with the ‘givens’ of the source material (including the text itself) and also with the consequences of all developments as they transpire, must remain open to emergences and impulses from her/his own unconscious. This workshop explores ways in which the unconscious might be unlocked and brought to bear.
Directing through form
Any play is a unique and specific formal structure. The most visible and salient aspect of this is the text. It could be argued that the core substance of most drama is in the enacting of what might be termed the ‘threshold or moment of articulation’, where silence yields to impulse in the realization of speech as action. This workshop explores techniques through which the form and articulation of the text and structure of the play can be engaged with and expressed specifically rather than approximately, not as a ‘clothing’ for a simplistically ‘actioned’ verbal substructure, but as the expression of the inductively-inflected, situationally-specific interior unconscious impulse itself. The interface between on the one hand form (text), inflected by inducted material, and on the other hand pre-conscious impulse (in other words between articulation and prior impulse, after and before, kinesis and potential; expenditure and desire) is theatre’s ‘quantum’ moment, and the magnetic and highly individuated and various centre of its attraction.
This workshop will also explore the challenge implied here of how to deal with/’naturalise’ aspects of ‘so-called’ style.
Mise en scene
The shaping of impulse and both ‘source’ and ‘inducted’ material into dynamic bodily and spatial existence within a designed physical environment is the central task of directing.
This workshop will explore principles and techniques involved in yielding the material into physical being in ways that are sensitive to impulse, induction and form and both expressive and ‘symbolically’ communicative to the audience, while remaining within the stylistic and aesthetic parameters of a variety of kinds of text.
Achieving the material space
What are the range of effective processes and stages through which, usually prior to rehearsal, the major expressive and communicative parameters and particulars of the designed material space can be evolved to be effective both visually and instrumentally and to play an effective role in i) the expression of affect; ii) the communication of information and allusion and – perhaps most crucially – iii) the enabling and facilitating of meaningful action. This early process is also the arena within which, in close collaboration with the design team, the director’s creative response to the play is given its initial vital and specific material form.
This workshop practically explores these issues especially in terms of the relationships between and relative contributions of ‘givens’ (text etc); director and design team.