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Mike Alfreds in Conversation with Colin Ellwood

Described by Ian McKellen as one of the three best directors in the country. Mike Alfreds is a true master of the ensemble.
Born in London in 1934, trained in the USA and Israel. He burst on the scene with Arabian Nights (1975) and Bleak House (1977), the first two productions by Shared Experience, now one of the most successful companies in the UK. At the National he directed Ian McKellen, Sheila Hancock and Roy Kinnear in his own version of The Cherry Orchard (1985). In the 1990s he ran the Cambridge Theatre Company, later renamed Method and Madness.
“I make them forge the work on the floor. They have to discover by doing.
Get them free with the text so they never do it the same way twice.”
“Theatre is not about plays. The art of theatre is acting.
The theatre isn’t there to serve plays.  Plays are there to serve the actors.
Plays need actors and without them, they’re just blueprints.
Actors, however, do not need plays.
They can improvise. They can mime. They can tell stories.”
Mike Alfreds’ books, Different Every Night, and Then What Happens? Are both published by Nick Hern Books.


Vladimir Mirodan: Who Actually Behaves Like That?

On Monday 18th May, as part of our series of events exploring the role of the drector in 21st century theatre, The Stanislavski Centre welcomed Professor Vladimir Mirodan, Research Leader ,Drama and Performance at Drama Centre, London, and Chair of the Directors Guild of Great Britain Trust, who gave a presentation under the title, Who Actually Behaves Like That? – A Reply to an Actor’s Question.
“Current acting orthodoxy values immediacy and spontaneity above most other histrionic virtues. To this is allied the popular cult of the mesmerising effect of personality, considered in recent books such as Joseph Roach’s It and Jane Goodall’s Stage Presence. The corollary is a flight from character as an entity distinct from the actor – character is defined exclusively as ‘passion-in-action’. This approach, the talk will argue, (mis)directs the concept of character away from social and psychological categories and in so doing is blind to the interpretative value of considering characters not only as individuals but also as representing a group. The talk will argue that a fully embodied character transcends questions of individual behaviour and motivation and acknowledges the ‘typical’ dimensions of character (Lakoff’s and Johnson’s ‘prototypes’). The paper therefore argues for an alternative (and older) understanding of character creation which is essentially mimetic and for an approach to acting that foregrounds a psychophysical transformative process.
At the same time, recent discourse has brought back into view long-abandoned (in drama criticism if not in the practice of theatre) Bradleyan approaches to character analysis based on inference and essentialism (e.g. Yu and Shurgot, eds., 2012); while applications to acting of principles derived from cognitive science have sought most helpfully to unify the two approaches of ‘character’ and ‘personality’ acting (Kemp, 2012).
The presentation therefore asks why this ageless debate refuses to go away and seeks answers beyond transient aesthetic fashion. At least one such answer, the paper argues, might be found in looking at the function of acting through an ethological perspective, within the context of recently-delineated frameworks derived from Deception Theory and Machiavellian Intelligence. Observed through this prism, a transformative process moves the act of theatre away from the naturalistic presentation of ‘behaviour’ and (back) towards an explicit, ‘designed’ theatricality in which acting is overtly ‘deceptive’, an aspect of the exercise and growth of social intelligence.”

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