Thursday, 29 June 2017

Week six

Some good meetings to move me along this week with my CDD pitch!

A further R&D session housed in Italia Conti's South London premises with an actor who had trained under Catherine Clouzot! as well as former students of mine, produced some small scenes which left us all feeling very inspired.

The improvisations moved into text and with five generous actors in the room there was the possibility to do so much. I am really thrilled that each of them continues to be able to put aside their time and that they want to commit to this exploration which really feels as though it is beginning to gather momentum.

The nature of the work which is constantly about incorporating the observation of the animal or bird into the actor's body through detailed and specific activities is hugely physical work. The Imaginative Improvisation that goes hand in hand with Transformation was absolutely allowing the actors to work fully in mind and body so as to live truthfully and freely in the detailed imaginary worlds we explored yesterday evening.


"Woman Catching a Flea",  Georges de la Tour

Friday, 23 June 2017

Week five

It has been a stimulating week. Travels across the country have included going up to Norwich. My eyes were peeled through the coach window for birds of prey in the skies over the Fens. I am remembering I was born in Cambridge...
http://www.breakingnewground.org.uk/our-projects/a-home-to-many/wings-over-the-brecks/
The Helen Macdonald book begins with her travelling northeast of Cambridge to the Breklands, which she translates for the reader as the Broken lands. She goes there to see goshawks.

I am fired by the panel discussion held at LAMDA this Wednesday. The panel was part of a seminar presenting the results of an exciting CDD research project conducted by Penny Cherns. https://www.lamda.org.uk/about-lamda/lamda-faculty-and-staff with David Johnston of Queen's University Belfast and LAMDA's MA Classical Acting fir the Professional Theatre students.
Johnston, translator of  the play in focus, El Cuerdo Loco- A State of Madness by Lope de Vega, chaired a round table discussion on theatre translation.
By involving MA actors in the process I was struck by the parallels of our disciplines. A deep understanding of the role, of the world and of the specific circumstances is at the heart of what matters to both the translator and the actor.  
It was evident that the benefits are enormous for both actors and translators if a translation is to be created which will in the end be played.

On a practical note I have more or less completed my pitch for CDD Research funding and it is being looked at by academics whose knowledge and acuity I value.

Returning to Hawk, this article
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/19/helen-macdonald-hawk-tree-man-natural-world
has substantiated the development of the direction of my piece.

And for a bit of footage, because where are we without recourse to the source material?
-a goshawk nest cam, http://www.breakingnewground.org.uk/our-projects/a-home-to-many/wings-over-the-brecks/ ,enabling us to see a goshawk feeding a chick.






Thursday, 15 June 2017

Week four

With the summer break around the corner I have managed to get three more dates lined up this month and next to further the Hawk R&D, which will no doubt form part of the research I would undertake if the grant were successful.

I am compiling a list of former students who were good a the work. Some of them are already involved in the Hawk work with me and some I will contact once the ducks are lined up and I can begin organising the series of workshops necessary for the research next year.

In the meantime Fay Simpson http://lucidbody.com/about/bios/fay-simpson-2/ is back in town and it will be great to see her and discuss our current projects. Last year we did some exploratory work together. I have been watching the footage of our "Bear Girls" piece and remembering the themes I was focusing on this time last year. They have most definitely developed.



In practical terms I am sending my application off to be looked at by the CDD mentor, Prof. Paul Allain. He has been encouraging in terms of my desire to do this practical research as he has known about my work for some years.

Back to the process of Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation and a quote from Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk

"To train a hawk you must watch it like a hawk, and so you come to understand its moods......You are exercising what the poet Keats called your chameleon quality, the ability to 'tolerate a loss of self and a loss of rationality by trusting in the capacity to recreate oneself in another character or another environment'. Such a feat of imaginative recreation has always come easily to me. Too easily. It's part of being a watcher, forgetting who you are and putting yourself in the thing you are watching. That is why the girl who was me when I was small loved watching birds. She made herself disappear, and then in the birds she watched, took flight. It was happening now. I had put myself in the hawk's wild mind to tame her, and as the days passed in the darkened room my humanity was burning away."    
(Macdonald:2014)

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Week three

I met with Dr Rosemary Klich to discuss practical Research funding options and was encouraged by our meeting. It is good to talk with another who has been a recipient of funding for a research project which involves a subject close to her heart- and also a project that has been a long time in the growing.
Having written more towards the proposal today, an hour in the garden after the rain planing out another batch of perennials including Delphiniums, Echinacea, little Leos, Verbina, Foxgloves and Verbascum, has made a positive contribution to the firming of my ideas!

The pitch for funding to do this research which would be documented, may well further my other project, the Hawk work I am developing. So far in the creating of the several 'pas de deux' from themes in the Hawk book, Transformation has been pivotal. In these works in progress, the animal and the human have been together on stage. The Hawk piece would certainly provide an example of new applications of this already well developed and well recognised process for the actor.


 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Week two

How to document this work?
Would images be enough?
I am looking at  Monika Pagneux and a book based on her scrapbook called, Inside Outside which holds an apt quote:
"The gesture is a silent language that writes in space and its writing is the same as a literary writing."
Reading this I can justify "research" which is what is happening all the time in actor training. It does lead the actor to new insights.

Looking at my scrap book it is full of articles about the environment and the great peril the natural world is in. Tonight trump will decide whether or not he will adhere to the Paris Climate summit agreements...
So much of what I ask the students to do once they begin their observation is to look at their subject in the real, not only in footage. The observation which happens regularly and over a period of time is precious and the stuff of gold for the patient observer. The thought that one day we may be the only species left is too chilling.
Perhaps what I am documenting is an approach to developing a character and in doing so will be a documentation of what we gain by observing species other than ourselves. And as I write so much of human kind is hell bent on destroying those others.
 
I have been listening to a taped conversation with Catherine from 2005. Her voice does not change. When we spoke last week it was the same voice; as direct, as clear, as sharp and as french as ever!
How revelatory her teaching was.

Giraffes watching.
Climate Change March, London 2015
 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The process of documenting Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation (T&II)

After the phone meeting with inspiring Theatre maker Peta Lily,
http://www.petalily.com/
I am beginning today, to describe the process I am embarked upon:
How I am moving towards making a short documentary of my work.

She and I talked about the innovative processes we each have been able to develop and teach, she - The Dark Clown and me - Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation.
 I also talked about the importance of honouring the fragile lineage of which I am part.

Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation has its roots in work conceived by Jacques Copeau (1879-1949). In England, Copeau’s influence came through his nephew Michel Saint -Denis who, with George Devine and Glen Byam Shaw started Old Vic School after the Second World War. Michel Saint-Denis and John Blatchley developed Copeau’s work into a series of exercises. Cathérine Clouzot taught and developed this work with her husband John Blatchley and after his death, alone. My actor training (at Arts Ed), brought me into first contact with her and her body of work. Some years later, Cathérine invited me to become her apprentice. When she felt I was ready, she promptly stepped away from teaching. I have been doing it ever since!
 If for no other reason but that I am the sole inheritor of this approach to actor training in the UK, I must document the work.


"It takes years to become conscious of what you already believe and to be capable of putting it into question, because so much of what we believe our body to be has been learned very early on. And it affects how we choose to act and stand and sit later on- the subtleties of stance have to do with what we believe

Taken from Body:Language #6 The Transformative Body: Guy with Dana Caspersen,
6 December 2010,Lilian Baylis Studio,Sadler's Wells London. 




Friday, 10 February 2017

Looking ahead...

...to Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation development in the months ahead.

"Her crest feathers rise,she leans back, tummy feathers fluffed, shoulders dropped, toes very tight on the glove. Her demeanour switches from everything scares me to I see it all: I own all this and more."
(Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, 2014, p 178)