the bubble

04Aug10

Zoran, Chris, Liliana, Graham, Eileen, Jill, Vanessa, Jane, Kathy, Liz, Mark, Tom, David, Jonathan & Pete – in a representation of the Morlino family, as visualised from memory by Mary Morlino, the unseen team member (behind the camera).

I’ve been trying (and struggling at times), to explain my  devising methodology to these hungry students at this year’s NODA Summer School. Each year NODA (the National Operatic and Dramatic Association) welcomes 200 or so participants from Amateur Dramatic Associations to week-long courses with titles such as ‘Directing a Pantomime’,Musical Theatre Performance: Hairspray’ and ‘Acting Skills’. Prompted by requests from a braying hardcore of NODA regulars – all eager for something new, NODA director Catriona Cumming approached Stan’s Cafe last Autumn with an enquiry about devising. She had read one of James’s essays on the Stan’s Cafe website – and as a result here I am, on day 4, delivering a range of approaches to Devising Theatre.

Each time I start a process of theatre devising there is a terror, as if my mind empties itself of all substance, all logic. In the ‘planning stage’, hours are spent staring at blank paper or screen with me wondering how I’ve tricked myself and the world into thinking that I can actually do this. But this is a state I seem to have engineered for myself. It keeps happening and doesn’t seem to get easier. I remind myself of an interview I once heard with Al Pacino, in which he said he begins every project believing he knows nothing at all. Some ‘Act of Faith’ has to take over, driving the project. I call upon my intuition to guide me through. I also explain my way into it by saying, “a sculptor cannot imagine how her artwork will emerge without knowing what materials she’ll be working with”. And so I. Before meeting or getting to know the group; it’s individuals, it’s concerns, it’s energy, how can you anticipate what will happen? That’s not to say I have no ideas. I have a menu of starting points, of course, with some notion of how material can be generated and where that might lead to. But in practice what works for one group, may not work (or will work differently) for another. One must always have stuff in the kitbag therefore, with a range of options or opportunities for development. Or sometimes, the good sense to know that something should not be pursued and that a fresh challenge is required.

Here at NODA my anxiety levels were running very high in days 1 and 2. And I know those worries were shared with the group members. But a process that begins with the most mundane building blocks, with lots of frowning and lots of ‘Where will this lead us?’ has transformed itself into sophisticated, beautiful, honest and open theatre, made collectively and owned/inhabited by the group. After today’s session – creating material from ‘found texts’ (ipod music tracks on shuffle, mobile phone texts, fragmentary notes and verbatim interview transcripts) I felt privileged to be in the company of these people. And totally inspired by the process.

The NODA experience is referred to from within as ‘the bubble’ and I haven’t ventured beyond the 60-yard digs>restaurant/bar>rehearsal room triumvirate since I got here.

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2 Responses to “the bubble”

  1. 1 Eileen

    Being on the Devising Theatre course was a thrilling and inspiring experience. So many differents emotional moments, an immense amount of fun, trust and creativity, and the chance to make something together that was beautiful and moving and will always stay with me. Thanks to everyone, and specially to Graeme.

  2. 2 David

    Well what can I say about my week on the Devising Theartre course, exciting, challenging, amazing, funny, creative and of course allow us to explore our inner thoughts and create some thought provoking items of work. It was a safe place to express our thoughts on the seven deadly sins and we created seven mini masterpieces and at times brought our animal instinct to the front. We were all guided through this and many other processes by the skilful tutor, Graeme Rose, and i would l like to offer my thanks to him an dour group for a brilliant week and not forgetting NODA for arranging the Summer School.


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