Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From Dzifa's report

Dzifa sent through a very comprehensive, and fascinating, report on her time with us. With her permission, I'm going to quote a chunk here on the blog, because it raises some really interesting issues about intercultural theatre practice:

"In my mid-term report I mentioned that I would investigate British actors’ seeming concentration on head and voice as against involvement and control of the whole body when performing on stage, (which is what I have been trained to do). I asked about this at the drama department of the University of Plymouth, at the Barbican Theatre and also at the Drum Theatre, all in Plymouth, and indeed, in other places that the programme had taken me to. The most probable of the reasons I had been given came from the movement director/teacher, Anna Morrissey of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her view is that ‘it could be a class thing’. She believes that those in theatre are middle class, and those who go to theatre are also middle class; the middle class and perhaps the upper class tend to favour ‘stillness’, even if this is unconscious. ‘It’s like two middle class people talking to each other, they look each other in the eye, and that’s it’. She added that they train actors to control the use of the hands.

The cultural/class thing made a lot of sense to me. I agree with Anna Morrissey on the issue of actors being trained to control the use of their hands on stage, because even with Africans who are usually very expressive and therefore tend to gesticulate a lot when they communicate, our performers are taught to recognize that once they get on stage they need to get out of the ‘natural’ and consider artistic beauty, aesthetic, and so control and employ only meaningful gestures. It makes sense also that people of different social classes would gesticulate differently even if they are speaking the same line; that is where actor’s put on characterization.

My cultural background and training make me see some British actors as a bit ‘stiff’ on stage. On the other hand the stiffness I see may be non-existent to people of British culture and social class. In this sense my expectations in actor training techniques have been a bit frustrated. Other exercises on correct breathing, voice projection and other general practices in actor training are similar, and so reassuring. On the whole, I consider it a great privilege to have been in rehearsal with the famed Royal Shakespeare Company; it has been a wonderful two weeks."

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