Monday, March 03, 2008

Learning from Students

Attempts on her Life opens this week, and I'm making use of the lull before we start to plot lighting to catch up a bit on the blog. It's been an extraordinary process, and immensely valuable for me in developing my devised work. Because Martin Crimp's script is so open, so ambiguous, so freeing for the performers and the director, the process has been very similar to that of devising. Except that the language is rich and disciplined, in ways which text derived from improvisation tends not to be. It's set me thinking about ways of integrating pre-exisiting text into the devising process, or of using a writer in a devising process, without that person acquiring the dreaded authorial authority.

The students have also taught me a huge amount about what it means to be alive right now. It's great to do a play about the present moment with young people - they've grown up with the internet, with media dominance, with the war on terror. The other day we talked about 9/11 - it turned out that one of them celebrated his 15th birthday that day. So what to me seems strange and new, is to them familiar and ordinary.

Seeing the world through such eyes, I went to Thomas Ostermeier's production of Hedda Gabler at the Barbican last week. Fantastic to see an Ibsen production which wasn't bogged down in period detail and Norwegian depression. Ostermeier drags the story into a cold and sharp contemporary reality, with the result that the play becomes extremely funny, like one of Calixto's blood and sperm productions. The reviews have been complaining that it isn't "moving". I'd have thought that was exactly the point.

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