Sunday, February 15, 2009

Too many words

A fascinating day's devising. I feel I have to find strategies to limit the actors' recourse to words. Even though we are working across languages, it's still very easy to slip into chit-chat in the course of improvisation, rather than initiating actions. I've got a few thoughts about how to do this tomorrow.

I was very struck by the fact that probably the strongest scene today - perhaps the strongest so far - was one with very few words indeed. It's on a plane, with lots of slightly strange characters surrounding PK as she travels from China to India. I built it up slowly, using individual innovations from the cast, and then putting them together. The kind of specifics which work like this places on the improvisation seem to induce much more creativity than vague "a scene about this" direction. I have to learn to trust madness more.

A very strong discussion with the Chinese actors about aspects of the play's potential content. I'm made very aware that it's unusual for them to see both sides of an issue presented in theatre. Here, theatre often makes a very clear moral case, rather than exploring a conflict. We discuss the fact that Chinese culture, since ancient times, has had a concept of collective guilt - so if one Chinese person appears to be bad (in whatever way) on stage, the rest may feel this by implication. Mahesh also points out that we're in danger of conforming to the old paradigm of the Western world looking at Asia, and Asia presenting itself for view. We try to challenge both of these things - but it proves quite difficult to do. The stereotypes seem to be very ingrained in our subconscious minds - we have to jolt them into new perspectives.

No comments: