21 is the old date for becoming an adult. The day, when people said, you got the key to the front door! I was just finishing my 21st year when I left LAMDA and went out into the glittering, dangerous, exciting ego-driven world of commercial acting. I suppose this mantle of adulthood was to take me into a new attitude of treating acting like a job of work rather than the magical thing I had wholly considered it to be.. I have seen actors over the years hold that mantle close to their skin, and, shaped by the profession, become tired and stale. At 21 I saw little point in expanding my training, unless these were skills I could put on my cv (like driving).
It is ironic and beautiful that my commitment to life long training for the arts has blossomed as I have aged. Aside from teaching itself I have produced two books about the subject, Teaching Voice and What Country Friends is This? (directing Shakespeare with young actors) both published by Nick Hern Books. I run Chekhov Training and Performance Ireland with my colleague Declan Drohan where we explore online and in the room the extraordinary technique of Michael Chekhov which though infinitely practical, has at its core a less material centre;
Whilst 2021 has been such a challenging year as we dig in to this apparently never ending pandemic, one of the major solaces has been my really starting to perfect how I teach online and also to consolidate what is a great working partnership with Declan Drohan. I made a short film THE SACRIFICIAL WIND by Lorna Shaughnessy with a whole group of excellent actors which has been shown in several literature festivals based in Ireland and finally , finally, What Country was published was published by nick Hern books, after being delayed by the pandemic.
There have been a feast of online workshops. classes on Style, Inviting the character, Imagination, body and ensemble, Creating with the Higher Ego, Directing , Shakespeare, rhythm, working with small roles.
As the year ends and the atmosphere of uncertainty grows, Declan and I are moving forward online with (if we can) some residential courses later in the year. hopefully all will be well and more live performance will emerge and to those who feel they can do that in safety I applaud them. What is important is that we all move forward in creativity and understand we are sharing our creativity, nurturing it; and not just our own, but that of others, because it is that imaginative energy which has to move forward and expand. Chekhov technique really releases that potential.
In January I am doing a series of Chekhov workshops on poetry….so they are essentially voice workshops. At one time I was unsure as to whether voice could be explored online but having tried it in rooms with masks on I infinitely prefer to be able to see the participants face and feel we can explore a long way. If this interests you, then please get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org . The weekly workshops are on Zoom from Jan 10 -31st.
I am very much looking forward to teaching an online workshop series with Rena Polley of Michael Chekhov Canada in the early spring on Tragedy, Comedy and Drama. !
I saw a documentary on TV the other night where Sting was interviewed. When I was a young man I always liked the Police and a TV play I did in 1980 where I played a leading role used a lot of Police’s music. Because of this I felt a kind of connection to Sting although I never met him. Anyway, he said during the course of this documentary ,”the whole world is looking for a bridge to the future…” and I saw that image and it has stayed with me, a strong but perilously narrow bridge over a roaring river which is tearing houses from the shore and dragging them down stream.
We have to cross that bridge and help others to cross it too.