Tag Archives: Mick lally theatre

An experience more than a play? David Greigs Bacchae

As we move into the final week of rehearsal for David Greig’s THE BACCHAE I wish rehearsal could go on for longer. This is such a deep piece, as mysterious as the God Dionysos whose story it tells. As I watch runs of the play, I get flashes of extraordinary paradoxes as Pentheus the young and headstrong Prince, terrified of his shadow side collapses with exhaustion at one point refusing to acknowledge that there is any such thing as spirit, refusing to recognise that he is actually sitting next to a deity.

THE BACCHAE really allows us to consider and grapple with the conflicts between the material and the spiritual. Interestingly, as I watch the play, I find myself moving from one protagonist to the other, sympathising first with one and then the other. Ultimately though in the final section of the play we are left with a real woman having to come to terms with a horrible reality. Interestingly the point is made that it is not the wild abandon itself which causes the atrocity but her refusal to acknowledge the God and her subsequent repression of ecstasy. I suppose it is what happens when people get drunk and the demons are released.

What this play is is first and foremost is an experience. It does not feel like a regular play at all to me. It opens your mind and emotions in the way Dionysos says he does himself. Yet it does not do this in any kind of pofaced way. It is both ironic and funny

When I was starting my training in Chekhov Technique, I remember Fern Sloan, one of the foremost Chekhov teachers saying to me, “How could I really use my personal experience to access someone like Medea?”.  This is so true. When I consider the dark places to which the Bacchae ultimately travels, to ask anyone, and particularly young actors, to ‘go there’ without effective technique based on body and imagination, is to my mind both dangerous and irresponsible. What the technique brings up, though still profound and deep, is not tapping into the actor’s personal experience directly. Working this way, through body and imagination first to access feelings, qualities and sensations, allows the performer access to that depth without hurting themselves.

Of course this does not mean that actors who use Chekhov do not have to be cautious, and the issue of really shaking out the feelings from the body is a very important part of the work, to cleanse the body.

Check out the promo

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-O6Ksjqib_SU3c3NHlQYWdjME0/view?usp=sharing

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Sarah O’Beirne and Shannon Mchugh [photo Melinda Szuts]

Come and join us in the Bacchic Dance!  The play runs from the 14th-18th of February in The Mick Lally Theatre performed by students of the NUI Galway Theatre programme. Tickets are available from Socsbox (091 492852) and Druid ( https://druid.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/ .

 

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Getting Down With The Greeks

In The Empty Space, Peter Brook describes directing as ‘having a hunch’ . Yet how many directors consider their work to make a concept and fit the actors within it, usually within a set and costume design already decided upon? This destroys the creative voice of the actor as artist and reduces them to a performing animal. As an actor once myself I remember trying to get my undisclosed feelings and ideas for the character ‘under the radar’ of a director, visible to me if no one else. All too often, the success of the actor is measured and perceived solely in how much he can encapsulate the director’s vision, very often a vision which is borne from someone who never stepped upon a stage at all. We, as audience, often blame the actor or the playwright for the disjointedness we feel when we watch such a piece when very often it is the director who is primarily responsible for this sense of ‘un ease’. Whîlst the director is the conductor, he is essentially part of an organic team. I feel this organic work has to happen from the start and talking needs to be limited in order that everyone can experience in their body and imagination what the play is about.

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working with archetypes

I walked into my preparation week with student actors for our production of David Greig’s version of Euripides Bacchae with some preparation done but I knew that the evolving work within that four day process would be totally transformative. I felt I was more open actually than I have ever been before. Of course my openness did not mean that I had no preparation done myself, I had done a phenomenal amount of work, but very very few decisions, including practical ones had been made. Hunches was what there was along with one version of a song, and a strong belief in my cast. I think this faith in the group is one of the key things I have learned in directing students in particular, though it’s something you need at whatever level you are directing. Trust however requires a lot of experience and a lot of faith. It also requires an acknowledgement that parts of your concept as it grows and accommodates the group will evolve, change and develop.

Michael Chekhov composition work to find a shape to the work is particularly fascinating when you are dealing with a play which though structured, appears to have a complex narrative of dovetailing stories interspersed with songs and chants which in a way appear at first glance to bear little relation to reality as we understand it… Dionysos allows himself to be captured and humiliated, rather like Christ, even though he has the power to destroy them all. The play shows two polarised way of being and living with catastrophic and brutal results. It begs you to take sides in the debate.. Whose side are we on ultimately? How do we want the audience to feel? How do we begin with the city of Thebes? What does it represent for us now? is it a sad place, a happy place, a place of order and harmony or rigid obedience? The play pits the imagination, and wild creativity against the colder intellect, very much a Michael Chekhov theme. As if by magic, after our tableaux work, the story appeared to have a much more obvious simplicity than it at first appeared. It’s far from set though we can see the options. When I directed Caucasian Chalk Circle last year we made I think, four endings and did not decide on the final one until almost the end.

One of the aspects of M. Chekhov’s work I love the most is his insistence on the responsibility of the artist to open up issues for us and our audiences and for plays to have something important to say to us NOW. The answers The Bacchae presents, if it presents any at all, are visceral relevant and real, if we remember that despite the fact that climate change is a reality and Nature is becoming wilder and more unpredictable, one of the principal leaders in the Western World is a denier of that reality. This is not the only level on which you can see this play but it is one of them. Because it is primarily a dramatic poem, it has a multiplicity of levels on which it can be seen. that is what makes it both fascinating and tricky, because you don’t want to prevent that multiplicity by being too literal with one overriding interpretation.
In addition to the strengths of the group I was also aware of limitations in time and training. We did a lot of training in these first days but I was concerned about the question of mask work, which, besides requiring thorough and precise choreography required complete feeling within the body at every single moment . At any time when that expression of the body was absent the performer simply disappeared. But the masks which are only to be worn by the Chorus, besides being quintessentially part of the Greek Theatre Experience enabled a number of things; firstly they clarified character; second they enable men as well as women to play the Bacchae; thirdly they take us away from the idea that these are a gang of women who are out on a hen night but show them as wild female forces of nature. That can only be a plus.

looking so forward to continuing the work next week.

The Bacchae by David Greig after Euripides will be performed by students of The Centre for Drama Theatre and Performance in conjunction with Chekhov Training and Performance Ireland  at the Mick Lally theatre  in Druid Lane Galway Ireland from Feb 14th – 18th. 

Atmospheres and qualities of the Chalk Circle

There is something extraordinary about how a production takes shape. Dependent on material, personnel, their skills and level, the venue and resources available, all feed in to how the show evolves. I can never understand how directors begin with so much set firmly . Peter Brook’s ‘hunch’ always seems to me the best you can do at the start.

 

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rehearsal shot of the Caucasian Chalk Circle: drama students at NUI Galway: Laura Keown,Niamh Ryan,Damian Duddy,Cillian Browne, Aoife Corry,Niall Carmody,Paige Louter.

I have directed the Caucasian Chalk Circle by Brecht once before and appeared in it once. This time I am directing the students of  The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance  NUI Galway in the famous Mick Lally Theatre , home of Druid Theatre Company, and the venue itself creates interesting challenges for a large cast. I actually did not agree to doing that play there until I had checked out the new seating block which allows now for five different exit points. Caucasian Chalk Circle is very much concerned with escape, and journies, so although there are many theatrical ways one can pretend to leave and return there is, in an actual entrance, an extraordinary element of surprise. We have only to consider this in real life, how the entrance of a person into the space changes the feel or atmosphere of a room and how it changes when they leave it. I have always been over sensitive to this change of dynamic and nowhere is it more obvious than in a play.

 

The first prevalent atmospheres/qualities in Chalk Circle are obvious; one is that of oppression and power as we are taken to a place where torture and abuse is acceptable all in the name of serving the nobility. The second section has an atmosphere/quality which we might describe as The Hunt, as Grusha goes on the run with the Royal baby. The third section, as Grusha sacrifices almost everything for the child she now loves, is a trickier proposition. For Grusha the third act is a grinding tragedy as she sacrifices her very personality and ego  for the child, though her life is not at risk  It is told however for the most part as a hilarious folk tale in which Grusha takes an apparently dying husband . If you go too much with Grusha’s sense of sacrifice then we lose out on the humour. If we play the section with a totally frivolous air then her emotional journey is lost. But one of the amazing things about Brecht is the way he exploits polarities and paradoxes. And it is this very grating of the tragedy and comedy, which give the act it’s flavour. it is something the Jacobean playwrights knew well. The fourth act, the story of Azdak, is almost an interlude . It definitely has a different flavour, a flavour of political cabaret. The fifth act brings about the resolution of the tale and has the atmosphere of justice and the scales…. We are asked to weigh the judgement.

 

The whole play is narrated by a singer. Each Act has a different singer. Our singers tell the story as if they are leading or imbuing the atmosphere of the act they narrate.

 

Another aspect that is influencing this production is the atmosphere  of the Mick Lally Theatre itself. As the home of the world famous Druid Theatre Company it has its own recent history, but when you look at its cave-like interior you feel as if you are trapped within the tectonic plates of time. The high walls are centuries old and as you absorb this atmosphere you can hear the world of modern Galway going on outside. This play about a slither of time that was ‘almost just’  has a strong poetic resonance with that . Here we are trying to present a play in what feels like a secret space. You feel as if you you are in a mine. You feel like an outsider and  play focuses a lot on the system of oppression..

 

The show plays from the 17th – 20th February. At the Mick Lally Theatre Druid Lane Galway Ireland . tickets available from druid@ticketsolve.com or sox box 091 492852