As the final performance of More Light by Bryony Lavery took place on Saturday evening, the culmination of Core’s Spring Performance course in Galway, Ireland, I was filled with a massive sense of satisfaction. The performance had been good, the play fascinating, the voice and ensemble work of a high standard. But what I am left with ultimately is that in addition to the skills learned what was in the air at the end was this tremendous sense of the performing group.
After five weeks of training in voice and physical technique, not as much as I would like but perhaps as much as we could manage within the time frame, we rehearsed what was a very complex play in terms of feelings, imaginative scope and skills required for another four and a half weeks and presented it. By constantly awakening people to using the skills they had learned they had a very practical experience of using their learning within a safe environment. The whole group made massive strides.
Ultimately though it was the trust and openness of the group which helped to create the work fundamentally. When I say openness, I am not talking about the ability of the group to discuss their personal lives over coffee, though that is an important part of learning in any group. No. For those who are not familiar with it, there is a Chekhov concept called ‘opening and closing’. By practising it you realise how you open and close like an oyster all day, sensitive to different atmospheres, stimuli and situations. This is not space cadet stuff. It is most definitely how it is in life. So our characters open and close in a play, and when we are aware of this it makes for really good acting. Being able to open and close does not mean you have to love your acting partner, it is an ability within the performer to open that part of themselves safely and share that with the other characters and ultimately with the audience. Another basic procedure is radiating your energy, so that even if you are a ‘closed’ character you can radiate that too, so the audience can share it yet at the same it feels and appears genuine.
I remember going to see a show some years ago where everyone hated the leading actress who in turn apparently hated the director. When I saw the play I had no knowledge of these frictions [I only found out later] but I knew when I watched it that something was wrong. This unhappy band were closed to each other and therefore closed to the work and were not able to share well with the audience. Unfortunately this lack of cohesion is not an unusual occurrence in my own acting experience.
Recently an ex-student who had got very close to getting into several schools in London said she had to reconsider her desire when she saw how ruthless it was and that when she saw a number of big shows she felt that the ‘stars’ were very much in their own box and everyone else was operating in theirs. In other words they were not sharing at all. It was against everything she had been taught up to that point. The system rarely encourages generosity. It is not set up that way. This usually makes for bad art, in my opinion.
We want to foster an ethos which is inclusive and creative which nonetheless has high standards. I would like to send you an extract of a note I sent to the group.
I just want to say on behalf of all the tutors, thanks to you for making this such a fun course to run, and show to direct. For me theatre is a collaborative effort . It is what you bring to the work that makes us able to shape it. This makes for a positive attitude and ultimately a good piece of work without rancour or issues, something we can share with our audience as a group, who then become sharers too. Whatever anyone else may tell you, for me, this is the best and most powerful theatre. This does not mean that friction is not good for a group occasionally but in the end it is only through sharing and cooperation that good work is really done. How else can we share our work and our feelings and our art if we are not truly open to them and to one another? I know all the tutors have fostered that attitude and am sure you will continue to radiate those vibes as you go on to other projects. This has been a great and positive group and the seriousness with which you worked and approached your issues through the learning process is a great credit to you all.