Thursday, 23 April 2020

Shoot for nothing.

When an archer is shooting for nothing
 He has all his skill
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous 
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets- 
He is out of his mind!
His skill has not changed
But the prize 
Divides him. He cares.
He thinks more of winning 
Than of shooting-
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

Chuang Tzu

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Bears coming out of torpor

In mid March the bears at Wildwood were becoming more active and on visits just before the lockdown, release after months of hibernation was imminent.

Footage from Wildwood is keeping bear thoughts alive in lockdown.

The contrast though obvious is none the less salient, between their re-emergence into the world to explore, forage and become active again
and our retreating into our shelters and sanctuaries, (those of us lucky enough to have homes), to wait it out....

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

John Blatchley

"We must always proceed from the highest standpoint. Even though we may fear that this cannot be maintained, maybe even not achieved, we must nevertheless argue for real standards and not accept compromise until it is inevitable as survival against annihilations, and perhaps not even then."
 John Blatchley (1922-1994)

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Peter Brook as inspiration- " infinite quantity of unexpected forms can appear from the same elements..."

Peter Brook in 'The Open Door- Thoughts on Acting and Theatre', speaks eloquently about form and structure existing in any text and about how "no true poet thinks a priori about this structure." (Brook)
And then further:
" Although he has integrated in himself certain rules, there is a very intense impulse which pushes him to make certain meanings come to life. In trying to make these elements live, he runs into the rules, and it is at that point that it integrates itself into a structure of words. Once it is printed, the form becomes a book. If we are speaking of a poet or a novelist, this will suffice. But for the theatre, one is only half way there. What is written and printed does not yet have dramatic form. If we say to ourselves: 'these words must be pronounced in a certain manner, have a certain tone or rhythm...'then, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we will always be mistaken. It leads to everything that is so awful in tradition, in the worst sense of the term. An infinite quantity of unexpected forms can appear from the same elements, and the human tendency to refuse the unexpected always leads to the reduction of a potential universe." ( Brook, 63-64)


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The necessity to explore the Imagined Surroundings.

As much as your focus needs to be on the subject, animal or bird, it needs also to be absorbed in and absorbing the environment in which the subject exists. How can you look at what your subject is doing without at the same time taking in where it is? what surrounds it ? listen for sounds, take in scents, colours, textures, and temperature. 

When I decide to focus on a particular animal, I am as much focused on where it exists as I am in what it is doing.

This lagoon at Gialova, a wetlands paradise and bird sanctuary, hosts hundreds of migratory birds in the autumn and again in the spring.

Take nothing for granted in your looking. The more material you have to bring into the rehearsal room, the more you have at your disposal. The world of the animal could be seen as akin to the world of the play. What you bring to 'The Empty Space' will feed your imagined circumstances. Indeed this is central to why you must look at your subject in the real as opposed to on footage. The surroundings give you much of what you need in order to commit fully to Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation.
The more you look and the more you absorb the more you will discover of the detail- both in the surrounds and then, once in the rehearsal room, within your imagination. It is this detail which will begin to unlock the human which is of course the beginning of the next stage of the work in this process.

Whilst Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation can and does expose the poor imaginations, equally it ignites those imaginations brimming full of wonders. When this happens, astonishing things can and do appear.
Photos- Jorgos Ziakas

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Kalamata Drama International Summer School

Images from this summer at the International Summer School in Kalamata.

See link below for details. It is absolutely an Intensive and I had the immense good fortune to be leading the movement training.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Some questions answered about my approach, Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation, for the actor in training and beyond.

Lineage of Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation

The lineage of my practice sits robustly and unbroken in its derivation in the work of Jacques Copeau (1879-1949). It has been handed down from teacher to assistant, starting with Copeau, who passed it to his nephew Michel Saint-Denis (1897-1971), to John Blatchley (1922-1994) and then Catherine Blatchley (Clouzot), and finally to Gabrielle Moleta, Hilde Hannah Buvik and Birgit Nordby.
John Blatchley had joined Glen Byam Shaw and Michel Saint-Denis at the Old Vic School. Blatchley then went to France with Saint-Denis, where he worked as an actor and director and assisted Saint-Denis in his new school. 
Cathérine Clouzot was a student at Michel Saint-Denis’s school in Strasbourg where she was taught by his assistant John Blatchley whom she was later to marry. They worked together at The Central School of Speech and Drama and then at The Drama Centre, (which John Blatchley had founded with Yat Malmgren), their teaching being based on that of Jacques Copeau. Catherine taught at Arts Ed London from 1981. John Blatchley died in 1994.

Gabrielle Moleta, Birgit Nordby and Hilde Hannah Buvik trained with Catherine in the late 1990s in the School of Acting at Arts Ed. In 2005 they were invited by Catherine to become her apprentices and Catherine passed on her work at Arts Ed to Gabrielle. 

Gabrielle is currently the only practitioner in the UK teaching in this unique lineage and now in the main, teaches the work on the MA Theatre Lab at RADA as well as giving masterclasses nationally and internationally. She applies her particular approach to theatre devising and making, to performance and motion capture, to both contemporary and Classical text (Globe, RSC), to dance and she works continuously developing it with actors who have trained with her. 

She has a commitment to the training of actors, is focused on the creative process, and her approach gives her ensemble of actors a common starting point for creative work. 

  1. Could you briefly outline your practice? What you do and what you see as the main things it facilitates for the actor?

My practice is called Transformation and Imaginative Improvisation. Transformation is a detailed, imaginative approach helping actors to transform. It includes the specific work for the actor of real life and continual observation of mammals and birds in order to incorporate them into the body as completely as possible. Once every pore of the actor is absorbed in this focus, a second stage of transformation from animal into human is possible. At this point the common  ground is laid for developing work, (with and ensemble trained and receptive to this approach). Imaginative Improvisation, equally important in the approach, is the detailed and specific creation of the world around the actor in space. In the same way as with Transformation, the actor is required to return repeatedly to her imagination, memory, senses and stimuli and in doing so she works with body and mind to live truthfully and freely in a detailed imaginary world.

The main things this facilitates for the actor are the development of the actor’s imagination, her concentration and her commitment to active observation. The ability to transform is the rich outcome for those for whom this process fits. An obvious, easier to come by but nonetheless important result of the work in Transformation, is a deepening of the actor’s physical capabilities and a liberation of her habitual choices, both physical and psychological. In all cases the work looks to unlock the uniqueness of the actor through an absolute focus on a specific set of circumstances, (an animal and its environment). It helps them make visible the invisible world and to create truth onstage.

 I encourage actors to use the work in the development of character for performance, though this should be their private work and not the domain of the director. 

  1. How do you think your perspective is unique?

There are several points here:

I think an aspect of its uniqueness is that the actor is not trying to become an animal for its own sake, but instead the absolute focus on the ‘other’- the subject, (the animal or bird), enables the actor’s focus on self to diminish, thereby allowing other choices, both physical and imaginative to come to the fore.

Another is that the observation must be continuous, live and rigorous. The actor cannot rely on the vague and non-specific memory of the horse they grew up with, or the lion they saw once on safari. The work cannot rely on video clips which, while these can be useful as reminders and prompts, are many times less useful that time spent in the presence of the subject. Neither can the student look just once or twice, or deal with their ‘idea’ of an animal.  This will lead to vague, generalised and stereotypical physical choices. It will also lead the actor into playing states, (proud/vague/aggressive). These states will limit the actor to their own familiar palette of choices.This is not the work.

Transformation does not deal with any preconceived (human) ideas about how the animal behaves. It is not anthropomorphic in its approach- it is the antithesis of this. Playing a cunning or proud character is no reason to give an actor a fox or a lion. If a bird of prey stretches its wing and it happens to 'feel as if the raptor is embracing you', this is no reason to think it likes you; it is merely opening its wings. I do not deal either with preconceived ideas of animals' drives e.g. hunger, survival, exhaustion. This again would lead to anthropomorphic, limited and dull work.

A further unique aspect of the work in actor training with this process, is that not all animals are used as subjects. Some, through a combination of experience-both learnt and handed down- are not ones I would suggest to the actor to begin working in. Mammals and birds are the main subjects, though many particular mammals and birds are more useful than others. Reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish are not useful in the teaching of the work. 

The study of animals is important, but it is only one source of inspiration for the transformation work.

Another is the level of physical and physiological rigour required to invest in this approach in order to move beyond a very basic work in an animal. It is demanding, and the actors are completely exposed. This work cannot be taught once a week over a quick term.

And lastly, the unique aspect of this work is that the two strands, Imaginative Improvisation and Transformation are taught together. That is the Transformation element, which often lends its focus to the observation of an animal, (but not always hence why people incorrectly refer to this particular approach as animal studies), does not get taught on its own, but rather needs a deep and full understanding of the Imaginative Improvisation approach first. Without it the work is thin.

  1. Have you developed the work beyond what you were taught by Catherine Clouzot?

Catherine was keen when I took this work on to develop it in two ways, both of which I have done.

Firstly, she hoped that by handing me the work I would develop it beyond the training of students taking into theatre for actors in the profession. I do this both in work I make- with this approach at the heart of the development process- and with companies who bring me in as movement coach. I work in most of these instances with actors who have already studied the process with me and who are gifted at the approach. They will be clear about the amount of observation and perseverance required and will be uncluttered by connotations of  what I mean by working 'in the animal'. This means we are able to go further with the work taking it into the very fabric of the creation of the piece

In my theatre making work is not only the actors who use Transformation as part of the devising process but also writers, choreographers and composers. Their scripted and structured material (choreography and composition) is informed by this focus on the animal and the world of the animal, in combination with the particular situations and texts I have as starting point for the piece.

     Secondly, Catherine wished me to develop the approach by incorporating into the process a                 rigorous physical maintenance section. Hence alongside the substantial work of Transformation           and Imaginative Observation I incorporate a whole body of physical training to support the actor’s     body in order for them to be able to challenge and develop their physical and psychological                 strength, stamina, flexibility, commitment and concentration. This has become embedded in the           approach. 


© 2019 Gabrielle Moleta