BHA theatre students are currently working on a piece called ‘The Maids’ by Jean Genet. Not only are they acting, but also we are taking a big leap as directors. To facilitate our directing process, we started researching about famous directors and their workshops that we could base our directorial style on.
Peter Brook is an English theatre and film director whose work has beed internationally acclaimed. Entitled as an ‘ingenious director’, Brook’s directing seeks to explore classic plays (mostly Shakespearean plays) with a modern day perspective. His plays, therefore, “revivify Shakespearean’s meaning with today’s means for today’s spectators”.
He describes his work as “searching” and “experimenting”. As an example, Surprise endings, flashy dramaturgy and poetic words are known to be Brook’s trademark.
Debuted in 1946 , he gained recognition, providing him with opportunities to work with many renowned directors including but not limited to Laurence Oliver and Edith Evans. The most famous play of his is Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear – Brook’s success in restoring the original script was widely acknowledged.
[Brook’s stylistic approach]
In his early period, Brook’s repertory had a high cultural tone.
As he continues his career,
“I don’t know”
This sentence had served as his motto. He doubted many aspects of theatre and this questions has led him to pursue expressionism and modernism. Moreover, his plays started to have more political voice.
[Brook and Realism]
Brook’s aim was to show the “true driving forces of our time, rather than superficial social problems.” Hence, Brook concluded that words do not communicate. Instead he adopted expressionism and used photographic image to reveal “the true driving forces”.
[Brook and Modernism]
Modernism: self-consciousness about life and art
As a Parisian, Brook was heavily influenced by avant-garde such as nouvelle vague directors, leading him to stress photographing the intangible.
-> Because of his favor of modernism and realism, Brook reject relying on language, or words. Instead, he developed a ‘physical language’.
[Brook and Audience]
“The only thing that all forms of theatre have in common is the need for an audience”
Brook believes that theatre events only exist when actors and audience have an interaction. By theatre events, it means a success of theatre. Moreover, from his perspective, theatre is inseparable from the community.
Before launching into the topic, I would like to define the definition of ‘workshop’ by quoting a book ‘Great Directors At Work’ written by David Richard Jones.
” A workshop is neither an acting class nor a rehearsal,
the term workshop describes a place for experimenting and creating not a product.”
A workshop is there to provide freedom to actors. Participants are liberated from the burden that arises from financial worry and deadlines, making them even more adventurous in exploration.
Now let’s move on to the topic! Brook worked closely with Charles Marowitz and devised several workshop training methods with him.
[Who’s Charles Marowitz?]
He surprised the actors by letting individuals present their audition pieces and asking for the same speech as spoken by another character ( hamlet giving romeo’s balcony speech).
Workshop participants explore an ordinary object’s tonal range.
“They explore vocal sound beyond grammatical combinations of the alphabet and physical movement beyond facsimiles of social social behavior.”
The training is to communicate feelings in a new way.
Actors first play an ordinary scene in a realistic way. They repeat the same scene, but have to make it abstract.
3. Essentials [Inspired from Stanislavsky’s pedagogy]
Actors should label each scene with a single sentence that sums up the main content, and they repeat the scene playing only the sentences. They repeat the same scene again but the sentences are reduced into words, and then sounds .
4. Untitled [Inspired by Artauad and Meyer]
Actors should speak while they are in a physically difficult status, so that the voice overcame the actor’s vocal habits.
Great Directors At Work – David Richard Jones