I attended CPR’s Directors Forum in Aberystwyth (Lab1 weekend and Gathering weekend). As far as I know, Tracy Evans and Lisa Wells attended the Lab2 and John McGrath attended the Gathering weekend, did I miss anyone else?
I found the Exploratory and Laboratories sections of the Lab days a great idea, inspiring, intense and worth every penny, even the long train journey. Meeting the other participants, intelligent, interesting and creative people from around the world, it was truly rewarding. I believe we all wished there would have been more of it, and explore further contemporary working approaches to today’s world of theatre and visual expression.
Over the three days on Lab1, I attended Paeder Kirk’s exploratory (Artistic Director of Mkultra Performance Group in London). We explored what he describes as ‘Chinese’s Whispers’, intimate one-to-one performances based on pre-produced technical audio-mix which can be played to just one person for a personal experience, or to several people via a first participant, a sort of small ‘guerrilla performance’. (Interesting article on yesterdays Times by Brian Logan comments on this new techno ‘interactive theatre’ or ‘social gaming’ experiences).
Sally Sussman exploratory (Australian Performance Exchange, Sydney) was very interesting. We explored the bargaining and negotiations necessary for the success of multicultural collaboration. Improvised exercises, designed to raise awareness of working/behaviour issues raised by intercultural working partners. Explored the necessary learning of personal and/or community rules of engagement as fundamental steps for interaction prior to collaboration.
Natalie Hennedige’s, Artistic Director of Cake Productions, Singapore, was a refreshing, youthful and truly enjoyable discovery.
I took part in Julian Maynard Smith’s Laboratory, (Station House Opera, UK) where three complete afternoons are spend working with same director and team. His gentle and playful personality, his observational and collaborative exploration of theme, in this case ‘the world of backwards’ slowly revealed the creation process of the company and his unconventional ‘joker’ approach to subject matter, as his trade mark breaking of rules in the relation between movement and space. By exploring all aspects of a theme through conventional discussions, sharing of experiences and then physical improvisations within the theme, a creative shape emerges which poses new challenges but determines the style of the next production. I am confident that our discoveries during the Laboratory will see its way into future company productions.
I was less enthusiastic about the Gathering on the final weekend and feel that the experience for the majority of participants would have been enhanced if there had been a greater balance with respect to both age and gender. I also feel that some of the guest speakers could have been better prepared with their subject matter – it is not easy listening to somebody reading long passages from a pre-prepared script.
Mike Pearson’s next NTW production ‘The Persians’ gathered most of the attention, primarily due to the unusual venue (the phantom village of Cilieni, owned by the Ministry of Defence and used for army training). Unfortunately, it ran into the time allotted to John McGrath, NTW Artistic Director who had little chance to talk about his own efforts, previous work and of course his vision for the future of NTW.
My most memorable impressions were of Anders Pulin (Sweden) Temporary National Theatre project, and Israeli Ruth Kanner Theatre Group’s whose charm and story telling-theatre techniques are worthy of note. Adrian Jackson’s sharing of Cardboard Citizens’ works brought an interesting perspective to the making of political theatre. It would have been interesting to share political theatrical experiences and views. When the day was over and we retreated to our B&B, most of us experienced a burst of energy that prompted a very passionate late night conversation by the fire.
Geographical Politics shaped the final hours: the difficulties from many European participants to return home are by now epic stories. At home we sheltered exciting new Bulgarian Director, Kalina Terziyska (Creative & Culture Zone), who took 5 days to get home.
As most women directors attending the Gathering expressed a desire to have our own encounter, soon, if you are reading this please be aware of next year’s 25th Magdalena Project Celebrations in Aberystwyth and Cardiff 12-21 August 2011. It’s a date.