Just got back from a FABULOUS, study weekend. They’re always the highlight of my academic year, this years however really was something extra special.
Yesterday saw 32 intrepid students make they’re way to “sunny” Sidcup, for a weekend that would explore the concept of narrative. It was great to spend the first 30 mins having a cup of tea and meeting up with old friends, and making some new ones. The social aspect is one of the things I love the most, it’s been great to make friends via this course over the last 5 years, we come from diverse backgrounds but all have a passion for theatre. I was particularly pleased to hear Kevin tell about his trip the night before to see Sarah Kane’s Psychosis 4:48, as I’d wanted to see that last week but couldn’t get a ticket.
Suddenly it was 10am and I was off to my first lecture, Working with Translated texts in performance. David Matthews gave a great lecture on how texts develop when they are translated and we explored different texts and variants of translation. He broke translation down into 3 “types” ;
- Mimetic – Formal (or totally literal)
- Organic – Functional
- Extraneous – this can almost been an adaptation or paraphrase.
I found this an interesting session, so much of what I study are translated texts that it’s worth remembering the above, all of them have their place, but there’s no use reading an extraneous translation as a mimetic one. Where we draw the line between translation and adaptation was the basis of a good discussion, that could have gone on for the whole weekend!
A quick dash from that classroom, over to the next one for New Writing: How Narratives work in Contemporary British Drama, with Dr Aleks Sierz. I found this lecture so helpful. Dr Sierz gave a great description of how the story is the over arching element of the play, and in fact begins often before act 1 of a play and can continue beyond the final scene. The plot however is what we actually see. He illustrated this especially with regards the play Top Girls and how biographical material is there, but you need to look for it. His advice to read a play as though you were going to have to direct it and take notes whilst doing so, was really sage advice that I’m going to try to implement. That way you understand the story not just the plot.
Lunch followed, the food is always another highlight!
The afternoon was a 3 hour session with Sally Pomme Clayton, a masterclass in the truest sense. Through numerous exercises/games we worked on the ideas of narrative and storytelling. This culminated in us getting into groups and having to work on a fable which we would then perform in front of the rest of the class that evening. I was team up with Joan and Ellen, the fable we were given ; The Bald Man and His Two Mistresses. Well I liked the sound of the two mistresses, not sure about the bald man bit though! This story developed eventually to become The Salon with a healthy dose of innuendos and involved me being pampered and having my hair done by Kate and Edith (it was a hard role to rehearse, having my head massaged I just about coped, despite the envious looks from other students). We had great fun working on this and the laugh/groan we got at the end made it all worthwhile!
The other groups brought their stories to life in some really creative ways too, some comedic, others simply quite beautiful. After we’d shown each other our stories, Sally Pomme Clayton performed a story for us. This was magical, we sat at the edge of our seats as she told this story, just her, a bell and drum. I’ve no idea how long it took, we were just engrossed. This was a lesson to us all that a single person ona bare stage can command it and the audience. Just stunning.
I decided not to join part of the group on their visit to the tavern that evening as I’d be loosing an hours sleep due to the clocks going forward.
Sunday morning and we all arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the day ahead – well some more that others. I tried a piece of “energy gum” from Ellen – a word of warning it’s awful, it doesn’t have a taste as it simply blasts your taste buds to oblivion. Didn’t feel very energised after it either, but you have to try these things.
First lecture/workshop today was three hours with Dr Stephe Harrop on Exploring the Ancient Chorus. I don’t know much about Greek theatre but am getting more and more interested in it due to references in our course (there’s also a Greek Theatre module the Dr Harrop is writing too – that’ll be a MUST!) , so I was really looking forward to this session. Dr Harrop didn’t disappoint at all. The last half was spent working on a scene from Alcestis. This was a real highlight for me, working together, we took a part of the chorus and worked on memorizing it, and then putting actions to it. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds! However we all worked together and actually got it quite good!( I’m still new to blogging but I may put up a video link as and when I’ve worked out how to do that!)
Lunch followed, yum which included a huge THANK YOU to the staff for arranging the weekend – it’s a huge task but they do it superbly. So THANKS again.
I then attended the “surgery” with David Matthews, this was a small group of 5 of us, just discussing some of the areas we needed help with, in regards to our academic work. It was particularly interesting to hear about Rob’s work on his Masters dissertation regarding Verbatim Theatre. David offered me some helpful tips “Critical Muscle” being the most helpful – I need to back up my own opinions with “critical muscle”, will do for my next assignment!
Then we assembled outside for our recital of the piece we’d worked on before lunch – performing it outside in the sun (yes it’s true) was great.
So yet again a fabulous, instructive and fun time was had by all. As I said earlier this year was special though, I think this is primarily due to the fact that we worked together especially for the Chorus today and there was a real “team spirit”, it may sound corny or a cliché, but it’s true, a real bond was created, and I can’t wait to work with them and others at the next event. As for the title of this post, if you were there it should make sense!