never fight a clown...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

slapstick & knock-a-bout...

Slapstick: A slapping device dating back as far as commedia del arte maybe even earlier. Used to make hitting sounds etc. However in today’s theatrical community the term ‘slapstick’ has taken on its own modern meaning. Most audiences and even theatre practitioners have an image of clowning around, bumping into stuff and falling over. In some way the meaning is still there it has just taken on a larger definition.
Falling and bumping into things, is something that I do a lot of in performance and have done for a long time. Someone once asked me why and when did all this start? And for a long time I just assumed it was because of my profession or some bizarre natural ability. But it was only recently that I remembered that as a child I used to ‘practice’ falling a lot. I would stand on the edge of my bed and practice various ways of 'dying', I was especially inspired by the guy who fell from the tower in the opening credits of F-Troop. For anyone too young it was a show on TV back in the early seventies. I can remember falling for hours, that’s children‘s hours… so it was properly only a few minutes. Little did I know at that age I was training my body to deal with the various positions that the body finds itself in when falling. Don't take knock-a-bout for granted!!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Talking with the bones. Listening with the muscles.

In recent musings I have made reference to my  Emptiness Compass: a process driven approach to my movement training. This has been the launching pad for many of my musings over the last year. Riffing on last week’s musing about spirit and energy I wanted to share my maxim I made up many years ago: Talking with the bones and listening with the muscles.

If we subscribe to the notion that when an actor grabs another actor, pushes another actor (hands or feet) or even crosses swords with another actor – a “conversation” is taking place. On a deep physical level - one person is “communicating” with another. I believe my maxim is relevant to humans not just actors but hey; to the musing at hand. Therefore, it follows that if one actor is ‘talking’ the other actor must be ‘listening’. This doesn’t have to be the grabber or pusher – in fact the actor being grabbed or pushed can / could be the one ‘talking’ and vice versa.

So, if someone is talking and someone is listening what are they taking with and what are they listening with? It is a physical landscape after all so it’s not our mouths and it’s not our ears. Yes of course we use our awareness but to be more specific for me: I talk with my skeletal structure and listen with my muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Due to the straight nature of my femur, tibia, fibula, humerus, radius, ulna, they have a direct line to someone’s core - after all that is what I am talking to, even if I am grabbing their elbow, ‘push’ kicking them or pushing them. Ultimately, I am talking to their ‘hara’. So, if my bones are talking to them – they must be listening. When I am being grabbed etc. I am listening with the subtler parts of my anatomy in this case my muscles. (I include ligaments and tendons in this). My muscles can absorb what is being ‘said’ and interpret it for my ‘hara’ so I understand what is being communicated and work our how best to deal with is, so my balance is not compromised.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

spirit & energy

The Emptiness Compass I have been referring to in some previous blogs is comprised of 12 paired words. These paired words when used together are designed to help keep a participants and students focused on an exercise / task at hand to ensure they are remaining in process rather than a product or outcome driven mode. 

My musings for this week’s newsletter bring me to one set of those paired words: Spirit & Energy. So, what do I mean by these words and what am I hoping a participant will gain by focusing on these two words?

“The floppies” is a term that I use when a person has no spirit or energy. No Life force as it were Being energised and tapped into your spirit is a must for this sort of work. Not only for your own safety but more importantly having your spirit and energy ‘switched on” on means you are actively accessing your physical communication receptors – meaning your body is alert to stimuli. Conversely you are sending information for someone else to read as well.

Mistakenly actors seem to perceive being energised with being tense and spirit with intent. For me being energised is about making your structure and alignment bristle with liveliness and by spirit I’m referring to your essence.

The combination of these two elements: spirit and energy make for a deep human body ‘space dish’. If trained, honed and tapped into; can allow the actor to pick up on the subtlest of information being transmitted. Thus giving the actor an extra set of eyes and ears on what is actually going on around them.