Ideas are not difficult to come by when you are devising theatre in a group. The electric pace of a good group that gets into their stride starts to play ping-pong with ideas. The energy is full speed and, from the outside, one might think that a heated argument is brewing but actually, it is so important that the ideas are batted ferociously for if an idea does not stand, will not hold, to the storm of criticism and questioning of the group, it does not belong.
Not to say that an idea gets thrown out casually without rigorous experimentation. All ideas need to be explored for who knows where they will lead. Sometimes, a whole week can be spent trying ‘duds’. The empty feeling of having no idea what one is doing, where one is going or why is a necessary part of every process.
And then – boom! It hits! The ideas come together and the storm starts again. Ideally it should always be a little stormy. Too relaxed and the body starts to sink into bliss – a state of just being – a beautiful place to be but not conducive to creation that will move.
A bad group.
A bad group doesn’t listen to each other.
A bad group never laughs.
A bad group says no before trying anything.
A bad group is full of individuals wanting to take their space.
A bad group doesn’t turn up on time and wants to leave early.
A good group.
A good group is open to being lost.
A good group knows when to find structure.
A good group knows that sometimes bad ideas are where the gold is.
A good group is without shame or criticism.
A good group can argue fiercly and then leave it alone.
A good group does not have any personal intention. The group is all.
A good group is made up of individuals who can look after themselves and ask for their particular needs.
A good group laughs and crys in equal abandon.
A good group knows it’s not therapy but that much healing happens in a devising space and that sometimes personal space is needed to let that through.
A good group accepts that not everyone can feel playful every day therefore each member takes responsibility for their own level of playfulness and regulates whether they are beign usefully antagonistic or not. Anger, fear, pain are all able to be held in the space but only if the performer is conscious that they are in that space and does not project onto the group.
A good group respects time boundaries, unless the gods have moved and time and space have disappeared. In this case, the group stays until it is time to go.
A good group is obsessed with the subject and takes it out into the world for the world to give its inspiration.
A good group is early and warmed up.
Beyond the group.
The process of devising theatre from the body is deeply personal and therapeutic. It is a fast track to seeing who one really is, behind the mask.
Sometimes it’s impossible to take it lightly and leave it at the door. It follows you like a cloak and seeps into your dreams.
Sometimes it is not enough to sleep and rest, it needs support from others: mentors, professionals, therapists. Especially in the first years of engaging with the work, when one’s issues and stories are being explored for the first time.
Beware of primordial fear, anger and shame that physically courses through your veins. This is where the gold is, but be sure to have a place to soothe yourself afterwards.
This takes emotional courage and strength. It takes faith that it is OK to plum these depths and return healed of the struggle but aware of new/old pain.
It takes faith that the pain cannot consume you. Where this faith comes from is entirely up to the individual, but without faith, panic can arise. Stress and fear gets twisted into mini-dictatorships, trying desperately to control out of fear, hurrying, rushing, adrenaline, fight or flight responses.
The ideal is to reach stories that are bigger than our personal experience. A story that has lived in the eons and ages of time and brings to the surface histories and truths and falsities and questions.
Roles to avoid