Master class at the Young Vic

Participation is a bugle call, excellence is dynamite

 

director 5Gifted actors with learning learning disabilities have a right to access acting and rehearsal craft and audiences benefit from the characters and stories trained actors with learning disabilities bring to general audience work.

Sue Emmas, Associate Artistic Director at the Young Vic Theatre in London asked me to deliver a day long Silent Approach master class for up to 60 directors and theatre makers.

I accepted the challenge and approached the work with three objectives in mind:

  • To offer a hands on ‘doing it’ experience of Silent Approach ensemble, physical and vocal exercises.
  • To showcase Silent Approach non verbal directing technique
  • To inspire interest in and commitment to this kind of inclusive approach and integrated theatre and casting.

 

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Dark Horse actors Toby Meredith and Rebekah Hill (Me in the middle)

The Silent Approach is an equaliser.

It unlocks standard rehearsal process by removing the need for speech (Apart from the play text) and it allows vocational actors with and without learning disabilities to work together with equality.

The foundation of the approach is Stanislavsky’s system.

Actors with and without learning disabilities trained in this way can readily access the technique.

It gives directors a non verbal map to get scenes up and work them and run them to production readiness.

No actor is excluded from the rehearsal process on the grounds of verbal or cognitive ability.

It works for text based, standard ‘written’ plays as well as working for physical and devised work.

I chose to work on the day with Dark Horse actors Toby Meredith and Rebekah Hill, both trained and experienced actors with Downs Syndrome.  I also cast non-disabled actor Johnny Vivash who I worked with on two national tours of my play HYPOTHERMIA.

 

 

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The Silent Approach is dynamic.

Asking a large roomful of people who you’ve never met before to trust, follow and go with you on a silent journey is a big ask.

Thankfully, they came with me.

I score the days activity. Music and sound effects shape a narrative and emotional pathway we can all follow.

I started the warm up by communicating physically with Toby Meredith then gathered up and collected everyone in the studio, working through the kinesphere and at different paces, returning many times to breath, inhabiting the space, working with its energy.

We then moved on to a vocal warm up, working with breath, sound, laughter, tuts and shushes, vowels and lamentations.

An hour and a half later, no one had a said a word but a lot of information had been exchanged.

We had a shared vocabulary and shared knowledge.

We were an ensemble.

 

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Directors, Johnny Vivash and Toby Meredith

 

The Silent Approach is effective.

I moved into scene direction, establishing given circumstances and character with video files I’d edited together for the purpose, sound cues established place.

Actors understood where they were, a little of what they wanted from their scene partner and then played off each other.

Lines were fed in.

Three lengthy scenes were directed and on their feet within an hour and fifteen minutes.

Its possible to direct a two act, two hour fifteen minute production in two weeks using the Silent Approach.

I’ve done it. Several times.

 

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Joy

 

The Silent Approach is for everyone.

After lunch six directors stepped up and directed a further three scenes.

We used the same given circumstances and the same cues and the action took place in the same location as the morning scenes but the dialogue and the activity was new.

In each of the scenes an actor without learning disabilities and actors with learning disabilities delivered the kind of theatrically realistic performances you’d expect to see on a main stage.

All the directors did brilliantly.  They said they’d picked up some tools which will hopefully have influence moving forwards and perhaps create some change too. And change any perception about work featuring learning disability having to happen at participatory level…It can happen at all levels, and should.

Job done.

 

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Ten tips for theatre makers

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1. Collect data.

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Aside from evidencing everything you do, numbers of creatives, participants, audience etc. related factoids and statistics from trade papers, general media and specialist organisations can be helpful. 

Its neither interesting to write about nor fun to do but nothing values your proposed work better than a clear need for it evidenced by a percentage.

 

2. Compare and contrast

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Learn about the work of peers in your field, make friends, have coffee, share experiences, tips, support and mutual respect.

You can then ensure that all of your planning and output clearly defines your differences and flags your USP. 

 

3. Make facetime meetings

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Being in the same real world space with another human being is invaluable, theatre is a people-focused creative process and the dynamics between people at each point in the journey to the work inform the work itself.

4. Learn to predict

Design Buch von Condé Nast International für Mercedes-Benz

It takes a long time for any theatre project to reach the stage. Content is anticipated months or years before its delivered.  Research current and upcoming productions for trends, consider the world and politics and anticipate, as best you can, the space your target human psyche is likely to inhabit at this future time.

You can then generate work appropriate for this imagined future.

 

5. Chase the dream, not the funding

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Projects cost what they cost to realise.  Hitting a figure because its available reads to a funder like hitting a figure because its available.  It needs to feel important and stimulating enough to do without any money being involved at all.

Its art, not a transaction.

 

6. Know the difference between persistence and being a pest

 

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Not everyone wants to work with you. Read the signals. Stop just before someone is likely to give you a definite ‘No’. Keep doors open for next time.  Don’t be irritating. Radiate happiness and positivity.  

You’re privileged to be doing something you love as your job, most people aren’t.

 

7. Expect timelines to stretch

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Time gives air and space to projects, new collaborations form and artistic content gets richer.  Fight any urge to do anything quickly and relish time taken thinking strategically, its never wasted.

 

8. Offer something

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In kind contributions and cash investments are of great value to projects, clarity about what you’re offering and what value you’re bringing in return is vital.

Your theatre work has to give something useful, enriching and unique, know exactly what it is and be ready to make that case.

 

9. Review sent and received email

The Letter

There may be a positive response you’ve forgotten, an invitation to be ‘updated’ or an email you sent which was never replied to which warrants a follow up.

Your future may lie in your past.

 

10 .Embrace the long term view

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None of it is now, its all tomorrow and beyond.

 

 

 

 

Pioneers at RADA

Separate Doors 2 aims to change the UK theatre landscape for the better, offering tools for producers and directors to cast actors with learning disabilities in general audience facing work.

The project, focused on an exploration of the silent approach with RADA in London, starts soon.

Its going to be a dynamic and diverse rehearsal room.

Here are some of the key creatives making fire…

 

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This is me. I’ll be producing, directing some new writing, chairing the panel at the event and writing a printed report of the whole project. I can’t wait to work in the rehearsal room with this inspiring and brilliant team, all committed to finding ways to build bridges into general programme work for exceptional actors with learning disabilities.

 

Geoff BullenGeoff Bullen is director of short courses at RADA where he is Emeritus Director of actor training and specialises in teaching Shakespeare. Geoff will work with me to direct the project in the rehearsal room and in the performance space.

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Toby Meredith will work with me and the RADA team on the silent approach and in developing character through scene work. A graduate of Dark Horse actor training programmes he recently worked on the research and development process for A MAN WITH DOWNS’ SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY.

Jack Condon is a finJack Condonal year student actor at RADA and he’ll be working with the team to explore Shakespearean text, character and ensemble movement work, developing skills in the silent approach and considering the opportunities offered by working as an actor in an integrated process.

 

 

Version 2Rebekah Hill is a Dark Horse actor training graduate with production experience.  She’ll develop character and scenes using the silent approach and Stanislavsky based techniques. 

 

 

Angela G

Angela Gasparetto is a movement director and specialist and she will explore the silent approach and the possibilities of integrated work with an emphasis on physicality. 

 

 

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Joe Sproulle is an actor with production and national touring experience who recently worked on the research and development process for A MAN WITH DOWNS’ SYNDROME TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND TELLS A STORY. Trained in the silent approach he looks forward to sharing and developing his skills within this project ensemble.

Joel Trill

 

Joel Trill is a voice and accent specialist and he will collaborate with the directors and ensemble to explore sound, character and vocal transformation through story, working with and learning about the silent approach and integrated rehearsal processes.

 

 

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Alice Rogers has recently graduated from a Dark Horse foundation acting course and is developing her skills in the silent approach and building performance for production. 

 

 

Gary LagdenGary Lagden is a text and acting technique specialist and he will work with the silent approach to explore non verbal narrative and technique for actors with learning disabilities in integrated work which plays out to general audiences. 

 

 

A further female actor, two Assistant Directors and two creative associates complete the team, more news is to come soon alongside information re: the esteemed panel who’ll debate potential and obstacles in representation and casting after the process showing at RADA.

It all shapes up to be very exciting indeed, check in to the Separate Doors 2 page on this site for insights into the project as it happens.

Making tomorrows theatre today.

 

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