Among the new courses in situ: is offering this autumn is Physical Theatre.
Course tutor and in situ: director Richard Spaul speaks about his passion for movement, and about what the course will offer participants.
Richard, why a course on Physical Theatre?
In the past, in situ: has done a huge amount of work on Physical Theatre, by which I mean theatre that places great emphasis on movement and image-making. Apart from the site-specific aspects of our work – the ‘situ’ of the name – Physical Theatre is probably what people most associate with our group.
But I’ve never actually run a course dedicated to the subject, so I wanted to put that right
Do the words Physical Theatre indicate that there’ll be little or no exploration of text or voice?
No, not at all. All these elements are interlinked and essential – otherwise you’re in the realm of mime or dance, which is very different. Physical Theatre remains theatre, but the use of words and voice (of which there will be plenty) is in the context of physicality – space, movement, gesture, image.
You yourself have studied movement in depth.What did you gain from this?
Yes, I have studied movement, especially choreographic theatre, which I studied with the Peruvian practitioner Enrique Pardo. I learnt many things from this work, but chiefly that there is a chemistry – an alchemy as Enrique would call it – between movement, image and text, an alchemy which yields very complex and surprising results. This is especially true when working with an ensemble of performers.
I’ve also done Butoh – a modern Japanese dance form – the Dance of Darkness, which I found very powerful and interesting. I especially liked its use of poetic imagery, and imagery derived from visual arts, to create its choreographies.
So we’re going to be exploring these disciplines – in just a taster really, given that the course is only eight weeks long. But I hope to be also laying a foundation for those participants who want to explore it in more depth.
“I can’t dance!” Do participants need to have previous movement experience in order to enjoy the course?
No, none whatever! Of course dancers, mime artists and so on would be able to contribute a lot and I would love to have some on board. But no previous experience is necessary.
Plus, there is no base level of fitness required. So older people, people with disabilities and people who have hitherto led sedentary lives and are not necessarily very fit, won’t find the course difficult. And they would find much to learn and to enjoy.
I also think that if someone is thinking of doing an in situ: course but is a little nervous because their first language is not English, this would be an ideal course for them because the emphasis is on image and movement rather than on text. Native English speakers are, of course, also hugely welcome!
You mention ‘animal movement’ as one of the topics of the course – what’s the inspiration behind that focus? You also mention Ancient Elements – again, why have you chosen those as topics?
Both these themes offer primal images that actors, writers and other artists have drawn inspiration from since theatre began. I’ve done work on these topics – they’re great fun and a great stimulus for creating interesting work. The Ancient Elements, of course, are Earth, Wind, Fire and Water – at one time thought to be the material that everything was made out of – including humans.
In fact, right up to the Jacobean period, artists, doctors and others involved in exploring human nature thought about character in terms of the elements – so someone might have a melancholic temperament if their ruling element was Earth, a sanguine temperament if their element was Air. There’s a great deal of fascinating psychology involved in that theme.
Is it worthwhile joining if participants don’t want to continue to the summer 2018 performance?
Yes, indeed. The course stands alone, is complete and hopefully satisfying in itself – people are welcome to join whether or not they have any intention of going further. But the opportunity will be there for anyone who wishes to take the work forward into a performance project in summer 2018.
What would you say to someone who was thinking of signing up?
Sign up! The atmosphere is welcoming and friendly. The work is intense and varied and interesting and fun. What’s not to like?
Physical Theatre: an 8-week course
Dates: Thursday 12th October – 7th December (no class Thursday 9th November)
Times: 7.30pm to 10.30 pm
Venue: St Philips Church Centre, 185 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3AN