I recently attended a workshop conducted by the Bristol based theatre group ‘Outlawed Nomads’. We worked on some Shakespeare and touching on some other areas the director, Natasha Harper-Smith, is interested in. In the workshop there were only three students including myself so it was very intimate but so much fun! Natasha ran the workshop and was lovely. At the bottom of this post I have some website that may be of interest.
The workshop began with us discussing Shakespeare specifically Gloucester’s monologue in the opening scene of Richard the 3rd. I was vaguely familiar with this monologue but I didn’t know it too well so I was a little worried because I will be honest Shakespeare is still a bit of a challenge sometimes but I can work through it usually with good prep! The first task was to read the monologue and see what we didn’t understand. My context of the monologue was not there so I was confused by the section “Our bruised arms hung up for monuments…” but Natasha explained and I got a light bulb moment where it all clicked. The next task was to get up and walk round the space performing the monologue but adding a gesture to each word that best describes the word…I am not sure that makes sense so I will try and give an example; “Now is the winter…” could be characterised by a gesture for “Now” being a finger pointed at the ground and “winter” with shivering, as simple as that is. Through our conversation this allowed us to go deeper into the monologue and understand why Shakespeare chose that specific word and also to just get moving and thinking about movement a bit rather than being sat down. The final work we did on this monologue was to perform this monologue to our group but choose a deformity, pick a deformity any deformity kind of thing! It could be physical or not and could be anything. I chose to do a more mental deformity or abnormality with him having hallucinations, the others in the group, Max and Grace, chose to do paranoia and a lisp. Max went first and he was amazing, like really good and I was just like “fuck” because his paranoia was clear but subtle and just wow. I went next and I feel like it went okay, I got good feedback about how my hallucinations actually made them look which is good and that my stops were well placed. Grace went last with the lisp and was really good, she was completely serious but it was like the scene in ‘Life of Brian’ with Cesear, I was chuckling away quietly but in a good way because I was also a little scared.
After a short break we went back and did an exercise that Natasha had learnt from Frantic Assembly (another theatre group that are wonderful!) called ‘Chair Duet’. This is best done ith two people but we did a few as pairs and a few as a trio. The exercise involves sitting in chairs side by side and facing forward, like you are watching TV and try and keep facing forward throughout the exercise. Then what you do is one of you connects with the other with a movement, for example they could put their hand on their knee, a beat will pass and then the other person does an action, it could be to the other person, a reaction to the first movement or something else. You do this for about 5 movements then repeat it trying to keep the actions flowing and then speeding up so you go super fast. The only ‘rules’ of this game is to stay sat down and facing forward. You can add a new level to it by giving them characters like ‘you are two children’ or ‘two businessmen’. We found that this exercise was really fun but also produced something interesting visually and character wise.
The show we saw later that evening by the company is called ‘The Mad, the Bad and the Downright Ugly’ and it was wonderfully. The play is loosely based around the writings of Shakespeare and the Seven Deadly Sins but it is difficult to explain properly because it was so genuinely unique. Music played a key part in the performance with the actors playing instrument like a harmonica, tins with rocks in, a double bass and singing. I really enjoyed the show and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can get to see it.
Below are some helpful links:
Frantic Assembly Website- www.franticassembly.co.uk
Outlawed Nomads Facebook Page- www.facebook.com/outlawedtheatre
Ian McKellen performing the monologue I mentioned, he is bloody wonderful in this- www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsGGjXZw1eQ