Okay, so perhaps I am not what you'd call a 'natural blogger' - this has become more of an every-5-months thing and for that I apologise. Not to you but to myself. It is interesting to objectify what is happening at Lecoq through a blog, and although I cannot really recreate the experiences I've had here, I will try my best to update you.  The last 6 months have been the most vivid, back breaking, mind crushing, soul questioning time of my entire life. I am only able to reflect upon this now as I have achieved the minor objectivity of a two week easter break. I say that this time has been lucid, yet at the same time it has changed me not in the way of an explosion, but a slow creeping storm gathering overhead - the kind that gives you goosebumps and your breathing becomes shallow and you catch yourself staring dumbly out of the window at the approaching thunder. In the same sense, I have this feeling of having learnt all of this before, that yellow tinge of a past life's episode. But this makes sense - the things they teach us aren't rocket science, they're things that bring us back to the essence of ourselves, the way we were as children, and hold such truths as only purity can hold. Of course, away from this more mystical analysis, there is the element of common sense in their teachings which can at once bewilder and startle us once we realise how damn obvious it is and how many foolish mistakes have been made in the past - on my part anyway - when acting, on stage, in creating a character, in writing a play. My directorial debut in April with Hot Salt's Honey Blood would be conducted very differently now..I probably wouldn't have begun taking three years to write the script, for instance, but would've hired actors and got us all in a rehearsal room with a stimulus and seen what creations might follow.
Since my last blog we finished with Neutral mask and moved on to what they call 'Universal Poetic Awareness' - that is, the identification of oneself with the world around, and the exploration of Jacques Lecoq's idea 'Tout Bouges' (Everything Moves). During this long period of identification work it became impossible not to laugh at myself. And others. Hard. Every single day.  As much as there is much use character-wise in moving like water, fire, earth, air, oil, metal, paper, jelly, a pane of glass with light passing through it, all the colours of the rainbow, the eiffel tower, notre dame (you get the gist), it is pretty funny when you are totally engrossed with a student trying desperately to move like toothpaste, or crack like an egg, taking it totally seriously..and then you have an almost out of body experience and float above it all and look down at yourself and others undulating and flapping about. No wonder actors used to be buried at the crossroads with a stake in their heart, or locked up in straight jackets.  After this elemental-work we moved on to animals, and then animals in human situations. Dogs in a classroom. Fish going shopping.  Of course all the way through these weeks our autocours titles reflected our teaching, so the week we had 'Animals in a human situation' and I was a chicken in an office in my scene, along with two other chickens, a lizard, an ant, and a very slow turtle attempting to photocopy something - definitely one of the silliest autocours - Complicite came to watch us perform! A more surreal moment has never been had. One of the guys who came to see us, and who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the proceedings, actually won an Olivier award for his animal choreography of War Horse. Hmm. I was a chicken.
Shortly after this we began work on character masks, which would eventually lead us to expressive and Larval masks, as well as one lesson with utilitarian masks ( masks not meant for performance, such as hockey masks, or gas masks).  We were asked to make our own mask and bring it in for playing.  Mine (penelope) got picked to use for the next two weeks whilst we played with everyones creations. 

For me, this mask-making epitomised the teaching of the school in one fundamental way - the masks that did not work and had to be redone were the ones that had been pieced-together - as in the maker had taken the clay and done each bit separately, made the cheeks, added the eyebrows, added the nose... The ones that worked were the ones that had been formed out of one piece of clay, whole. This is what I've learnt, especially in dealing with autocours every week, which is an extremely vital part of the course and at the heart of everything they teach..theatre mustn't be pieced together, it must be made from something whole and therefore remain whole in itself. Over the weeks in autocours the ones that haven't quite worked or indeed totally flopped are the ones that have jarred in some way - it feels as though someone has had an idea, and then imposed it upon the theme of the week. Whereas the ones that surprise, that delight, that can be touching or shocking or whatever..are the ones that have come organically out of the group. So rather than someone sitting down and 'deciding' what to do, they have cut the crap and got on their feet and MOVED.  What is 'juste' and what is not 'juste', in where lies the truth, is the body, not the mind.  
On top of this, the harsh somewhat biting constant criticism from the tutors has led me - and many others I suspect - to constantly question myself.  Everything I do, every idea I have, every creative impulse.  Some would view this as a regression, but I believe that the constant questioning mixed with the expectation of constant movement and creative thought, means that although I question myself, I still have to get up and TRY.  This is methodologically and ultimately honing my instinct as an actor, director, creator of theatre, and has and is in the process of endowing me with a critical mind - the very thing that galvanises and enables a creative one.
1/4/2013 01:05:52 am

Briony, you continue to fill me with fresh respect. your mind has always been a great mind but is now wider and more all seeing than ever and i think you will come back to me a different person at the end of your time in this learning institution.

i always have will always continue to be, in awe.

mum xxx

2/4/2013 11:52:38 pm

There is an article on Lecoq in the Winter 2012 edition of Shakespeare Bulletin: "The Lecoq tradition in Shakespeare". Vol 30(4), p 469-484. It is by Darren Tunstall. I think he used masks in Twelfth Night and Midsummer Night's Dream, and there may well be other instances.


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