Viewpoints Masterclass with Annie Ruth – 27th & 28th November 2012

Pema Clark – Participant

Anyone interested in performance should run, not walk, and learn Viewpoints. It is rarely taught in the UK and offers an invaluable tool for anyone interested in developing themselves as an actor, director or drama teacher, or even just as a human being. Annie Ruth’s workshop with Tamasha was amazing and I came away feeling re-inspired and reminded why I love performance. Annie also incorporates Maori practice and values from her home country seamlessly and invigorates performers with the stuff of life that can be easily forgotten in these changing times.

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John Walton – Participant

What did I find useful about Viewpoints? Principally I thought it was a great way to work on the actor as a receptor, as someone who responds to what is happening in the room – as opposed to egotistically manufacturing content. It was incredibly releasing to feel my focus during the two days being constantly outwards – the pressure was off being ‘creative’, and I felt a real sense of being totally present. I also felt much more strongly part of an ensemble than I ever have before – including when engaged in exercises that actively focus on actors’ ‘complicite’. At the same time, I felt I was building on so much else – my relationship to the space, to other actors, to speed, duration, repetition… indeed each one of the viewpoints (both physical and vocal) was incredibly informative, nurturing and fun to play with.

Viewpoints is something that I will build into my own practise; principally as an actor-training exercise for bringing together an ensemble, get them out of their heads and to build a shared vocabulary that is not focused on purely psychological terms. Whether or not I would bring it more completely into my scene work (eg the seven-point choreography system) I am not yet sure – I think I need more time to experiment with it. Without doubt, though, I see some strong benefits to exploring scenes in this kind of physical way, whether or not those explorations made it into the final performances.

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Marie-Cécile Dumont – Participant

As a performer and theatre maker I am always on the look out for new techniques and tools to enrich my creative vocabulary. The Viewpoints offer a theatrical language and structure that constitute an excellent starting point for creation. It’s only been a week since I took part in Annie Ruth’s masterclass and already I am using them in a devised project! They allow performers to quickly find themselves as an ensemble and to get an immediate sense of play, space and focussed awareness. By relying actively on the body and the space around it, the Viewpoints free the actors from all psychological approach and lead them to focus on the ensemble and what is at stake. This workshop truly opened a dimension of acting that I had not considered before – a challenging and demanding yet playful and liberating approach. And one finds out that with the Viewpoints, the more rules, the more complicité! The pressure and anxiety of a so-called ‘good performance’ are taken off the shoulders of the actors who can rely on their bodies and the relationships they draw in the space to create a story. They have to truly put their body on the line and permanently engage with each other but what a pleasure for the audience when the alchemy provoked by the technique hits the space.

Ourania Samartzi – Participant

Reflections on Viewpoints:

The first thing that comes to mind is the structure, the form, the idea of moving, speaking, performing, living in time and space. Working on structured improvisations, the performers learn how to react to what is happening in the room around them. No one is allowed to impose their ideas or opinions on the others and genuine collaborative creation can take place. Sometimes something truly beautiful and exciting will emerge and others the material will be slightly less elegant, but either way something has been created from hardly anything and as in all creative endeavours, there can be no mistakes.

Coming from a devising background, I find nothing more terrifying than arriving into an empty space without an idea, or with an idea but with no idea of how to bring it to its feet, how to make it move and tell the story, how to begin. The emptiness can sometimes be deafening. Working with the Viewpoints I discovered that using the different structures of the method can instantly rid me of this problem. The physical and vocal Viewpoints provide an excellent tool for setting off and, as we say in my country, ‘To begin is the half of the whole’. What you do after that is really up to you, so many wonderful possibilities lie ahead.

Viewpoints is a method that truly liberates the actor and allows the director to compose moving images as if they were conducting a symphony-maybe a jazz symphony. Here it is not important to ‘act well’ but to be alive, aware and with an outward focus. The performer is required to think and do many things, to play games and not get caught, to perform choreography and not miss a beat, to be complicit with the others around him but also with the audience. The ensemble’s journey on the stage is precisely mapped out but, instead of becoming prescriptive, this absolute adherence to the form allows the performers to really play freely, the text to come out clearly without any emotional colouring, and the meaning to be read by the spectator through the context of the images constantly created on the stage.
This kind of work might not suit everyone. After all, there are as many acting and directing techniques as there are actors and directors but Viewpoints is definitely one to try as it is not very widely practised in the UK and, being quite different, it could make you see other ways of working in a different light. Having spent the greater part of two years assimilating all the things my teachers taught me and how to translate them all into my own practise, the work with Annie has inspired and enriched my reflections and hopefully will somehow morph into my future work.

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