Weekly Actors’ Evening Course – Week 5

Alia Alzougbi, Participant Actor

Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed fellow actors giving themselves over with pleasure to Kristine’s processes, as she pushed, challenged and questioned them, and I have watched them improve drastically as a result. I understand this pleasure — I too experienced it every time Kris was working with me on a monologue or a scene. There is indeed a pleasure of growing and improving by the minute with one of the many Kristine-esque exercises. She lures the actor into a collaboration, the purpose of which is to make the actor the best that they can be – and therein lies the pleasure for the actor. She is brutally honest, but she holds the space with such tenacity I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. I felt safe and open, and I witnessed others and myself improve by the minute under her critical guidance.

Nathan Crossan-Smith, Participant Director Observer

We came into the Rag Factory this week a little mournful, I think, that this would be our lest session together- the last of our Wednesday night sanctuaries. For, really, this is how our workshops feel- a retreat from our text-centric British theatre, a place to recharge, to reassess, to question, to improve our craft as artists, to flop- and flop again and better- to learn and, of course, to play. And so we entered the room, shuffled around, set our things down a little ruefully, and then got over (or around) ourselves and got ready to play.

As a director-observer I’ve watched as Kristine has nudged, encouraged, provoked, teased, pushed, pulled, cajoled and jerked our participants into getting out of their own way, or leaving aside reverence to the text, or opening themselves to their playing partners and finding the pleasure in playing here, now, with these artists. Tonight was no different: our participants returned to duologues explored in week four, as well as some monologues from our earlier sessions, with the spirit of approaching freshly, of recreating (rather than repeating); Kris tried to find the right rhythms, the right musicality, and the right structures, that would work tonight- in this small, worn, make-shift room full of light and artists ready to play- in order to provide the actors with the conditions within which they could play at their best, most sensitively to their fellow artists. “It’s important to get off on the right foot”, Kris has repeated in recent weeks; so the entrances (as well as the playing space) are set up carefully.

Some of our scene work tonight is slow, ‘we can’t push them to a conclusion”, we leave scenes where we have managed to get in this time scale, and we move swiftly to the next: we’re working hard, Kris, the actors in the scene, the observers; we’re seeking the best in ourselves and each other (yes, our real selves and the real interplay between each of us!). Sometimes it’s ‘elbows down’, or ‘let’s work in your French accent- your face is open when you speak in French’, for some ‘hair-up’, for others ‘hair down’, whichever helps to make the actor open up, be themselves, whichever helps them to enjoy playing. Some exercises work first time, others we discard for new approaches, Kris points out that the director seeking out the right exercises is an important activity in itself; the work is artistic, exploratory- not learned rote or as a set method.

The whole session we seem to be paying attention to making sure we are coming to play, making sure we are getting out of the depths of our own heads and really listening to our partners. There is a slight fierceness to our work tonight because it’s our last week, we want to get it right- but of course, we really just need to come ready to play. And once the bags and coats were picked up and wrapped around us again and we left the small make-shift room filled with night to face the night’s chill we chatted, smiled, laughed, having played hard and played well.

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