Tag Archives: Kristine Landon-Smith

Fin Kennedy’s Speech at Tamasha’s 25th Birthday @ Rich Mix, 30th October 2015

Hello and welcome.

That rather sweary audio playing as you came in was some writing by none other than the legendarily sweary Ishy Din (who else) from a new site specific community project, Taxi Tales which Tamasha has been piloting with Ishy this year. Real minicab drivers performing monologues in their vehicles. The full audio is available on our website and we hope to be rolling it out bigger and better next year.

So, Tamasha theatre company is 25 years old. You may cheer.

They say at 25 you can no longer blame your parents for anything; you start to grow up. You might go out a little less, stay in a little more, take work a little more seriously, and of course start to go to lots of weddings. You might even be thinking about settling down yourself.

Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar 1992

Tamasha co-founders Sudha Bhuchar and Kristine Landon-Smith.

It’s true that this year, 2015, Tamasha did take a big leap, leaving its parents Kristine and Sudha behind and embarking on a new and, so far at least, exciting new relationship… with me.

But can a theatre company’s life stages really be so easily compared to a person’s? I thought it would be fun to find out.

You could say Tamasha was born in India – 1989’s debut play is set there. Untouchable, adapted by Kris and Sudha from the novel by Mulk Raj Anand, hit hard at the treatment of India’s lowest classes. Set over one day in the life of 17-year old latrine cleaner Bakha, it laid bare his daily struggle for survival amid the hypocrisies of the high caste Hindus. Here, Tamasha is full of the rage of youth at the injustices of the world.

Untouchable

Untouchable. Actor: Sudha Bhuchar, Photographer: Jenny Potter

In 1991 Tamasha moved house, into a new block of flats where House of the Sun is set, where we meet Sindhi refugees fleeing partition. A second generation has since grown up, hypnotised by the bright lights of Bombay, rebelling against a generation desperate to hold onto the old ways. A restless, adolescent Tamasha is starting to look to the future.

House of the Sun

House of the Sun. Actor: Surendra Kochar, Photographer: Alistair Muir

In Women of the Dust in 1992 we see a more overtly politicised company exposing exploitation of illiterate village women on Delhi’s construction sites – and the male bosses who keep them oppressed. This one toured India itself – Tamasha was spreading her wings.

Women of the Dust

Women of the Dust. Actors: Shobu Kapoor, Sudha Bhuchar, Nina Wadia, Jamila Massey; Photographer: Sue Wilson

1994 and Tamasha has got married – or at least turned her attention to marriage. A Shaft of Sunlight explored the conflicts that exist in a mixed Hindu-Muslim marriage, against the explosive backdrop of the same fault line within Indian politics.

A Shaft of Sunlight

A Shaft of Sunlight. Actors: Mina Anwar, Charubala Chokshi; Photographer: Jenny Potter

1995 and Tamasha has migrated – to Birmingham, of course – to have babies, or not. Ruth Carter’s play A Yearning took as its subject a childless young bride from India, who soon discovers the community that was once nurturing becomes increasingly stifling.

A Yearning

A Yearning. Actor: Zohra Segal, Photographer: Jenny Potter

Children did finally arrive – seven of them in fact, and from a mixed marriage – in 1995’s smash hit East Is East. Nazir, Abdul, Tariq, Maneer, Saleem, Meenah, and Sajid and their parents George and Ella Khan became seared on the nation’s memory, and Tamasha the proud parent basking in the success of her riotous brood.

East is East

East is East. Actors: Chris Bisson, Jimi Mistry; Photographer: Robert Day

1997 saw a sea change in the company’s profile, with A Tainted Dawn invited to open the Edinburgh International Festival, with music by Nitin Sawhney. Tamasha was all grown-up, and revelling in her success.

1998 saw a return to her Indian homeland with the riot of colour and song that was Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral – winner of the Barclays Theatre Award for Best New Musical. Tamasha the young adult was celebrating life.

Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral

Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings and a Funeral. Actors: Meneka Das, Parminder Nagra, Pravesh Kumar, Sameena Zehra, Raza Jaffrey, Shiv Grewal; Photographers: Charlie Carter

Hard work and the slog of making a living took over in 1999, with Balti Kings, a faithful recreation of the ruthless kitchens of Birmingham’s curry houses where price wars rage and fortunes are won or lost on the back of the nation’s most popular food. This was Tamasha the businessman, surviving in the cold hard marketplace of Britain’s inner city subcultures.

Balti Kings

Balti Kings. Actors: Nabil Elouahabi, Indira Joshi, Kriss Dosanjh, Ameet Chana; Photographer: Jenny Potter

2001 took a darker turn, with Tamasha’s first affair – and a murderous one at that. Ghostdancing by Deepak Verma saw an adulterous couple commit an act that would haunt them forever.

From 2002 onwards we see an interesting new focus on comedy, Tamasha discovering her funny bone. Ryman and the Sheikh, Strictly Dandia, AlI I Want Is a British Passport and The Trouble With Asian Men took on – respectively – the absurdity of Asian TV channels, inter-communal rivalry in North London dance competitions, satirising Mohammed Al-Fayed and hysterical confessional interviews with a variety of modern Asian males.

Ryman and the Sheikh

Ryamn and the Sheikh. Actors: Rehan Sheikh, Chris Ryman; Photographer: Joel Chester Fildes

But serious political commentary was never far away and A Fine Balance in 2006 and Child of the Divide in 2007 once again took on the chaos and danger of a newly-modern India living in the shadow of partition.

Child of the Divide

A Child of the Divide. Actor: Divian Ladwa, Photographer: Nic Kirley

From 2008 onwards we thrillingly start to see some of Tamasha’s real-world children coming through – the first fruits of the company’s pioneering Tamasha Developing Artists programme. Lyrical MC put London’s school students centre stage while Sweet Cider became the debut production by Emteaz Hussain, who so brilliantly puts East Midlands young people centre stage, both then and in her follow-up this year, the extraordinary Blood. Em is a brilliant embodiement of Tamasha’s commitment to new talent and shows a company with a big heart, eager to share its success by nurturing a new generation.

Lyrical MC

Lyrical MC. Actors: Busola Aderemi, Sarah Akinsanmi, Nana Owusu-Agyare; Photographer: Robert Workman

From this point on, Tamasha becomes very much a family home, with two generations living side by side, the ‘parents’ who can produce slick and timely adaptations  like 2009’s Wuthering Heights or 2010’s The House of Bilquis Bibi, alongside energetic new offspring like Nimmi Harasgama and her one-woman show Auntie Netta’s Holiday for Asylum; the soon-to-be legendary writer of Snookered, Ishy Din, and the brilliant young actors, assistant directors and designers, all graduates of the TDA programme, taking centre stage in the most recent shows such as The Arrival, My Name Is… and Blood.

So what have we learned from putting this unusually accomplished 25-year old on the psychiatrist’s couch? If you were to meet Tamasha, out there in the foyer, what would she be like?

Well, I think you’d find a softly spoken 25-year old, modest about her achievements, and eager to put those of her children into the limelight instead. You’d find a political heart, angry at the injustices of the world, but with a sophisticated set of skills to get her points across – intellectual analysis, humour, empathy, irony, wearing her heart on her sleeve but with the quick wit of a first-rate mind – and not afraid to turn that analysis onto her own community and hold them to account.

A young woman capable of straddling cultures with the ease of those with mixed heritage; a feminist, a fighter, with no time for chauvinism, hypocrisy or the abuse of power.

She would be a lover of language, and literature, of high art and low; fascinated by people, cultures, dialects and seeking out those overlooked by everyone else.

But most of all I think you’d find someone motivated by love, and by hope. Love for the world, its people, the mad, teeming, glorious mess that is humanity – and an unshakeable hope that we can, should and will do better, if only we were to understand one another more fully, and that theatre is the crucible where we meet to do just that.

It would be an unusually complex, accomplished and wordly 25-year old, if only you could meet her. But the good news is, you can. She is here tonight. She is each and every one of you, of us, her constituent parts.

So I’d like you to join me in raising your glass, and wishing Happy Birthday to the Tamasha on your left, the Tamasha on your right, the Tamashas in front and behind you.

We are all 25 tonight.

Happy birthday, Tamasha.

x

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Actor Director Masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith

Michela Sisti, participant director

In January of this year I observed Kristine’s “Introduction to Acting” workshop as well as participated as a director in her “Actors and Directors” workshop. The four short days I spent in Kristine’s class were rigorous, intense and absolutely packed with learning. I left our Arcola studio on the evening of the fourth day feeling tired and happy and quite transformed. I am very grateful to Kristine and Tamasha for giving me the opportunity to have challenged myself with such a rewarding method of working with actors.

The most important thing a director should nurture in an actor’s performance is that actor’s willingness to play. An actor at play is relaxed, open and, in Kristine’s words, “free to fly”.

Kristine’s approach to directing is both simple and rigorous: how do I get the actors in front of me to be at their absolute best? It requires a huge amount of focus and sensitivity from the director who must be completely tuned in to the actor’s performance in order to detect what is preventing this actor from being in a relaxed and open state of play. Likewise, the director should also be looking for moments in which the actor absolutely shines. If the director can figure out what is allowing this actor to fly freely then it is possible to guide them back to that open state in other moments of their performance.

So, Kristine’s approach ultimately places the actor, rather than a superimposed vision of the director, at the centre of every performance. It also requires the director to engage with each actor very closely and to understand that what may work brilliantly for one actor will not be right for another. Out of this understanding that each actor should be guided along his or her own individual path comes Kristine’s intracultural practice, which I will discuss in detail later on in this blog.

Part 1: Kristine’s Games/Warm-ups

One of the first things Kristine explained to us when we began her workshop was that a game or warm-up used in a rehearsal room cannot be random. It needs to have a purpose; it needs to take the actors on a journey.

Kristine began each day by playing a few rounds of volleyball with the actors in a circle. According to Kristine, the only thing that matters about this game is that it teaches the actors how to play well together. Kristine was actively directing even as she was playing with the actors. She was counting the number of times the ball was volleyed in a clear and energized voice while throwing in words of encouragement in between. She was also the ongoing bullshit police: if the group began to dissolve into unfocused hilarity, threatening to become children playing rather than actors playing, Kristine would firmly rein them back to the task at hand. At the end of this game any awkwardness or guardedness that had been clinging to the actors had melted off. The group was open and ready for more.

The next game was a variation on tag. It should be played at a stage when people are still learning each other’s names. The actors began by walking around the space. The person who is “It” is intent on tagging someone. The only way to prevent yourself from becoming “It” is to say the name of someone else in the space, who then becomes the new “It”. If you are tagged before you call out someone else’s name then you lose a life. If you are tagged after losing three lives you are “out”. When there were four people left in the game Kristine made the space smaller. The rest of us observed from the sidelines. As in all of her games, Kristine was actively directing: encouraging the actors who needed to be encouraged, goading or teasing the actors who she could sense would response better to cheekier feedback, and always keeping track of who was “It” so that could flow energetically without stumbles.

For the third game Kristine asked the actors to break up into two even groups. The members of each group formed a huddle and numbered themselves from one to seven (there were 14 actors in total), taking care not to let the other group know who had chosen which number. Next, Kristine asked the groups to stand in two rows, one group facing the other with space between the rows large enough for actors to move around in. Kristine then stood on a chair situated between these two rows, dangled a glove in the air and called out a number between 1 and 7. If Kristine called out “four!” then the fours from each row would have to enter the space and snatch the glove from Kristine’s hand before the other person did, then quickly run back to their row before they could be tagged by the loser.

In this game Kristine warned the actors against “playing too hard”. If each person called into the space only focused on snatching up the glove and dashing back they would miss a far more important opportunity: the opportunity to play. So, the actors were encouraged to actually stand the in that very charged and risky space and find out how to play with each other. This game also put the actors ‘on stage’ for the first time in front of their peers which meant that the potential for discomfort or anxiety was suddenly increased. The more experience and actor has being ‘on stage’ in the rehearsal room, the better equipped he or she will be to deal with any nerves that might derail a carefully created performance.

On my third day in Kristine’s class I had the opportunity to lead this game as a director and I found it difficult to pull off. I felt I did a good job setting up the game but when the time came for the actors to face off for the glove in the space everything fell incredibly flat. At this point Kristine cut me off and we took some time to cheerfully discuss why what had gone wrong. I realized that that the game began to fail the moment I had dropped out of it. Whereas Kristine had tantalized and provoked and teased and laughed with her actors when she led this game on the first day, I had l limply stood on a chair with a glove dangling from my hand expecting something interesting to happen.

During this moment of realization something Kristine had said earlier, that the director must bring her personality to the room, became especially clear to me. The director must always be in the thick of things, not removed from the action, because how can a director expect a group of actors to be vulnerable and open and present if you are not vulnerable, open and present as well?

Another game that Kristine led was used free up text for the actor. In the first stage of the game actors divided themselves up into pairs and took five turns each trying to slap the other’s hands, while the other attempted to remove them before being caught. Again, Kristine urged the actors not to be swallowed by the aim of winning the game, but instead to remain with each other and figure out together how to remain in an attuned state of play. In the second stage of the game Kristine instructed everyone to add bits of text to their monologues every time they went for a slap. The actors were told to resist imposing meaning onto their text, but rather to fling out the words almost unconsciously – they could be speaking gibberish and it wouldn’t make a difference. Through this game many of the actors realized that they had become used to speaking their text in a very rigid way. It took a few rounds of playing these games to loosen up those habits and open the actor to the text again.

Other games Kristine introduced to her actors had to do with building complicité among a large group. Kristine experimented with variations on sending rapid claps around a circle. The claps were passed one way and then another as the group strove to keep them as even and fast as possible. The claps then became movements with accompanying sounds that were passed around the circle. These movements and sounds could be transformed by the actors but the transformations had to be spontaneous. On a later date Kristine asked her actors to send rapid claps around two concentric circles, on clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. She challenged the actors by asking them to move from outer-circle to inner-circle and time their movement in order to catch the new clap. Kristine also led games that involved improvising and shifting rhythms.

One particular game Kristine used had the purpose of giving the actors a chance to feel stupid in front of each other. Everyone begins by sitting in a circle. Someone runs around the outside of the circle with a sock and secretly drops it behind one of the sitting members of the group and continues running. If the runner makes it all the way around the circle again and tags the person they’ve left the sock behind before that person notices, that person is out. This is another way of using the rehearsal room to air out any kind of anxieties an actor might be carrying with them that could get in the way of arriving at an open performance. It is important for a director to create an environment where actors feel comfortable enough to practice failing in front of each other and in front of you.”

Anna-Maria Nabirye, participant actor

“It was so refreshing being back in the room with Kristine. The open actor and the art of play is so delicate. It needs to be nurtured and revisited. As easy as it is to find the wave and be open in play is as easy as it is to completely forget that the wave exists and to close in on yourself. I had forgotten how easy it was when riding the crest of the wave, how many choices and I had at my disposal when open and having the pleasure to play. What these 2 days taught me was that I am responsible for remembering the ease of riding the wave, I am responsible for keeping open and finding the pleasure to play. If a director helps me on my way then that is a bonus. My career, my artistry my choices.”

Pooja Ghai, participant director

“I am an actor who is moving into directing, and building my practice. Joining Kristine on this workshop was both challenging and overwhelming, this was because after only two days we covered so much ground, and I left the room thinking about so much.

As a practitioner Kristine is fantastic to observe. She runs a room on honesty and has an actor centred approach. I have had the joy to work with her in a professional capacity as an actor. To be in the room and learn from her in the capacity of a director was wonderful.

Kristine is an instinctual practitioner; she works with what the actor gives and guides them to find their sensitivity with each other, and to discover each other through complicit play. I was able to see very quickly what my short-comings were, and understood where I needed to build my confidence and how important it was to find the right language for the actor. It has made me want to get back out onto the floor, to gain more confidence and build my practice. Thank you Kristine, once again an incredible workshop, that takes you to the heart of good practice.”

Ed Fromson, participant actor

“Tamasha’s Acting and Directing workshop focuses on the actor or simply ourselves. To try and make us use ourselves in the most sensitive and open way when approaching a text. Kristine focuses on making the directors ask the right imaginative questions that frees the actor from the cliché surrounding text/character/objectives that can sometimes muddle what’s needed. The result is that the actor can achieve his beauty on the stage. A wonderful workshop which I can’t rate highly enough.’’

Ery Nzaramba, participant actor

“I came out of the workshops rejuvenated and my confidence restored. And, mostly, liberated. Because the most important thing I learned was that it isn’t about the character or the background story or the story itself (that is all taken care of by direction, text, costume, design etc), it is about that moment in the scene, between you and your fellow actor(s). Not the characters, but the actual actors. It’s about “playing” with them. Using your lines and your understanding of them, you play with the other actors. Even use your native language/accent as a way in, if necessary – you are more likely to be “yourself” when speaking in your own voice. I found this method particularly useful for period pieces because they’re so far from us and you must use any means necessary to bring it to ‘you’. Bring the ‘character’ to you, don’t go towards the character – or you’ll just be ‘acting’ (it won’t be truthful). And with Kristine you know without ambiguity when you’ve stopped playing and started ‘acting’. She lets you know with no uncertain words. Which is great because you know where you stand but it can be intimidating and fear inducing. That fear is the one thing I wasn’t happy with, though it’s a personal issue: I’m thin-skinned and find it hard to take criticism. But I know it’s necessary to take it well so I do welcome it and just deal with my sensitivity.”

Anne-Marie Piazza, participant actor

“I like coming back to a masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith because she cuts straight to the heart of what it is to be a really good actor. We worked on a text that was very new to me and by just telling me what my character needed and was motivated by she guided me to produce the kind of work I always wanted to do – honest and truthful theatre. Directors like this are rare, I’ve only known one other. And though she is now based in Sydney even this little refresher was useful to reset my ‘general’ acting into something specific, purposeful and true to me.”

Jen Tan, participant actor

“It is very easy to slip into bad habits and very easy to do an impression of good acting and I think we see a lot of this because we don’t challenge performances which are ok, even if at the heart of things we know that it’s an impression of a truth and it is so much more of a risk to step outside of pretence. Kristine always calls this out and I thank her for it. In the process of working with Kristine over the past 3 years I have found more simplicity and ease to my performance and since the sessions last week I have been reflecting on taking risks and pulling down barriers (or not putting them up at all) in my broader theatre practice.”

Mai Cunningham, participant actor

“I was initially quite nervous about taking this masterclass, but was glad I did. Usually the element of ‘play’ that one hears so much thrown around theatre, in my experience, often comes off as ‘enforced play’: making actors play games together in ways that make them act like they are playing rather than really playing. I have never enjoyed the ‘warm up’ sessions at the start of rehearsals, I find they don’t relax me or warm me up at all, and I prefer to get on with the script work. However, Kristine taught us all the value of play in order to create that connection with your fellow actors. To relax and enjoy the work. To enjoy the process of working with actors and to create a real sense of playfulness, and she did this all with such ease and a clear wealth of experience. She also taught actors the value of being ourselves and being genuine on stage. Something that is so easy to forget, and yet Krstine managed to remind us in two days. It’s a wonderful experience to feel so relaxed on stage while performing and being yourself. Her wealth of experience and knowledge is clear to see, and she shares it with great humour and openness. Her eye for recognising the mistakes and achievements we, as actors, do not realise we are doing is amazing. It was wonderful to work with new directors too and to see their learning processes in comparison with actors. It reminded me that directors are human too! I highly recommend this workshop to anyone. Absolutely invaluable.”

Kiran Sonia Sawar, participant actor

“The actor/director workshop with Kristine was absolutely a worthwhile experience. It’s an excellent way to learn new acting techniques and refresh existing ones post drama school. I also got to work with new young directors and collaborate with actors I hadn’t met before. I look forward to hopefully working with everyone again soon!”

Naveed Khan, participant actor

“I walked out of Kristine’s Actor/Director workshop feeling more confident as an actor. Confident to rely on doing no ‘acting’ at all. We usually learn this at Drama School. Though if it’s been a few years, you learn bad habits again. With Kristine’s experience and intuition, you quickly reach a beautiful realness in scenes. It was fascinating to watch the process and invaluable to participate in. I thoroughly recommend Tamasha’s workshops and look forward to working with Kristine again.”


Introduction to Acting Masterclass with Kristine Landon-Smith

Sanita Simms, participant actor

“I really enjoyed Kristin’s workshop with Tamasha. Since graduating from drama school it has been the first workshop which has allowed me to be open and free…and the key? Playing. As an actress, or I suppose any performer, I‘m always looking to further my craft and hone in on and develop new skills. What I learned with Kristine was that I had certainly forgotten the enjoyment of finding the true moments between myself and another actor. Letting go of stage directions and concentrating on ‘objectives’ have in fact been my obstacle. I had a fantastic time because I felt I discovered a major block and rediscovered why I’ve chosen this often flippant profession in the first place. My only regret is that I hadn’t tapped into Tamasha before and I feel privileged to have experienced Kristine’s way of working although she now lives abroad. Working with future directors and going for castings will be seen in a different light. Thank you for giving me this opportunity!

Kaushik Guha, participant actor

‘It was quite simply an amazing and inspiring experience. Kristine’s way of teaching is second to none! I have never enjoyed the experience of acting so much, as she truly sees each actor’s full potential, and uses ways only she knows how, to extract the best out of each actor. It was awesome to watch her in action and I loved every second of it. I am just sad Kristine has to go back to Australia now, as I feel I could learn so much more from her. Finding such a talented coach is like searching for a needle in a haystack. She has filled me with so much more confidence that I didn’t have before, and I just want to keep that feeling with me wherever I go now. Especially auditions of course… 🙂

Thank you once again, and I look forward to hearing about other learning opportunities with Tamasha throughout the year.”

Jade Greyul, participant actor

“I was familiar with the concept of the ‘actor at play’ before attending Kristine’s workshop, but I had never explored it alongside someone with such an innate capability to work directly with the individual; with me, and myself as an artist. Kristine guided us as professionals – not at all afraid to tell us when we weren’t reaching our potential for truth in each performance. The various group games encouraged an open forum, putting us all at ease to learn, share and most importantly, play! Kristine’s incredibly instinctive and straightforward approach was a refreshing change to hours of discussing character’s back-stories, attempting to discern who ‘they’ are and what ‘their objectives’ might be… for ‘they’ are, quite simply, us. When we stop placing the character outside of ourselves, what occurs is a beautifully organic process of talking from real emotions; a process which Kristine masterfully guided us through with carefully planned improvisations and an encouraged connection with our own cultural contexts. It was equally as insightful to watch Kristine work one-on-one with the other members of the group, each time witnessing the ‘performance’ fall away and the ‘performer’ come to life. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend working with Kristine in any capacity, as I hope to do again myself in future. Thank you Tamasha for another opportunity to creatively free myself, and remain open to the rewards of playmaking.”

Prinesh Mistry, participant actor

“One of the best acting classes I’ve attended and certainly the most playful!

Kristine has taught me that when we give ourselves the freedom to add a part of our self to the fabric of a character, we have the power to give a real, authentic and believable performance. No acting, just us being real in someone else’s skin. So simple. Accents, body language and physical appearance can all be manipulated , but the true essence of the character must be real. This is the important lesson I can take from the course. Kristine is a gem in a world where so many acting teachers manage to successfully overcomplicate the craft. Through her amazing level of perception she offers positive encouragement and simple straight forward advice. I was on such a natural high after the course!”

Jishnu Soni, participant actor

“Having a masterclass with Kristine is like rediscovering yourself as an Actor. She really knows how to bring out the best in you. The most important thing you learnt in the masterclass is that you are not acting a character you are performing yourself on stage. If you leave aside all the expectations of how a character should behave or say or any other stereotypes and perform as yourself, you will give out the best in you. Her theory of playing and improvisation and then performing the text as yourself is the important thing you learn as an actor. The other most important thing I learnt is using your own cultural heritage in the performance rather than following the standard norm. Use your own cultural background to your advantage; it helps you to create the person you are. Once you have master your own self, everything else falls into place by itself like accent, dialects, text, body, personality etc.”

Sangeeta Reding, participant actor

“I have done other courses but this approach was very different & useful for me as a working actress. It created an amazing closeness in a short space of time. I had to leave early on the first day to attend a casting- I got the job- what more can I say?”

Sneya Rajani, participant actor

“Inspirational, is the only word I could use to describe the workshop. Kristine is more magician less director. She has this amazing ability to hone in on your inner actor or rather shall I say the she hones in on finding ones self in the purest form. Where you have no inhibitions or pretense of what your role should be, just working on pure human connection and gut instinct to perform. Or in Kristine’s words the ‘PLAY’ theory. This theory can then be used in our future roles but has definitely inspired me to work harder and has made me see acting in a new light.

Thank you Kristine for giving me hope for acting and the tools to succeed.”

Teena Antia, participant actor

“As actors we live in a world of possible rejection. And that possibility can some times loom so large that we forget to do the one thing that we are meant to do…play. This workshop really focused on the important stuff – openness, professional vulnerability and honesty. These words sound lofty but Kristine Landon-Smith made it surprisingly easy to attain. She tuned into every one of us with such precision, it was almost like she could sense a false impulse before we even made it. She made us remember that we were good at our craft, so when she said “why is this so awful” it didn’t bruise our egos. She made us stronger and more vulnerable as actors and she reminded us to enjoy it all. I left the workshop feeling more secure in my acting than I have in months. She was one of those people you don’t ever forget.

Anurita Heer, participant actor

“It was great to take part in the masterclass with Kristine as her way of teaching and directing actors has been so important for my learning process as an actor. Kristine’s method is simple: she simply places the actor at the centre of any work. In doing so, the actor becomes completely free to play in improvisation or with a text and the result is a great performance. I have been through, as well as observed, this step by step process numerous times, watching actors transform in carefully crafted improvisations and then move on to perfectly directed text work. By taking the actor’s cultural context into consideration, Kristine always provides an environment for actors where they can create something magical for an audience.

Pema Clark, participant director

“I came to Kristine’s masterclass in order to further my own practice and research as a scholar-artist. In making links in my own mind around the place for actor-centred approaches within my own experimental interests, I was very enriched by Kristine’s work as it puts the actor/performer at the heart of any rehearsal and performance. As she reminded us, an actor can never be anyone other than themselves so, as performance makers, we might as well draw from their strengths and skills as creative and inspired resources. I would definitely attend another workshop with Kristine and highly recommend her as a teacher and director.”

Aysha Nawaz, participant actor

“I was quite nervous before I went along to the masterclass and so prior to going I tried to do a bit of homework and came across the concepts of ‘playing truthfully’ and the ‘intracultural approach’ that Kristine employs in her work. I got a vague idea but nothing can really prepare you for the actual experience…from the first moment, I knew this wasn’t going to be like any other class I’d attended.

I didn’t know any of the other participants before the class but by the time the morning was over, an intimacy and closeness had developed within the group and this allowed us all to connect and play freely with one another. Kristine encouraged us to remove the layers of what our perceptions of ‘acting’ may have previously been and by doing so uncover and reveal the true artist beneath.

When attempting to deliver our prepared monologues we were each taken on an individual journey of self discovery, a journey that taught me personally how the use of my mother tongue (Urdu) can be an extremely useful tool within improvisation, rehearsal techniques and as an actor full stop. I had never before attempted to use any aspect of my cultural heritage within the performance space. I instantly sensed the transformation within my delivery through Kristine’s careful guidance and intracultural technique; and although initially I felt quite vulnerable and exposed, the overwhelming feeling of being free from ‘convention’ was hugely liberating. I connected with my text in a way that I hadn’t done previously, it seemed to take on a whole new meaning for me – the ease and simplicity were all underpinned by an internal surge in energy and confidence.

I certainly look forward to working again with Kristine and Tamasha. Please don’t just take my word for it, I highly recommend this inspiring class to all artists regardless of age, gender background etc, I promise you won’t regret it!”

Rochelle Rose, participant actor

“I was excited to take part in the workshop because Kristine came highly recommended to me. However I must admit that I died inside when I found out we were going to be playing lots of games. But through Kristine’s encouragement and facilitation and her ability to hone in on the individual needs of an actor, I made much needed breakthroughs and enjoyed myself. I now have things to be mindful of whilst acting without being crippled by the things I have to work on. I also found it really helpful to watch Kristine direct the other amazing actors in my group. Watching helped me understand her process better and apply the advice she gave them to myself and my own acting. A very inspiring way to start the year! Thank you!”


Intracultural Actor Masterclass with NIDA via Video Link!

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Read below some of the comments below on our exciting experiment to see if we could lead an Intra-cultural Actor Masterclass with Kristine, students and observers from NIDA and the UK, all in a very high-tech space via Video Link:

“As an artist and researcher in intracultural artistic practice I find Kristine Landon-Smith’s method of work inspiring and seminal within the theatre field.”

“I wanted to revisit things covered in the actors’ workshops I took with Kris in 2012. Observing the session, as opposed to participating in it, allowed me to write down the warm up exercises and the process. Seeing the actors work made it easier to detect patterns of intracultural acting and what processes were similar to all the actors when approaching their texts with Kris’ guidance. Watching Kristine’s way with actors as she incorporates cultural and linguistic backgrounds in the work process in today’s multicultural environment is something I feel strongly about and I learn a lot from it (as an actor but also as a director). I was there as an observer and the time went by very quickly, the experience was very rich and watching only allows you to be more analytical without the pressure to “perform”. Observing only was a highlight for me as I was free to take notes and not worry about “lines” or “performing” in any other way. Using modern technology to work on a piece despite time and space constraints was very interesting and I felt very inspired upon leaving the masterclass, Kristine is a great teacher live or on screen. Always a pleasure to be involved with Tamasha, I have a great respect for the work the company does and the opportunities it provides. It is a rare thing in the industry in this day and age.”

“It was incredible watching the actors in London engaging in an intense scene with the actors in Australia!!! Via webcam. Unbelievable. Theatre is often such a specific experience that only the actors and audience in that room feel. But the actors in Australia and London were able to create this tension and relationship virtually. It’s difficult to put into words but it felt almost magical when the scenes between the actors were alive and true. I had been to a workshop with Kristine before, as an actor, and loved it. I was, of course, too absorbed in the experience to fully acknowledge the techniques she was using on the actors and how they responded and were affected by her suggestions. As a just starting theatre-maker myself, I want to see as many different methods so I can use them in my future work. I also found Kristine’s method exceptional – so really wanted to be able to use it in my own work.”

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New Beginnings

Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar 1992

Kristine Landon-Smith and Sudha Bhuchar

In September we announced that our Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director Kristine Landon-Smith had been appointed as Lecturer in Acting at NIDA in Sydney and would be moving to Australia to take up this position on a full time basis from spring 2013 (see the announcement article for full details here). Since this announcement she directed her Tamasha show The Arrival which toured in March and April, to a rapturous response from press and audience alike.

The following Monday April 15th, we marked a landmark moment in Tamasha’s 23 year history when we bid farewell to Kristine. Among a group of close peers, supporters and TDA Artists and friends we raised our glasses to this bittersweet moment as Kristine embarks on her new life. There were impassioned speeches, laughter and tears as we looked back on her glittering achievements with Tamasha and at the same time looked forward to the possibilities she will bring to Australia as she takes up her post as Lecturer in Acting at NIDA.

This is a ‘coming home’ for Kristine as she grew up in Australia and no doubt she will build on her success as a director who has pioneered an intracultural practice which she is also recording through her PhD.

As Kris said in her leaving speech:

‘ I leave a company with a huge body of work, an infrastructure that runs like clockwork  and an inspiring, imaginative energetic community of artists connected to the organisation through TDA.  They are a force to be reckoned with.’

We are delighted that she remains connected to Tamasha’s work from her base in Sydney. Following Tamasha’s recent tour of The Trouble with Asian Men at the Parramasala Festival, we will explore further possibilities ‘down under’.

As we absorb this change with mixed feelings, we are also looking forward to our exciting body of upcoming work and events in our current three year ‘Small Lives, Global Ties’ programme.  Over the next six weeks  we are delighted to be forming new associations with High Tide festival with a rehearsed reading of My Name Is… and St George’s Hospital with a special scratch event. We also are looking forward to an exciting evening at Rich Mix with our upcoming scratch Music and Migration: Underscoring Our Lives and to TDA workshops focussing on Digital and Clown.

You can listen to the ‘Tamasha at 23 Years’ Theatre Voice interview with Sudha and Kristine here.


3 Day Actors’ Course with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ali Zaidi, Participant Actor

Working with Kristine teaches you many things. Essentially you come to understand your place in the process of theatre, you know you are there on-stage to play truthfully with the other actor. Kristine has an excellent ability to guide actors from any background, of any race, towards realising this. With the use of well-crafted improv scenes actors come to bring the freedom and joy of play they experience in the improv to any scene, thus creating (in my opinion) excellent theatre. My greatest joy of that weekend – next to working with Kristine one final time before she leaves for Australia – was to see actors come to realise the ideal Kristine pushes for and to revel in it. It was a pleasure to be in the room.

Bomy Gandhi, Participant Actor

‘Where to start and where to end’, is always the case when you are out seeking knowledge and well, when you write a blog. So much to learn and so much to say.

To begin with, I feel extremely pleased having done this Masterclass with Kristine. Having thought about it for few months, and finding out that this might be last opportunity for long time to come, I had to be there.

Being a beginner in the arena of acting, I wasn’t sure what to expect and what was expected out of me, but the very first day itself was eye opener. The fact that the concept is ‘actor-centered’ made it very easy to forget the worries and have ‘pleasure-to-play’. Constructive feedback, practical exercises which stretch your thought process, focus on actors and utilising their strengths were best part of the 3 day workshop. Kristine’s strive to focus on strengths of an actor and bringing the best performance out of them, makes one feel confident and focused on playing their strengths and make an actor ‘real’ in performance. Kristine’s approach of constantly engaging artists instead of one-way communication, has definite impact on performance, instantly.

Being part of a diverse group in terms of experience, skills, background and approach, it was a workshop filled with lot of learning. The positive change in performance and ease of playing a scene were well evident at each stage of the workshop.

I hope to continue on what I’ve learnt and learn more from Christine in future.

For me as an actor, ‘Tamasha’ is vital.
Thank You.

Cathy Conneff, Participant Actor

To me the whole course wasn’t just about acting and finding your voice on the stage. I found the whole weekend made me question who I am as a person and why I have chosen to go into acting in the first place: this is a good thing.

It became apparent to me, that I have been using acting as a refuge to hide from myself, to forget myself and leap whole-heartedly into living life onstage “as another person”. Not that I ever realised that I was doing this. I have been creating a mask, based on my perception of myself and projecting this back onto myself meaning that I end up as some weird, slightly odd stereotype of me. It was very difficult to let go of this and there were times over the course that I struggled and felt very exposed and uncomfortable and, dare I say it, incompetent.

However, I had a breakthrough on the last day of the course and let, for once, the text do the work and it just felt right.

Ana Baldia, Participant Actor

Kristine approaches the scene from a very logical point of view. First, she focuses on the actor. She has very high expectations from her actors, and works with a blunt honesty which, in return, places the actor in a position of vulnerability and honesty that helps them creating a raw but believable scene. She is quick at getting rid of the egos in the rehearsal room and clear and precise with her directions. She uses a diversity of games in rehearsals which develop in actors a sense of spontaneity, alertness and complicity that permeates the common ground and helps building a common language in the rehearsal space.

Then, she approaches the text with the same degree of commitment and honesty. Her approach is sophisticated and yet simple. She tends to unravel the scene rather than compose it. The actor is expected to fill in the text with their own self- their accents, backgrounds or life experiences. Her proposal is for the actor to play. Her understanding is that the audience wants to see the performer PLAY.

When studying the scene, Kristine asks the actor not to over prepare. She expects the actor to be open instead and respond viscerally to what is happening in the moment, in the scene. To maintain this authenticity, the actors must first connect- with themselves and to one another. In this, Kristine’s method focuses more on reaction and less on action. She prompts the actors with improvisations which allow them to find either and emotional or a physical state which serves the scene. She builds atmospheres.

By exploring the actor’s default (each actor’s blocks or habits) and contradicting it, she releases the actor so they can find freshness and vitality in their work each time.

Jess Woo, Participant Actor

There was a fantastic diversity of culture and experience within our group. Everyone was really open, friendly and committed. It was a supportive environment in which to play. I think I learned as much if not more observing others as I did in my own work. I felt proud of us as a group, and was surprised how quickly we gelled.

Kristine was great. She made the three days fun, and she was supportive and honest – she could immediately recognise the “issues” or blocks of each actor, and knew what to do to help us past these problems. She gave clear advice, and was patient but challenged us constantly to be good and not settle for “passable” when “great” was achievable.

It was revelatory to see the intracultural part of the process in action, and how much difference improvisation around a scene tailored to the individual actor could inject it with life and energy. And it was great to see everyone have “lightbulb” moments as Kristine applied this approach to monologues and scene work.

As an ethnically endowed (!) actor it’s been reassuring that cultural diversity, when acknowledged, can be freeing rather than something to stumble over. Having permission to be authentic allows one to be at ease, open, ready to play.
I now have some great new tools and an awareness of how to apply them: bringing spontaneity, openness and the pleasure to play when working with text. It’s made me more confident as an artist, and in approaching work in a constructive way – and given me a sense what I need to work on. I think I’ll be better to work and play with, too, which is important to me.

Laura Freeman, Participant Actor

Hoorah! I was one of the lucky ones who got a dose of Kristine Landon-Smith before she disappears off to Australia. I took part in her last UK 3 day Actors workshop. And I’m extremely happy I did.

I have been to drama school, studied lots of different methods and forms, I have been acting professionally for 10yrs with different directors, I read the books and I feel like I am constantly learning and getting better (then getting worse, then learning how to get better again)

After all that time, now, in 3 days with a ridiculously simple idea – the pleasure to play – I feel like I have got an almost fail safe method. It has the same joy and excitement of Meisner technique, but a million times simpler. I feel like it shouldn’t work but it does. I still feel disbelieving because surely it can’t be so easy and effortless?

The “playing well together” principle appears to work without any of the things I have always thought were an essential part of my job. But you can’t deny it when you have watched a scene, with your own eyes, completely transformed purely by an actor “enjoying play” and “playing well” with another actor (or with their character). It sounds just silly when you put it on paper, but it was magnetising. People’s faces literally changed and became captivating faces that you couldn’t take your eyes off.

I’ve been thinking about all my favourite actors and the “magic” quality they all share. Stage presence or Star quality or whatever. But now I think it’s probably just – the pleasure to play. Why didn’t someone tell me before! Thanks Kristine.

Charlotte Baker, Participant Actor

It was a pleasure to meet Kristine and get to work with her so intensively over the 3 day course. I was apprehensive going in but soon forgot all about my nerves as the first morning progressed. It was a really supportive environment with a great mix of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures and it was really satisfying to see how well we were playing together on the final day when we ran scenes from a play that Kristine had once directed.

On the first day, I remember Kristine said that her view of acting is very simple, it’s about the ‘pleasure to play’ and over the three days I couldn’t believe what a difference these three little words had made. I realised during the course how much as an actor you can become bogged down with meaning and character decisions and all this does is overshadow the text and it loses its spontaneity.

Kristine’s approach was great, she absolutely told you the truth and gave clear advice about what you were doing wrong or rather what was preventing you from connecting with the text and at the same time she was really encouraging and told you when the work was excellent. Through improvisation tailored to each individual, Kristine brought out the best in each and every one of us, encouraging us to play well both individually in our monologues and later in scenes together. This was great to observe during the course of the weekend. The wonderful open actor that is present in the improvisation is no different to the actor with the text. In this way you allow the text to unfold, discovering it spontaneously in the moment, enjoying the pleasure to play.

It was such a fantastic weekend, challenging, fun and I’ve learnt a lot that I can now carry forward in my acting – I only wish I had got to work with Kristine sooner!

Anurita Heer, Participant Actor

All of the Tamasha courses and workshops that I have been a part of have always been a great learning experience and this last course with Kristine was no exception. Kristine’s straightforward approach of placing the actor at the centre of any work and starting from there enabled actors to explore their creativity with freedom. Each improvisation and scene were carefully set in order for actors to realise their potential, their strong points as well as how to distinguish and work on any weaknesses they may have. As well as actively participating on the intensive course, it was also a great learning opportunity to simply observe fellow actors and watch how Kristine worked with them. By the end of the course, I believe I had a genuine understanding what it means to play with pleasure as an actor and how this simple phrase should be realised and incorporated with utmost sophistication.

Desmond Healy, Participant Actor

What a breath of fresh air! Working with Kristine has been such an incredible experience for me. I heard that this was an opportunity I could not miss, I’ll admit I did not know much about Kristine or Tamasha before the course, but a friend who works very close with Tamasha guided me in the right direction and I went into the course completely open-minded with a need of gaining self-confidence in my art, and this was certainly the case. The course was full of energy, enthusiasm and knowledge in acting and working on developing yourself and bringing your own self to the stage and having a ‘pleasure to play’. an invaluble lesson.

I have worked with people who just tell you what they want and that’s all they want you to deliver and love the sound of their own voice too much, not Kristine. From the word go I felt completely comfortable and input was encouraged, Kristine was very eager to hear our input into the games and exercises, and out of nowhere I discovered I had a voice of my own and was given the platform to voice my opinion and now I have skills I didn’t realise I had. There were times when I found what Kristine had to say a little hard to digest but when she practised what she preached she got results from both me and the other actors and that just raised the bar to a whole new level that just made my jaw hit the floor! I loved working with such an incredibly creative and intelligent but above all FRIENDLY and nurturing director.

Working with such like-minded people was delicious! We gelled so quickly in such a short space of time, I couldn’t get enough of it! We learned equally as much from watching each other as we did from Kristine. Sometimes when Kristine gives you feedback that maybe u have trouble getting your head around, sometimes it takes seeing someone else in the same situation for you to have that ‘Oh! I see now!’moment. Also it was incredible to work with actors of different ethnic groups, and improvising scenes with more than one language and feeding off the other actors without knowing what they were saying back to you!…and still making it work! Awesome!

Kristine was incredibly hands-on she has amazing energy and just gets so into every aspect, every word of the text, every gesture. I learned as much observing her teach and direct as actually being directed by her. Kristine made sure every person in the room was as involved in every scene that was covered.

It was a course that left me elated and made me walk taller, such a simple idea of how to approach acting brought forward incredible results and attitude to the profession. A massive Thank You to Kristine for allowing me to be a part of her final masterclass…WOW!

Llila Vis, Participant Actor

This was my first time working with Kristine and it was fantastic. She gave me a completely different outlook on the process of improvisation which I know will help me in my work going forward. She is encouraging and supportive and yet able to pinpoint where and how you are going off course. This insight is so critical and being made aware of it is so important for the actor as then you can go about sorting it out. Here, again Kristine was able to direct you in a way so that you do manage to find it. I am glad I had the chance to work with her before she left and really very much hope that i will be able to do so again. Wishing her much luck!

Ruby Rall, Participant Actor

After having done the Actor Director course in November 2011, when I first experienced Kristine’s intracultural practice, I was eager to continue supplementing my learning and get onto an Actor course with Kristine as well. It’s tough competition applying for a place, and I’m grateful I finally got a place on the very last UK course actor course with her. As I still had a very strong positive experience impression left upon me from the Actor Director course, I was keen to make the most of the rare place given to me on these next three invaluable days on the actor course.

It’s great when we get called upon by Kristine to work on a scene or support another actor, as we are experiencing her practice first hand. Yet, there is so much learning to be equally gained if not more in being an observer too. This is because by watching another actor go through their transition of pre and post KLS intracultural practice process, I can clearly see their ‘aha’ moments of realisation(s), and I also find another actors lessons learnt very valuable and applicable to me also.

We always started work by playing games. Not just child’s play type playing games – no not acceptable. Kristine made it very clear and specific why playing games had to serve a useful purpose to the actor, otherwise they were just a waste of time and no more than a physical warm up, and supportive to the work the actors were about to do. In all of Kristine’s games, she was very clear and simple in instruction, and this reflected in her direction too later on. She was successful in getting the actors ready to have and enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’. Actors were open and ready to play and connecting with others, by being open to whatever might be happening during game play. There was no opportunity of blocking myself my being stuck in my own head space and focusing on myself; otherwise I wasn’t playing with everyone around me. So it was liberating to be spontaneous just like young children are impulsive and thus TRUE in whatever results we were creating/experiencing. Hence the outcome was an authentic experience for the game participants, and pleasurable experience to be watched by the game audience. This was the standard set that all actors had to maintain and transfer into their acting by being equally ready and open to simply enjoy the ‘pleasure to play’ during acting. Easily said, but when came to acting we learnt how we blocked ourselves and reverted back to whatever our ‘default’ mode was in our old acting comfort zone and quickly forgot how to stay in play mode with our fellow actors. Yet, Kristine’s radar is so sharp at picking up on this, so she set useful and helpful improvisations that served the scenes and quickly brought the actor back into play mode and just be themselves. This was a useful lesson and observation in realising that in the outside world how much damage has been done to actors in getting all kinds of unhelpful information, feedback and programming etc that it just stifles the actors. Amazingly, Kristine was strong in staying actor focused and breaking through all the psychological clutter surrounding the actor in order to get the actor to trust that it is simple yet sophisticated enough for them to be their true authentic natural self. No need to over prepare, no need to over rehearse because it was more compellingly important for the impulse and spontaneity to unfold. As an actor it felt so enjoyable to DISCOVER the scene organically, rather predecide, predefine, presume, prepare …avoid overly ‘pre’ anything when the moment hasn’t happened yet. There is only the present moment, there is only now, now now, and each now moment is a moment of discovery unfolding for the both the actor and the audience. Oh what a joy to finally having permission of being just me, myself, simply Ruby Rall being enough… my natural true self simple and yet still sophisticated….in the present, enjoying the pleasure to play. That was the same for every single actor in the room, and as our shrouding onion layers peeled away it was refreshing to change from being an actor that just ‘exists,’ to now being an actor that is living and breathing in the present, and playing with pleasure, and a joy to be watched by audiences. A win: win scenario for both the actor and the audience.

I was amazed at when actors were speaking in different languages to each other in a scene that everyone remained connected and open to each other and still somehow understood each other. A perfect example of how much we communicate to each other so much more that words alone. I could see how the intracultural practice got actors to get to a comfortable place and ready to open up and express themselves more authentically. After all, my cultural background/heritage is a part of what makes up me Ruby Rall, so it is not affordable to be ignored or dismissed. I don’t want a director or audience to see something that is other than me, and as an actress it doesn’t make sense to play something that is not me – it just doesn’t work. Kristine’s practice created transformations in the actors, during which they change from trying to get away with their pretence to discovering their truth, so much so, that actors’ face, voice and physicality changed and observers picked up on this metamorphosis gave great feedback on how much they enjoyed and believed the actors performances. Now I have a greater sense of how in my job of actor, I am actually an artist who is truthfully, present in the moment, and enjoying the pleasure to play, and experiencing the discovery of each unfolding present now moment… and it is my unfolding experience that I am showing the audience…and that is what the audience is paying to watch and enjoy.

As the UK TDAs lose Kristine to become Australia’s gain, I feel grateful that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing two courses with her, which I wish I did sooner and for longer. Thanks to Tamasha for creating the TDA network where we can keep Kristine’s practice alive as she has given us actors and directors a common language that we understand and it works. Being a Leeds, West Yorkshire based actress it is well worth the time cost travel etc for me to participate in the course and therefore I would strongly recommend this experience to others. Although I know I am one of the fortunate last course actor participants at present, no doubt I’ll be back in the applications queue if ever there is a future chance to top up on a dose of Kristine’s intracultural practice.


February Directors’ Course at Actors Centre with Kristine Landon-Smith

Ash Bhalla – Participant Director

I think performance is the most essential element of any film and I’ve studied a number of approaches to “working with actors” that amounted to transposing a preconceived reality onto the actor. For the past two days I have seen performances go from scratch to compelling scenes in minutes by enabling actors to do what they love: create an organic reality.

In a field loaded with various techniques, jargon and methods it is a relief to finally concentrate on a human being and trust that person to show you the truth of the scene, rather than making a decision about what the script requires and then asking the actor to “recreate” that truth.

With the actor-centered approach the actors play the scene, the scene doesn’t tell them what to play.

Guillaume Laroche – Participant Director

It all started with a desire to push myself where I’d never been before in a professional way – Directing. I’d shot a few videos and trailers and was a keen writer with a couple of projects in the pipeline but I had no way to know – Am I capable of this? Do I have the right approach? Can I communicate with actors the way I like to be spoken to when I’m acting.

Yes, I come from an actor’s background and I feel this week helped me tremendously and confirmed what I suspected: in my view, being an actor really helps to understand the process of working with actors. Sounds obvious but I needed confirmation. So, on the first day, after a delightful warm-up, we were thrown in the deep end and I found that switching from actor to director demanded a sort of mindset I wasn’t accustomed to…after five days, the switch was clearly established thanks to the hands on practice and work we did with Kris but also thanks to the wonderful set of actors she invited to the workshop to be “played” with.

The most important point that came out of the week for me was TRUST! Trust yourself, trust your process but mainly and without fail, trust your actors. Nurtured and guided well, actors prove to be magnificent, and with clear communication, the trust gained allows you, the director and them, the actors, to speak and act freely thus bringing life where there was only a text before. It’s pure magic! A well thought out warm-up is key to that and everyday this week, directors took charge of the warm-up in turn to deliver the best introduction to the day, i.e actors and directors alike joined in a very positive and ready to work attitude.

I also learned to talk less (which is a big deal for me) and let the actors find their way. Once again it all comes down to trust, trusting them to understand your vision almost instinctively and rise to the task with more assurance and deliver their best work.

Many of the actors left each day saying kind words or giving me a hug and this, to me, was the best feeling, proof that I did a good job with them more than anything else, learning to let them BE and PLAY, giving them my undivided attention. I loved the work, I loved the process Kris guided us through, I loved the participants and the actors and most of all, I loved what I was doing!

I left on Friday night feeling whole, in the moment, I felt like a director!

Tim Cowbury – Participant Director

Wednesday felt like a little turning point in the week for me. I’d been learning a lot and scribbling notes furiously all the way, but feeling very much like a hapless beginner, trying to second guess the master (and mostly not succeeding). I’d been thrown into the directing hot-seat on Monday and not managed to get anywhere with the poor actor who was trying to do a monologue from King Lear and had me interfering (directing). Having not prepared and not being familiar with the actor’s text, I think I panicked, felt I had to say something, anything, (and ohmigod there’s not much time!) and chucked a mostly random set of instructions (obstructions?) at her. We hadn’t reached any kind of end point when we had to show the monologue to the group. Myself and the actor sat tense and still in chairs on stage while she delivered the lines ‘at’ me and I tried to smile encouragingly at her. It wasn’t exactly an electrifying event. Afterwards it took Kristine ten minutes to completely free the text, the actor up, instigating an improvisation in Punjabi with another actor (rather than a frozen-with-fear me) the target of the actor’s words. The situation allowed the actors to play and also to be versions of themselves: they acted instinctively and when the text was brought back in, it was imbued with this sense of fun, play but also – most crucially – honesty. The difference between seeing an ‘actor’ as you watch, doing ‘acting’ to just seeing a real person, speaking, being.

This was of course an important lesson for someone trying to get a grasp of a director’s role. In the moment I felt like some sort of ridiculously simple magic had been done, and I was spending the week working out how to do the tricks, so I could learn to do what Kristine did with the Punjabi impro. But I also had lots of questions over whether this approach was transferable to different kinds of scenes. Or to live performance that doesn’t really contain ‘scenes’. The theatre that I make tends to mess around with or completely ignore psychological realism. I wanted to see how the use of improvisation and focus on creating something ‘believable’ would translate onto a very different style or mode of theatre. So on Wednesday I had my second go at directing, and chose to work with a scene from Caryl Churchill’s completely brilliant but completely and utterly absurd Far Away.

The actors I worked with were baffled when we first read the scene (it’s hard to get your head around even if you read the whole play!). They thought it was weird and had no idea what their ‘characters’ were on about. Interestingly, I think the actors were also quite baffled about these things even when we finished working, and baffled but pleasantly surprised after we’d shown the scene to the group. We managed to work with what was essentially a lack of or gap in understanding: we didn’t discuss or explore directly the meaning of this strange text, we didn’t talk about the characters (I banned the word) or really the fictional situation they were in, the world of the play. Instead we played some simple impro games based on a mixture of my ideas and the actor’s comments (‘it’s like they’ve both been smoking something but they’ve definitely smoked the same thing’ led to an impro of stoned people using repetitive language). We went back to the text once or twice, which felt risky, but on reflection was well-judged, giving the actors a sense of how the games we played might relate to the scene, without focusing on the scene really at all. If we had focused on the scene, tried to unpick it too much, I think we’d have ended up trying to make decisions about it. The strength of the work we did was that we didn’t make decisions about the text.

Because the work we did was really light, not consciously analytic  not geared towards the actors having a clear sense of the fictional people they were stepping inside the skin of, it felt like the scene might be a shambles. How could people who haven’t made sense, created internal motivations for, what they’re saying, convey any meaning or reality to the audience? It seemed like I’d be making matters worse when I imposed a new experiment on the actors for the running of the scene in front of the group, asking them to sit at a table, facing front, looking out at the audience as much as possible, and do it as if they were newsreaders about to go on air. But given the scant amount of time we’d had to work, the scene played very well, was believable: not actors acting, but people speaking, being. There was space for the audience to impose their own meaning; if the actors had made lots of choices and tried to ‘play’ the scene a certain way, with intentions and meanings to certain lines, this space wouldn’t have been there. Most interestingly for me, I’d deliberately chosen a text that was very different from anything else we’d seen that week, and I think from the sort of texts, styles, Kristine works with. I was testing her process in relation to mine, expecting to find that much of it didn’t translate. But in this case, with me thinking critically, more sensitive to what was in front of me, rather than grasping at straws as I had on Monday, a process geared towards one style of work (and actor/actor training?) worked surprisingly well in a quite different context.

Kati Francis – Participant Director

So amazing to see a master at work! Kristine is a tour de force as she skilfully, efficiently and energetically crafts her art…I felt for a lot of the week as if I was stumbling through a dark but beautiful forest that Kristine knew all the secret pathways to! She would constantly, generously point them out to me…I was able to tell at least when I was off track, but learning how to navigate through the undergrowth was often bewildering and a little frustrating- particularly when guided by someone who does it so effortlessly!

My objective for the week was to put aside all of my own practice as a director and to try on Kristine’s shoes for a while…this was very exposing as I purposefully refused to fall back on my own techniques…although this did not help my actors have faith in me, it really helped me to unearth her methodology. As a devised physical theatre practitioner, working outside of psychological realism I was a little at sea…usually working from a stylistic premise or a concept. The placing of the actors before text- working with what they brought to the space- was not a novelty for me- but working with that idea in Kristine’s way was! I stumbled, I flailed, I laughed, I had a crisis of confidence- I glimpsed success a few times and then I began to see how I could take this back into my own world…

After some reflection I can say that it was great to be so immersed in someone else’s process for a while and try out their style of work…it helped me to understand the psychology of the performer- what makes them tick- the need to constantly feed them- to keep them safe and secure in your directorial embrace whilst inspiring them to make their own creative leaps. A lot comes down to trust- trusting your own vision/ instinct/ voice/ idea…but also trusting the performers- what they can bring- what they have to offer: give them too much- tell them what you want and they will feel redundant and bored, give them too little- and they will exhaust themselves trying multiple options- unsure of what is working, feeling despondent about their performance and unmotivated to create material/ believe in what they are doing… offer them a seed- highlight the truth within the situation that they are playing- draw out their strengths so that they can feel confident enough to grow what they are doing from pastel hues to vibrant colours, reflect back the essence of the scene that they have found through relaxed, honest and engaged play- a generous offering of themselves, and you will produce compelling theatre.

Daniel Gentely- Participant Director

I came to The Actors Centre with an open mind and not knowing too much about what the week had in store.
After the first day it was clear that the directors involved were all from varied backgrounds and different theatre/film practices.

The first thing that stood out for me was how to create a group energy in the rehearsal space. I am an actor and have been in many rehearsals and simply forgot about how to warm a room up (or a good director can use the warm up to drive the week). This is something that when done well can create a energy and atmosphere that feeds through a company and creates a positive attitude and feel for your rehearsal.

Freeing the actor, relaxing the actor and giving them time to breath. This gives the company freedom to bring their wonderful ideas and interpretation to the rehearsal process. It is one of the first things that I latched on to and clearly made me realise what a good director can do ( as opposed to a director that imposes their vision form the off, this restricts and suffocates). The director gives the actor space and time to create and share their interpretation of the text. This organic process is a natural and positive practice that must be applied to the rehearsal process which creates the shared experience.

Working with a empty space or a restricted space. Towards the end of the week it became apparent that the actor can be restricted by the space you give them to work in. I found this section of the week really interesting. Creating an artistic environment for the actors to ‘play in’ is key to making the scene work. It was really easy for me to stick a table and chair centre stage and say ‘there you go, that is your room’. When questioned about this I simply punched myself in the head and realised how I cramped and suffocated the playing space. Such simple and basic know-hows are key to giving the actors a space that you WANT to ‘play in’, it enhances creativity.

All in all, the week was tough and exposing but also a real reminder that the simple things are sometimes hard to remember but once they are logged and stored you can access them and use for everyone’s benefit.

As a director you must be clear and make it evident from day one that you have a confident and clear working practice/ vision that will create a artistic atmosphere which encourages creativity.

I hope that makes sense and does not make me look a little mad. I think the key thing for me is Don’t clutter and keep it simple!

Anshu Srivastava – Participant Director

In May last year I began to imagine a new kind of work for myself that would be very artistic, generative, collaborative and pleasurable. The idea of becoming a director in the theatre immediately sprang from these first musings and last week I had the wonderful opportunity to take a major step forwards when I participated in the Tamasha week-long directors workshop.

Having attended several of Kristine’s actor masterclasses last year, as an observer, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of her approach and practice, but this time I would be working directly with the actors myself and here I had no idea what to expect… this was going to be all new.

During the first half of the week I was all caught up with ideas. I think due to my complete unfamiliarity with this kind of work, I was feeling pretty exposed and so I was kind of clutching at tactics, trying this or that idea that I had seen other people use to good effect, rather than explore my own capacity to play well; rather than trust my own voice. Some of these ‘moves’ worked better than others, as they were not entirely devoid of instinct, but they were a bit thin and couldn’t really sustain and nourish the actors enough.

The anxiety that surrounded these first days meant that I was sometimes zoning out and kind of freezing and flopping. The great thing was that I could feed these observations back into the group discussions and take encouragement from Kristine’s feedback and guidance. The feelings were never really catastrophic, I was enjoying myself too much, but they were inhibiting me from being good.

With these few flops under my belt, I began to relax and communicate more naturally and fluidly. I started zoning in and was able to listen and see more of what the actors were giving me and communicate back with more precision and simplicity.

The last two days went well, I really enjoyed the process of working one on one with the actors and together we produced some very nice work. Daily, I was blown away by the quality and commitment of the actors and my fellow directors. It was a real pleasure to learn and create through our respective and collective experiences. Kristine is an incredible teacher and constant source of inspiration and I thank her for her generous and straightforward guidance.

I’m now really looking forward to the next steps.


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