So how did the first day go then? How does a group of total strangers begin a process where, with little or no previous experience, they eventually end up on stage putting on a partially improvised, interactive performance?
Well, what they need is some skills obviously but there’s something else equally if not more important. Trust.
If the actors-in-training don’t trust themselves or each other then they will find it really hard to be authentic/believable on stage. But gaining someone’s trust usually takes time and we’ve only got a week. We need to make some deep connections and develop mutual understanding very quickly. And some of the participants have serious reasons not to trust anyone.
That’s why the games developed by Augusto Boal (see page tab) and used in the process for No Fixed Abode are so brilliant. Under the empathic direction of Cardboard Citizens’ Associate Artist Terry O’Leary we launch into a variety of games aimed at everything from helping us remember each other names to seeing what we might have in common (or not). The combination of the silly, yet occasionally quite intimate and profound games, helps rapidly breakdown the barriers we all sometimes get lodged behind.
I am also struck (again) by the importance of the physical. Our education, which is usually aimed at the neck up, does us all a disfavour. The fact is, surely, thinking, feeling and doing involves not just the mind but also body. So our sound, movement and trust exercises all serve to improve the connection. As a result by the end of play (and that’s the word) we are, whatever our diverse backgrounds and ages, much, much more comfortable with each other.
“Brilliant. Knew it was a good idea to come out of my comfort zone,” says Tony, who tangled as he is in a complicated and difficult housing and life situation, is not kidding.