Sunday, October 31, 2004

FW: Theatre Museum

> It is possible to watch Complicite shows on archive video at the Theatre
> Museum in Covent Garden. To do this you have to book a session by phone,
> the telephone number is 02079434727. Two people can view at any one time.
> I hope this is useful
> Tom


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Pinhorn T
> Sent: 28 October 2004 11:37
> To: Holmes Jonathan
> Subject:
> The Winter's Tale
> The Winter's Tale is a tragic comedy by Shakespeare. It was probably
> originally written in 1610 or 1611; with the first known performance of
> the play being in 1611. It was adapted by Complicite, directed by Annabel
> Arden, and was toured in January 1992.
> The cast consisted of only nine actors, many of whom played two or three
> parts. Kathryn Hunter receives considerable praise for her portrayal of
> Mamillius, Paulina and the Shepherd. The play takes the audience through
> all emotions,
> 'The play begins with disco music, popping champagne corks and manic
> games of blind-man's-buff, yet it quickly becomes clear that the party
> spirit is not shared by Leontes'
> Charles Spencer - Daily Telegraph, April 1992
> Progressing to scenes of violence, torment and despair, before the final
> scenes of mourning, where the whole cast change on stage to mourning
> robes.

Out of a House Walked a Man...

Out of a House Walked a Man... (2004)
-Was a musical response to the work of Russian surrealist, poet and children's writer, Daniil Kharms. In his work Kharms used absurd human logic to highlight the absurd reality of his time. (

-Kharms formed the Association for Real Art in 1927 and wrote, 'When
you come to us, forget everything that you have been accustomed to seeing in the
theatre.' He was arrested in 1931 and charged with 'distracting the people from
the task of industrial construction with transient poetry.' Although he was a
banned writer, Russians kept his books and enjoyed the absurdities which
reflected the absurdities of their own lives.

-Various pieces of Daniil Kharms's work were compiled into Out of a House Walked a Man.

-It was an integrated movement, speech and music performance lasting for two hours with no interval.

-Described as a 'clever mixture of humour and violence, cruelty and tenderness, and most of all an acknowledgement of the audience's participation in the event, make it [the piece] engrossing throughout.'

-'You want to find that customary logical sequence of connections which, it seems to you, you see in life. But it is not there. Why not? Because an object and a phenomenon transported from life to the stage lose their lifelike sequence of connections and acquire another - a theatrical one. We are not going to explain it. In order to understand the sequence of connections of any theatrical performance one must see it. We can only say that our task is to render the world of concrete objects on the stage in their interrelationships and collisions.'

(Taken from The Manifesto of Oberiu, The Association for Real Art, Founded by Kharms and friends in 1927)

-In the piece Complicite resurrect Kharms in spirit, and in person: two performers play Kharms as a tense double act. He is invaded by the subjects of his own little stories while he struggles to write more than one line.

-The opening sequence sets up a whole world of absurdity and menace, looking at Kharm's ideas and works. After which, the show coalesces in a staging of Kharms's longest (30 pages) piece, The Old Woman.

-On the surface it is a comic nightmare about an old woman who dies on Kharms' living room floor and what he should do with the corpse which refuses to stay dead.

-But, the theme of the old woman has great depth in Russian literature writers such as Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Gogol all used old women to highlight crisis and inequality in Tsarist Russia.

In this play the old woman (who refuses to die) seems to be a reference to the re-emergence of crisis and inequality as the first Five Year Plans are introduced.

You are never sure--is she really dead, did she dream it all, is it Kharms, or one of Kharms' stories you are witnessing?

A reference to a red haired man, who amounted to nothing may be Kharms's opinion of Lenin or Lenin's ideas.
Kharms's problem with writers' block could also represent the gagging of writers under Stalin.

Review excerpts
Michael Coveney - The Observer, December 1994
'You see the ballet of a recalcitrant corpse stuffed in a suitcase, a man admiring the lower thighs of his underwear-free lover before Big Brother bangs on the door, people collapsing in bread queues, the ecstasy in what Auden termed the good omen of 'a satisfactory dump', and a theory of laughter tested on a live audience. The actors and musicians of Theatre de Complicite never fail to amaze and delight...'

Benedict Nightingale - The Times, December 1994
'You will certainly get a sense of the crackpot desperation which was often found in that locked ward, the Soviet Union. It is an excellent introduction to one of Russia's lost geniuses, and a fine example of Complicite's imaginative bravura.'

Michael Billington - The Guardian, December 1994 '... Technically the show is highly sophisticated. Director Simon McBurney deploys the 12-strong cast with great fluidity to conjure up everything from bread queues to apartment block voyeurs. Gerard McBurney's score, for eight on-stage musicians, consciously echoes Shostakovich, with whom Kharms may have considered working. And Tim Hatley's solid-seeming set finally dissolves into a cascade of fluttering paper as if in protest against the suppression, until recent times, of Kharms's work... '

Research by Catherine, Natalie, Kasia and Tom.

FW: Play me something chapter summaries

> Play Me Something Chapter Summaries
> Arrival
> 'What is it that men have and women don't and which is hard and long'
> to
> 'If you're not at the bus station by two, we'll know they drowned you.'
> Marietta
> 'You're not from here'
> to
> 'I'd cut off my right hand rather than work in a factory'
> Dancing
> 'All the men dancing there, they're nearly all factory workers'
> to
> 'Marietta is dancing with Bruno'
> Gondola
> 'That's Gramsci'
> to
> 'all our ancestor'
> Music
> 'No roots. Too much power and no roots.'
> to
> 'Come to Mestri, come to Mestri. I'll find you work'
> Leaving
> 'Do you know what hell is?'
> 'Do you?'
> 'Hell is where bottles have two holes and where women have none.'

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Melodrama is one of the ‘Main Dramatic Territories’ studied at the school of
Jacques Lecoq. Melodrama deals with timeless themes and emotions: good and
evil, life and death, loss, sacrifice, betrayal, love, etc… In melodrama
there is always ‘the return’ and ‘the departure’ either with people,
emotions or places. Examples are the plays of Romeo and Juliet, and King
Lear, and the books/films Doctor Zhivago, The English Patient and Gone With
The Wind to name but a few. The aim of melodrama is to bring the audience to
a catharsis brought on by these ‘grand emotions.’ A common misconception is
that melodrama is over the top, and hammy, but then it would be commedia
dell’arte or bouffons (two other dramatic territories at the school of
Lecoq). It is about showing a ‘conviction’ with sincerity and allowing the
audience to share in that conviction.

- Emma

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artslynx website

An interesting website is:
It covers many topics in the theatre including mime, puppetry and physical
theatre. It also offers links to other websites specific subjects. I found
this website very helpful and straighforward.
To get the the index of the website go straight to:

- Emma

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Vertical Line and Strange Poetry

The Vertical Line (1999)
-This site specific production was produced in association with the English arts council, funded by national lottery money as part of an 'inner city art project' and ran for four days.

-Theatre de Complicite worked with John Berger on this project which was commissioned by ARTANGEL.

-The 'Vertical Line' of the title, refers to a vertical line downwards through time.

-McBurney, Berger and Sandra Voe (actress) took the audience on a journey 30,000 years into the past.

-This work has been described as an 'installation', it was based 30 metres below London and took place in the disused Strand Station and the disused tube line surrounding it. The audience were then transported to the scene of a cave around 30,000 years ago using multimedia devices.

- The cave in question is a cave in Ardèche where cave paintings where discovered in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet.
- "Time was abolished, as if the tens of thousands of years of separation no longer existed. We were not alone, the painters were here too. We thought we could feel their presence. We were disturbing them..." (Jean Marie-Chauvet on discovering the cave.)

-"Cued by the lure of sound and light, each visitor explored the station's deep walkways, tracks and tunnels: the intervention of video portraits etched by light onto lift shaft walls; mattresses still strewn on platforms uninhabited since the Blitz; painted animals on the rock - unseen yet glistening." -Michael Morris Co-director, Artangel.

-"Part theatrical event, part archaeological dig, the Vertical Line was an oratorio of faces, voices, darkness, and light: a one-off excavation for small groups down 122 spiral steps into the bowels of the disused Strand tube station, where a sequence of audio-visual installations culminated in a live performance on seven occasions."
(Michael Morris 1999, "Introduction" in The Vertical Line, John Berger and Simon McBurney CD Artangel, Theatre de Complicite and Somethin' Else, London)

(This CD, describing the experience of 'The Vertical Line' is available in Founder's Library.)

Strange Poetry (2004)
-Described as 'a journey to create a 'silence' or a 'space' to allow another kind of listening. Risk and the chemistry of dreams. That is what this collaboration is about'.(McBurney)

-This was a collaboration with the L.A Philharmonic orchestra, creating an 'event' based on Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique', which could be described as a theatrical concert.

-In preparation McBurney worked with Trinity College Symphony Orchestra to develop ideas of staging Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique that might encourage the audience to listen differently without distracting from the musical performance.

- The Symphony
Was musical embodiment of the supreme love of Berlioz's life, Harriet
Smithson. Berlioz found a way to channel the enormous emotion of being a young musician in love, with an unattainable woman. It has been described as one of the seminal works of Romanticism.

The plot of the symphony can be divided into five sections and is described below.

I. Reveries
A young musician,sees the woman of his dreams and falls hopelessly in love. Each time her image comes into his mind, it evokes a musical thought(shown by an idée fixe) that is impassioned in

character, but also noble and shy, as he imagines her to be.

II. A Ball
The artist finds himself in the swirl of a party, but the beloved image appears before him and troubles his soul.

III. Scene in the Country
In the distance, two shepherds play a ranz des vaches in dialogue [solo oboe and English horn]. The pastoral setting, the gentle evening breeze, the hopeful feelings he has begun to have--all conspire to bring to his spirit an unaccustomed calm, and his thoughts take on a more cheerful cast. He hopes not

to be lonely much longer. But his happiness is disturbed by dark premonitions. What if she is deceiving him! One of the shepherds resumes his playing, but the other makes no response.... In the distance, thunder. Solitude. Silence.

IV. March to the Scaffold.
Convinced that his love is unrequited, the artist takes an overdose of opium. It plunges him into a sleep accompanied by horrifying visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, has been condemned and led to the scaffold, and is witnessing his own execution. The procession advances to a march that is now somber and savage, now brilliant and solemn. At its conclusion the idée fixe returns, like a final thought of the beloved cut, off by the fatal blow.

V. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath
He sees himself in the midst of a frightful throng of ghosts, witches, monsters of every kind, who have assembled for his funeral. Strange noises, groans, bursts of laughter, distant cries. The beloved melody again reappears, but it has lost its modesty and nobilty; it is no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque; it is she, coming to the sabbath. A joyous roar greets her arrival.... She joins in the devilish orgy.... A funeral knell, a parody of the Dies irae. A sabbath round-dance. The Dies irae and the round-dance are combined.

-The Source of the Title
French writer Charles Nodier (1780 - 1844) described romanticism as 'strange poetry...The last resort of the human heart, tired of ordinary feelings, is what is called the 'romantic' genre...' When listening to the Symphonie Fantastique, it became clear to us that we were in the presence of strange poetry. Every turn is unexpected: the unbearably tender is superceded by the shockingly brutal, the most subtle of harmonic lines followed with splashings of broad orchestral colour. It quite simply announces something new. And, it seemed to us, Berlioz stood not only on the verge of the modern age, but, like a prophet, saw far beyond it. (Mc Burney)

-The Production
Was a mix of spoken voice, orchestral score, and visual images (lighting and projected images invoking the era of Berlioz). The music was played live by the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, with large sections being played from memory, which added risk and originality to the performance.

RESEARCH BY -Catherine, Natalie, Kasia and Tom.

The Street of Crocodiles

The production of The Street of Crocodiles is based on the life and stories of Bruno Schulz- Polish-Jewish writer and artist killed in 1942. ('Bruno Schulz was one of the great writers....[His] verbal art strikes us -- stuns, even -- with its overload of beauty.' John Updike)

Schulz's stories, adapted by Simon McBurney & Mark Wheatley, describe, in the dream-like Kafka-Chagall style, everyday life in the Polish provincial town of Drhobycz as seen through the eyes of a young boy. In the production complicite put emphasis on the constant flux and transformation which takes place in Schulz's stories. (I realised that Schulz's vision, which evokes the transforming power of the child's eye, necessarily meant that objects and their transmogrification would be central to the process.Simon McBurney).

At the very beginning a man walks down a steep wall. Fluttering pages of books become the birds that are the father's manic preoccupation. Schoolroom desks turn into draper's shop counters and later the family dining table. The father's belief that nothing holds the same shape for very long is precisely embodied by the production.(The Guardian, January 1999)

The Street of Crocodiles met with global acclaim . It ran from 1992 to 1994 and than in 1998-9. The company was awarded for it with Four Olivier Award nominations, Barcelona Critic's Award, Manchester Evening Standard Award for Best Visiting Production, L'Academie Quebecoise du Theatre Award for Best Foreign Production and Dublin Theatre Festival Award for Best Visiting Production

Research By, Tom, Catherine, Natalie and Kasia

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Origins: Jacques Lecoq

A common thread between the founders of Complicite is Jacques Lecoq. Simon
McBurney (an artistic director and performer), Annabel Arden (a director and
performer) and Marcello Magni (director and performer) all studied under
Jacques Lecoq at his school in Paris. (Fiona Gordon is also a co-founder of
Complicite, but she did not study under Lecoq and is no longer working with
the company.) The working and teaching methods and artistic elements used by
Lecoq greatly influenced McBurney, Arden and Magni and was the cornerstone
in the origins of Complicite.

The methods of Lecoq began to grow when he was young. Jacques Lecoq was born
in Paris on the 15th of December, 1921. As a young man, he was greatly
attracted to sports, leading him to join a gymnastics club at 17 and
continue his studies at a college of physical education. It was not until
the German occupation of France that Lecoq began to experiment and put his
interest in physicality at work. He joined a group of young people who used
the arts of gymnastics, mime and dance to express opposition to fascism.
After the liberation of France the group combined theatre and movement in
experimental performances.

Italy, its theatre practitioners and its theatrical history shaped Lecoq's
views and practice of the theatre. In 1948 Lecoq travelled to Italy as a
professor at the University of Padua where he learned and practiced commedia
dell'arte, and discovered the art of mask making. When introduced to the
sculptor Amleto Sartori, he began making masks of cardboard and eventually
the sculptor revived the making of the original commedia leather mask. (At
the school in Paris, Italian mask making and commedia dell'arte greatly
influence studies and performance.) While in Italy, Lecoq, along with
Giorgio Strehler and Paolo Grassi (founders of the world famous Piccolo
Teatro in Milan), founded the Piccolo Drama School where Lecoq taught
movement and was introduced to Greek tragedy and the roles of the chorus.

On returning from Italy, Lecoq founded his International Theatre School in
Paris in 1956 and began applying his gleaned knowledge and seemingly
unorthodox methods. This school gives two years of education to its
First Year
* 'Psychological play without words'
* Neutral mask
* Elements
* Materials
* Poetry
* Painting
* Animals
* Larval and expressive masks
* Objects
* Passions
* Characters
* Situations
* Music
* Investigations
* Stylistic constraints

Second Year
* Gestural laguages
* Melodrama
* Commedia dell'arte
* Bouffons
* Tragedy
* Clowns
Each week of study the students have their own theatre which Lecoq named
'auto-cours.' For an hour every week the students work on devised pieces
which begin from simple suggestions given by Lecoq. The students either work
in small groups or as the whole class. 'Auto-cours' involves playwriting,
practice and most importantly collaboration.
Complicite is without method; rather, its methods are malleable and ever
changing, but the methods of Lecoq can clearly be seen in Complicite: in its
collaboration and experimentation.

Complicite (collaborators)

Writers that collaborate with Complicite;
Eugene Ionesco(1912-1994) the father of "theater of the absurd" was born in
Romania and grew up in France. Ionesco was a fervent believer in human
rights and a long-time foe of political tyranny. Ionesco rejected the
logical plot, character development, and thought of traditional drama,
instead creating his own anarchic form of comedy to convey the
meaninglessness of modern man's existence in a universe ruled by chance.
Complicte produced “The Chairs” by Ionesco in 1997-98 and here’s a quote
from Simon McBurney, the director of the production: “For weeks we were
terrified that the piece would not work, would not be in the least bit
funny. So we had to approach it as if it in total seriousness. Looking to
make what was apparently meaningless as clear as an instruction manual to a
lawnmower. That is what the material needed, that kind of textual attention.
Out of the absurd mire of Ionesco's language we had to painstakingly unearth
a sober sense before we could then let ourselves loose on the ridiculous,
and transform it once more. We had to find a common language with Ionesco,
which could be transformed into theatre.”

John Berger
"Theatre de Complicite ignore frontiers and cross them without official
papers" - John Berger
John Berger, born in London in 1926, has been involved in many different
aspects of theatre and filmmaking since he graduated from the Central School
of Art and the Chelsea School of Art in London.
He has written four novels, is a playwright, documentary writer, art
critic/historian and artist, having taught painting after graduating from
1948 to 1955.
One of his best known books is "Ways of Seeing", an art book focusing on
art, society and culture and the differences in gender stereotypes, and was
later turned into a BBC television series. Berger is very interested in
critical theories, art and society and he has been an extremely important
figure within the Complicite theatre company since it was founded.
From the quote above, it is clear that he is inspired by Complicite's fresh,
daring and breakthrough theatrical style and his collaborations have
resulted in much success and amazing theatre.
He has lived in the French Alps for the last twenty years and remains
fascinated by the traditions and the endangered way of life of the mountain
people, and has written about them in both his fiction and non-fiction

Bruno Schulz
In the 1930s Schulz wrote (in Polish) and illustrated the two books of
linked stories on which his reputation rests: Cinnamon Shops, which is
sometimes titled The Street of Crocodiles, and Sanatorium Under the Sign of
the Hourglass.he considered storytelling central to human life ("The most
fundamental function of the spirit is inventing fables, creating tales"),
his own stories are not simple. No one ever called their appeal universal.
"Poetry happens," he explained, "when short-circuits of sense occur." His
work is full of crossed wires, wild fantasies colliding with humble
This is how literature works, Bruno Schulz said: it sinks deep into the
unconscious, searching for hidden myths, buried memories, childhood dreams.
Down there, at the bottom of the mind, it discovers how we are made, why we
do what we do. "The artist," he wrote, "is an apparatus for registering
processes in that deep stratum where values are formed." Those processes are
acted out in The Street of Crocodiles, a now-legendary production by the
Theatre de Complicite of London, which opens July 30 at the Premiere Dance
Theatre in Toronto.
Since 1992 the Theatre de Complicite has been touring the world with The
Street of Crocodiles, adapted by the artistic director, Simon McBurney. The
Complicite players are natural Schulz interpreters. Like him, they
transmogrify life, grotesquely changing forms and appearances. In 1996 they
brought to Canada apiece based on a John Berger story about peasants, The
Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol; it demonstrated that they see visual reality as
unstable, the way Schulz sees narrative reality. How many companies require
their actors to impersonate, for instance, a ploughed field? They raise
acting-class exercises to the level of magical art.

By susie, tamar, charlie

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Thatcher Government and the Theatre in the 1980's

The most notable effect of Thatcherism was the redefinition of the cultural status of the British theatre, which with the aid of the Arts Council, had been fixed after the theatrical "revolution" of 1956. From the late 1950s, dramatists and theatre workers saw themselves as contributors to the political, social, personal and moral changes taking place rapidly around them. The gradual increase in Arts Council funding after the war appeared to validate this role.

In contrast, the Thatcher government's unwillingness to continue to increase funding were intended to convey the impression that theatre was not an agency of cultural, spiritual, social or psychological welfare, but an entertainment industry that was otherwise irrelevant to the workings of society. In the Thatcherite view, it was, therefore, justifiable to provide enough money to keep theatre viable but not to encourage any activity which had sociopolitical intent unless, as with urban regeneration, it coincided with current Tory policy.

By restraining funding the government relocated theatre at a distance from topical concerns, to be judged primarily on the basis of its theatrical values rather than on its contribution to the democratic structure and cultural health of British society.

In spite of financial stringency, new work, written by established playwrights such as Brenton, Bond, Edgar, Hare and Churchill, continued to be produced during the 1980s by the Royal Court, the RSC and the National. However as the decade advanced, the prospect of new playwrights seeing their plays produced by major companies, even in their studio theatres, became even more unlikely than it had been in the previous decade. In 1993, David Edgar calculated that between 1970 and 1985 about 12 percent of the repertoire of London and regional main-houses consisted of new plays, whereas between 1985 and 1990 the figure had fallen to about 7 percent and was still decline. In order to attract the size of audience required by funding bodies, theatres preferred to produce plays by established playwrights, using known actors.

The process of commercial mainstream and the institutional theatres taking playwrights such as Brenton, Hare Edgar and Churchill, and adopting theatrical discourses (such as the promenade production, from the Fringe) appeared, however, to be under threat during the 1980s as, increasingly, writing by unknown dramatists was viewed by theatre managements as too great a financial risk even for studio theatres. Nevertheless, writers continued to inundate theatres with unsolicited plays. The Royal Court (still perceived as the home of new writing)attracted about forty scripts a week by new authors, more than either the National or the RSC.

Jemma: 1980's British Theatre Group

Monday, October 18, 2004


> Mnemonic
> This production was perceived and directed by Simon Mcburney; and devised
> by "The Company". The inspiration for the piece was the discovery of a man
> preserved in ice in 1991. The piece is based around memories and stories
> spanning millennia, combining with and effecting modern lives. "Mnemonic
> questions our understanding of time, our capacity to distort history and
> our attempts to retell the past."
> A particularly interesting part of the production revolves around audience
> participation, in which the audience are blindfolded and asked to remember
> moments from their recent and not so recent pasts. This is used so as to
> demonstrate the fragility of, and fragmented nature, of memory; a key
> theme of the play.
> 'As always, the company's movement skills are superb..... Mnemonic is a
> show you are unlikely to forget.' Charles Spencer - The Daily Telegraph,
> 8 January 2003
> 'The audience listens to my voice, which has been pre-recorded, but which
> they imagine to be live. I have just asked them the question: "Where were
> you 10 years ago? Can you remember?" Out of the darkness there is a hoarse
> shout. "In a cellar with my fucking family!"' Simon McBurney - The
> Guardian, 1 January 2003
> Toured
> Opened July 1999 Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield. Toured to Cambridge
> Corn Exchange, Newcastle Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse, Salzburg Festival,
> Riverside Studios London. 2001 revival toured to National Theatre London,
> Mercat de los Flores Barcelona, Bobigny MC93 Paris, New York off-Broadway
> season at the John Jay College Theater. 2002 revival tour to Bosnian
> National Theatre Sarajevo, National Theatre of Northern Greece
> Thessaloniki, Munich Kammerspiele, Dramatyczny Theatre Warsaw, Helsinki
> Kansallisteatteri, Theatre National Populaire Lyon-Villeurbanne, Bobigny
> MC93 Paris. 2003 London Riverside Studios.
> Research By, Tom, Catherine, Natalie and Kasia

Measure for Measure and Light

> Measure for Measure (2004 performed at the Olivier)
> -This production was an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's plays which is
> known as a Problem Play or Dark Comedy making it difficult to understand,
> not wholly fitting into either of the genre's of tragedy or comedy.
> -'Fast, lucid and almost overwhelmingly bleak in its vision of human
> cruelty and helplessness, Simon McBurney's production gets to the dark
> heart of Shakespeare's play.' (TheatreVoice review)
> -With its kaleidoscopic restlessness, clangorous sound effects, mimetic
> illustration and pervasive TV images, the production at times overlays the
> text. But it captures the dizzying corruption of power and the sense of
> individuals destroyed by the dangerous conjunction of sex and death.
> (Guadian Unlimited)
> -And despite the momentary appearance of President Bush on the omnipresent
> TV monitors, plus orange jumpsuits for the play's prisoners, the evening
> wasn't spuriously topical either. (Guardian Unlimited)
> -At first, I felt the show, a co-production between the NT and Complicite,
> was trying too hard to seem hip. (Telegraph)
> -Indeed, over-statement is a problem generally with this production. The
> use of
> video and microphone, initially striking, soon prove distracting, as do
> the slow motion dumb shows of violence that occur in the shadows behind
> the main action. (Telegraph)
> Critics seem to be torn as to whether the play succeeded in balancing the
> visual elements with the text, many criticising the use of multimedia and
> the references to current events (The Guantanamo orange jumpsuits and
> George Bush's face flashing onto the screen when the words 'sanctimonious
> pirate' are said)
> -But this is a play without a happy ending. The cruelty of the Duke, who
> spends most of it as a spying, lying friar, seems even worse than Angelo's
> lust in David Troughton's boomingly sadistic performance, and
> the final coup de theatre [the bed] is deeply unsettling. Some of
> Complicite's physical theatre tricks are beginning to seem a little
> shop-soiled, but there is no mistaking the staging's dark vitality.
> (Telegraph)
> Many critics seem to be suggesting that Complicite's once innovative
> methods seem a little tired.
> -This is a thrilling, committed and challenging evening that can be
> enjoyed by anyone who loves fine acting and stagecraft. But for me, at
> least, Complicite's vision and power work against themselves. In its way
> the production is as authoritarian as the tyranny it urges us to condemn.
> Would it not be more radical to let the audience draw its own conclusions
> from the play than have them presented in packages, however sensational
> they are? Measure for Measure is a much stranger and more subversive play
> than we see here, with religious and narrative complexities that are
> ill-served by concentrating solely on its sex and politics. It seems that
> McBurney's imperative is to create a striking visual correlate for the
> ideas and emotions he finds in the text. But the result is to dramatise
> the instant at the expense of revealing the arc of the drama. This is a
> fantasia on themes from Measure for Measure rather than the play itself.
> As such it elevates style above heart, but the style is formidable.
> (Curtain Up London Review)
> -"At one stage I thought of doing it in the dark." One wonders what the
> fans of "visual" theatre would have thought. In the end he has decided to
> section off a part of the stage so that the playing area is small,
> intimate. (Simon Mc Burney speaking to the Independent).
> -The play provokes more questions than answers......In rehearsal one thing
> is clear above all. When it is 'stood up' it works. The meaning is
> revealed in the body....All questions must be reduced to one question. Not
> what does it mean but does it come alive? The only way to approach
> Shakespeare is to come without any answers. (Simon McBurney)
> McBurney asked the cast to make scrapbooks containing any information they
> felt was relevant to their characters and the play in general during this
> production.
> Looking at the programmes rehearsal photographs for this production I
> noticed that only a few of the images were clearly identifiable as scenes
> from the play.
> I saw this production and found it a truly enjoyable experience, the use
> of multimedia was effective and rather than distracting I found it to
> provide alternative sources of interest and to enhance the idea of the
> Duke surveying his subjects. I found the interpretation of the text new
> and innovative. Angelo (Paul Rhys) was a truly horrible little wretch but
> the Duke (David Troughton) was equally as terrifying pulling the strings
> of other characters from behind the scenes. Particularly original was the
> use of light and sound to create a realistic prison environment, Angelo
> making Isabella put her hand in his trousers while she begs for her
> brother's life, and the final image of a double bed being revealed after
> the Duke tells Isabella to marry him(which provoked shocked laughter from
> the audience).
> The .pdf Measure for Measure workpack at the Complicite site is very
> useful for research into rehearsal methods etc.
> Light
> This production was an adaptation from a novel by Torgy Lindgren.
> Plot- A man goes on a journey in search of love and returns to his village
> carrying death in the form of a plague-ridden rabbit. The village is
> ravaged by sickness and of those who survive no one any longer knows what
> is right and what is wrong. The opposing values of civilisation and
> barbarity balance on a knife-edge.
> The novels author wrote at a time when the threat of AIDS was at a
> highpoint and this is paralleled by the effects of the plague on society
> in the novel.
> -Deceitfulness, lust, incest, infanticide, bestiality: mankind's nastiest
> impulses get the better of these hapless bumpkins.
> (Daily Telegraph)
> -In being faithful to the book, McBurney and company have ended up with
> dialogue that often groans under the weight of the text's concerns.
> Remarkably, though, while you can hear the novel, what you see on stage is
> theatrically breathtaking. Lindgren's cool, paradoxical prose, and
> Complicite's rough-hewn, feverishly visual style spark against each other
> in a continually illuminating way. (Daily Telegraph)
> -Light may not, in my opinion, be quite as searching as that piece
> [Mneumonic], but it is heartening to see Complicite back to its roots and
> relying less on technological wizardry. Here, once again, searing effects
> are achieved with an elemental simplicity, as when whole planks seem to be
> planed up from the stage to form the coffin lids on the multiplying
> corpses, or when a grief-stricken mother (the matchless Lilo Baur) smears
> her face with a thick white gunk to emphasise the encrusted salt left by
> her weeping. (The Independent)
> The play explores dark themes, and uses various different methods to do
> so. A cold omnipresent narrator opens the piece indifferent to the
> suffering of the village's inhabitants. Planks from the stage become
> coffins; actors manipulate puppets of themselves and massacre furry plague
> bunnies tossing their corpses in the air. There is less use of multimedia
> in this production and less criticism from the critics than there was of
> Measure for Measure (this could be due to the dislike of Multimedia in
> theatre or critics strong feelings when it comes to the adaptation of the
> 'Great' Shakespeare's work).
> Research by Catherine, Tom, Natalie and Kasia

FW: Complicite Chronology

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Pinhorn T
> Sent: 17 October 2004 21:13 PM
> To: Holmes Jonathan
> Subject: Complicite Chronology
> Complicite Chronology
> 2004- The Elephant Vanishes (revival)
> 2004- Measure for Measure
> 2004- Strange Poetry
> 2003- The Elephant Vanishes
> 2002-03- Mnemonic (revival)
> 2002- Genoa 01
> 2000-02- The Noise of Time
> 2000- Light
> 1999-01- Mnemonic
> 1999- The Vertical Line
> 1998-99- The Street of Crocodiles (revival)
> 1997-98- The Chairs
> 1997- The Caucasian Chalk Cirle
> 1997- To the Wedding
> 1996- Foe
> 1994-96- The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol
> 1994-95- Out of a House Walked a Man...
> 1992-94- The Street of Crocodiles
> 1992- The Winter's Tale
> 1991- The Visit (revival)
> 1990- Help! I'm Alive
> 1989- The Lamentations of Thel
> 1989- My Army Parts I and II
> 1989- Anything for a Quiet Life (revival)
> 1989- The Visit
> 1988- Ava Maria
> 1988- The Phantom Violin
> 1987- Burning Ambition
> 1987- Anything for a Quiet Life
> 1986- Please, Please, Please
> 1986- Foodstuff
> 1985- More Bigger Snacks Now
> 1984- A Minute too Late
> 1983- Put it on Your Head
> Research by Tom, Natalie, Catherine and Kasia

FW: For the Blog

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Perez Curtis NA
> Sent: 17 October 2004 20:53 PM
> To: Holmes Jonathan
> Subject: For the Blog
> The Elephant Vanishes
> "The Elephant Vanishes" was opened at the Setagaya Public Theatre on the
> 4th of June 2003. It was originally a Japanese story by Haruki Murakami,
> written in 1985 and Jay Rubin translated it in 1991.
> There are three stories in "The Elephant Vanishes" and they are mainly
> about discoveries which occur as a result of unlikely extraordinary
> happenings. One man becomes obsessed with an elephant that disappears into
> thin air and this makes him not able to tell the difference between the
> "consequences of doing something and not doing something". (Simon
> McBurney, August 2004). Someone else discovers that we never actually
> choose anything after he robs a bakery. A sleeping woman realises that she
> doesn't love anything about her life, not even her family.
> The interesting aspects of it all aren't the strange occurrences than take
> place but the actual results of these. The first man just stops caring
> about anything, the second loses himself in fantasies and the third woman
> leaves her home in the middle of the night and comes face to face with her
> worst fears in a car park.
> It all illustrates that what we see as "consciousness" is actually an
> extremely chaotic consciousness in a world of wild, agitated circumstances
> and lost characters.
> ~Natalie
> Genoa 01
> "Genoa 01" was opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2002. It is
> a staged reading of Fausto Paravadino's text about the inhumane acts at
> the G8 Summit in Genoa in 2001.
> The main storyline is based on the death of 23 year old Carlo Giuliani ,
> shot by the Italian police. His actual death and the events surrounding it
> were considered suspicious. The play confidently expresses that the whole
> thing was anticipated and orquestrated by the Italian Prime Minister
> Silvio Berlusconi . Because of this, the police aren't fully blamed for
> what happened; they were simply following orders given by Berlusconi's
> government.
> Carlo Giuliani was demonstrating and threw a fire extinguisher at a police
> car, so some say he deserved getting shot, but most question the sequence
> of events. Maybe the fire extinguisher was used as a shield if he felt
> threatened by the police. The fact that shots were still aimed at the
> crowd even once there was no danger, and that the weapons used only turned
> up six months after Carlo's death arouse suspicion.
> Because the events are already so awesome, the play doesn't need
> embellishing as far as adapting for excitement in concerned. Although it
> does include audience interjections, Bush and Blair soundbites and
> classics film montage of dying demonstrators while summiteers calmly
> confer, obviously unmoved by their suffering.
> ~Natalie
> The Noise of Time
> "The Noise of Time", performed by Complicite and Emerson String Quartet is
> about the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. He was deemed a genius in
> his time, but condemned by the Soviet Regime as a destroyer of culture.
> Darkness and illumination, projected images and musical epiphanies are
> used together to symbolise memory, one of Complicite's main themes.
> This mans troubled life is performed through a series of sounds, music,
> lights and images to convey to the audience that just by listening
> differently, you can learn a great deal about someone's past.
> ~Natalie
> Put it on Your Head
> "This play was opened at the Almeida Theatre in London in September 1983
> "after a Summer of rehearsals in a scout hut and several try-outs on the
> London fringe" (arts. Telegraph 11/04/2003). The cast consisted of the
> founding members of Complicite: Simon McBurney, Annabel Arden, Marcello
> Magmni and Fiona Gordon. The production is described on the company's web
> page as a "fantasy show about the Enghlish seas-side and the social
> agonies of Englishness on the beach". It was directed and devised by the
> whole company.
> ~Kasia
> A minute too Late
> "A minute too Late" toured the regions 1984 before opening in London at
> the ICA in 1985. This "clown show about death was a result of four days
> improvisation that Complcite did in front of the Royal Academy of Art
> Students. As Simon McBurney says: We had the strange sensation that the
> show wrote itself. What is certain is that it sprung from the frenzied
> no-stop action of those few days.
> "A Minute too Late" was devised by the company and directed by Annabel
> Arden. The Cast included Joe Harben, Marcello Magni and Simon McBerney.
> ~Kasia

Complicite – Origins and Influences

Week 1: Simon McBurney – Co-founder, artistic director and actor.

Simon McBurney was born in Cambridge in 1957. He read English at Cambridge, then studied at the Jaques Lecoq School in Paris. In 1982 he co-founded the theatre company Complicite, along with Annabel Arden, Marcello Magni and Fiona Gordon.

While McBurney was in Paris, he saw the work of Mnouchkine, Besson and Philippe Avron, as well as musical theatre and clowning companies. Along with Lecoq, these all proved to be strong influences on his own ideas and ways of working, and elements of them all can frequently be found in Complicite productions. However, he was also influenced by his parents. When he was growing up, he never had a TV; instead, his mother wrote and staged pantomimes. McBurney says, “It was a climate of imagination and creativity which was not bound by economic success and that rubbed off on me”. His father was another early influence – he was an architect, and consequently many Complicite plays involve themes of history and memory.

Complicite have no set method or text. There is a strong emphesis on collaboration, and the idea that a story or play can “grow” through the actors. As Simon McBurney says, “If you cultivate a garden and you plant too many things in it before you have given it a chance to breathe, the garden will become choked up and never achieve its own life”.
Ruby, Charlotte and Emma

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

1980s Theatre

Here is a very brief overview on the 80s theatre, the context in which
Complicite were formed:

It might be considered that the “hallmark” of the 80s was a new growing
attitude that advocated the “blurring of distinctions between ‘drama’ and
other elements of the theatre”. A new wave of thought challenged the
traditional notion that the text is of prime importance to the play. The
performers and practitioners of this era were hugely influenced by the
Oriental theatre forms, in which the approach to a play’s text comes second
to the “totality of the experience”. The theatre also questioned the
accepted style of ‘realism’, often favouring the use of epic dramaturgy, a
more suitable medium for addressing political issues of the time. In fact,
“new forms of contemporary performance ignored realistic representation
altogether, putting an emphasis on the performance of the actual body in

The "1980s Theatre" Research Group.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Founders of Theatre de Complicite

This week we look at the founders of Theatre de Complicite.
Simon McBurney studied at Cambridge and trained in Paris with Jacques Lecoq. Co-founder and Artistic Director of Complicite with whom he has devised, directed and acted in over 30 Complicite productions. As an actor Simon has performed extensively for theatre, radio, film and TV. "I still think of myself principally as a player, a performer, and an actor; an actor who also directs. Though I tend to think of directing as 'making'. From when we were very small my mother would make theatre with us. So the idea of 'making' your own theatre is something that I grew up with. The desire to 'make' I am sure is one reason why I ended up training in Paris. What I learned with Jacques was not only that theatre was a great deal larger and more difficult to define than I had ever conceived in my narrow British upbringing, but that there did appear to be huge areas in common, you cold almost say certain universal laws."

Annabel Arden, co-founder of Complicite, studied at Cambridge and trained in Paris with Philippe Gaulier, Monika Pagneux and at Jacques Lecoq's Laboratoire d'Études du Mouvement. Annabel is one of five finalists for this year's European Woman of Achievement Award.

Marcello Magni has contributed greatly to the theatre company, being a co-founder and member of the Complicite theatre. He trained at l'ecole Jacques Lecoq and worked alongside many leading theatrical figures. He also trained at the Italia Leather Mask Making and Movement of the Mask, with a particular interest and involvement in Mime.
He has many roles of involvement within the theatre, and is a performer, director and a teacher at the NT Studio, NYT, International Workshop Festival, l'Aquila and has worked all over the world.
He seems to be a very experimental, forward thinking man as the Complicite members tend to be! He was a both a performer and a Movement and Chorus coach for a production of The Street of Crocodiles and has had experience in many different productions, both performing and directing.

Fiona Gordon, a co-founder of Complicite. Fiona is a performer; a recent production devised and performed by the complicite group is put it on your head - Fantasy show about social agonies of Englishness on the beach, it has a series of scenes presented with a minimum set and max rhythm. Physical and comic style that stems from traditions of the circus, continental theatre and silent movies.

Complicite continuously researches and trains through exploratory workshops.
These exploratory workshops are integral to the development of the Company and can be traced back beyond its foundation to the influence that teachers such as Jacques Lecoq, Philippe Gaulier and Monika Pagneux had on its founder members. This long process of experimentation has resulted in some of our most successful, ground-breaking productions.

                                                                                                                                                           Researched by Charlie, Suzie and Tamar


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Since we will show the style of Complicite not only through our production
but through our process, we will create the atmosphere under which
Complicite worked. The atmosphere seemed exciting and experimental but
underpinned by the unity of the company and its ultimate goal of
communicating a story. The process taken by Complicite in creating its
productions is like a production in itself and should be savoured.

Emma Rye