Monday, November 15, 2004

Mnemonic at the Theatre Museum

Theatre Museum Covent Garden Mnemonic

I went to see Mnemonic, and found it to be a valuable experience.
The first thing that struck me when viewing Mnemonic was the extensive use of voice over. This was something that most of the group wanted to use in the Arrival section for the guide character, I was unsure of this probably due to my general distrust of technology, but after viewing Mnemonic I can see that using a voice over for this part would be a good way of keeping true to Complicite's style. A particularly effective use of the voice over was when actors started a line that was then taken over by voice over, so that the actor could say something else or perform physically.

Other effective techniques to possibly bear in mind for our piece was the projection of Alice onto Virgil while he was having a phone conversation with him. I'm not sure how we could incorporate this, it's just a technique that I thought worked visually in this production.

Slow motion repetition of key events was another technique used in Mnemonic, which could possibly be incorporated into our piece.

Finally, the use of puppetry, whereby the chair became the ice man in order to show his death. Like Jonathan said, it worked very well. However, they did not use chairs like the ones that we used, they used a chair that had collapsible legs, so that the legs of the chair could be moved and used more easily to represent arms and legs. Furthermore the head rest was moveable, better showing a head. This worked well, there were few puppeteers, so the stage was not too cluttered

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The visit

It oppresses us inwardly, swells like an ulcer. It certainly hits a sore spot; it annoys and troubles us (..) though it is not easy to define the particular sore spot. We are almost at the point of naming it when it again evades analysis. Durrenmatt's play is complex and ambiguous. There is something of a nightmare, of grotesque, of a myth about it, as well as something of a German popular fairy tale. But the most important thing is that it annoys and disturbs one. Why does it have this effect? (Jan Kott, Theatre Notebook)

Complicite's production of The Visit, described in the programme note as a theatre of observation, of bodily impulses, of class-defences and universal desires was first staged in 1989 and revived in 1991. It is a story of a millionaire Clara Zachanassian who returns to her poor central european hometown and offers a billion to anyone who kills a man who seduced her years ago. At first, the locals reject the money. Soon afterwards, however, they begin buying on credit things they would never normally afford. Still, they don't want to admit in front of themselves that they are prepraing for a murder...

Complicite's staging of The Visit is full of physicall invention and caricature.A gash of red. presumably her lips, crosses her fungoid features, and black furs and green-and-purple silks swathe the parts beneath. She walks in jerks, like some tiny, malevolent stick insect. When she laughs, it is hard to know if she is coughing, whimpering or creaking.- wrote The Times about Kathryn Hunter, who played Clara and received for this part 1990 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress.

Annabel Arden, who co-directed the play with Simon McBurney, was awarded with 1989 Time Out Theatre Award for Best Director.

Research by Catherine, Natalie, Kasia and Tom.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

RE: Regular collaborators

    Mark Wheatley
    Wheatley has collaborated extensively with Complicite, adapting several stories and plays with Simon McBurney and also working as assistant director on some of their productions.

    He is known internationally as an accomplished illustrator, writer, editor, and publisher. His illustration work, mainly concerned with fantasy and science-fiction art, has appeared in magazines, books, comic books and games. He has written books, comic books and television shows. Just a quick quote from one of his interviews:

    "There's nothing better than to tell my story the way I want to visually."

    Jozef Houben
    Jos is a teacher, director, devisor and consultant with comedy troups, opera companies, circus schools, international organisations, workshop festivals, dance schools, universities and magicians worldwide and since 2000 a teacher at L'École Jacques Lecoq, where he originally studied. He is also a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method - Awareness Through Movement. The Feldenkrais Method is an approach to working with people which expands their repertoire of movements, enhances awareness, improves function and enables people to express themselves more fully. You can find more information on this method at

    Houben has worked with Complicite mainly as a performer and director. (Note that he can speak and perform in Dutch -mother tongue-, French, English and German effortlessly.)


Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Puppets work in an ironic way. They are not living and breathing and the
audience knows that, yet they give the illusion of life and bring an
alternate reality to the stage. They can do things actors can only speak
about or imagine. They can communicate, physically, an emotional truth/state
which is difficult, if not impossible, for actors to communicate. They make
us suspend our disbelief and believe in what we see on stage.
Marionettes and hand puppets are the classic forms - marionettes being used
for more formal, theatrical settings and hand puppets being used most often
by street performers in festivals. However, over time, the term 'puppet' has
spread to include many objects. Anything can be a puppet: a piece of rope, a
chair, a handkerchief, a sock, a stick, etc... Anything can be used to
represent life and emotion.
- Emma

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The chairs

The Chairs
Ionesco? The Chairs? You thought that they were footnote to history? It's time to reconsider (The New York Times, March 1998)

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- said Simon McBurney about working on his revival of Ionesco's The Chairs- one of the most famous Theatre D'Absurd pieces.

Full of surreal and nihilistic humour- described by Ionesco himself as a tragic farce- the story of an old couple trying to pass a message to the mankind, has been, according to press reviews, enriched in Complicite's production with metaphysical mystery. Geraldine McEwan Richard Briers' performance as the old couple was described by almost all the major newspapers as mesmerising.

The Chairs received six Tony Nominations and six Drama Desk Nominations. Geraldine McEwan (The Old Woman) was awarded with Time Out Live and Barclays/TMA Theatre Awards for Best Actress.

The production opened in 1997 and was performed on Broadway for 12 weeks in 1998.