The Actor's Practice
Suzuki training develops one’s awareness of stillness, of the impulse to move from a stillness, of the density of movement once it begins, of an arc of energy in that movement and in the suspense created in arriving at stillness. This examination is focused in the centre of the body where expression originates and which is the seat of vocal production. And so the two, vocal and physical expression are innately tied.
From such a basic idea as analysing the way the centre absorbs the effort and reverberation of stomping the floor, using the method we have developed refined means of expression. In our laboratory we work with variations in focal length and direction, situational, internal or otherwise, as a way to remain alive to the changing experience of time over space. With focal changes, experience changes, moment by moment. We are never the same person, same character from one moment to the next and it is this continual transformation that has been so enriching to study.
This articulation is by no means limited to the body for when the gaze and the attitude of the body is focused, the voice naturally agrees. In addition, because of the elevated energy the training instills, the voice responds, gaining density and resonance in the timbre, attack and surprise in starting and finishing the idea of a text. Resonance not volume is key. The energy expressed when speaking under physical duress is an idea common to many if not all forms of theatre. It involves the same kind of training that elite athletes do daily to centre the breath under extreme exertion. Performing Shakespeare in the park, delivering text up high on The Tissue or maintaining clarity in emotional extremes are challenges the performer will always face. What has been so interesting to us is the possibility of maintaining great energy in the voice not only in the large arena where audibility becomes an issue, but also when the focus is quite close, say in a chamber experience like La Mama theatre (Melbourne). Anyone who has performed there knows it is an anathema to shout. In our work we are creating ways to hold the voice back while still expressing energy. I think of it as a capacitance, the ability to store energy creates a sense of potential, of danger in all aspects of performance.
Another line of research develops the choral vocabulary. With each training session, each exercise, each performance, members of The Thursday Group strive to work together. At times the focus on technique or concepts can channel attention onto the individual. This is as it should be because the process of reflection helps the performer to improve. Sometimes though, this may lead the performer to forget the innate links that exist between performers in the space. The audience does not pay to see individuals performing tricks of virtuosity, rather they wish to see interaction, shared dynamic, stories that involve the social weave of which we are all a part. So we continually remind ourselves to practice the training and extrapolations with a priority not on the individual but on the group.
The training and laboratory work develops from week to week and we all rejoice in each other’s development and the knowledge that long-term we are creating a unique space for experimentation in the theatre. We are always open for theatre professionals and students to observe, so if you would like to attend one of our sessions, just drop us a line.