Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A lone tree on the horizen of a boring landscape

This post has taken me a very long time to write. I am not really sure why. I started writing it on the 4 December when Sally left Florence after a short, or long, 7 weeks on the programme. I suppose then I couldn't work out what I wanted to say exactly. Sally was here for our first Norman Taylor movement workshop and we have just completed another four days with him... and I suppose Sally leaving and Normans poetry in movement are connected for me. Norman was here teaching us the Le Coq 20 movement sequences... these are mimed sequences that teach you about space, articulation, separation, suspension, force... and so on. All vital ingredients when constructing theatre... But Norman is no ordinary teacher. He brings a depth to the movements that transform them from a technical exercise into poetic genius.

Sally, the wonderful wild woman from Tasmania, packed up her family... her two year old, her ten year old and her partner and moved to Florence... like the rest of us, in the pursuit of art, to study with Giovanni Fusetti. She got a grant and that was it. The work itself made her squeal in delight, stare in awe, cry and laugh and gasp. But the work-day hours, being in a new country with her 10 year old going to school in a foreign language and the relentless winter rain that kept her two year old consistently indoors, made it impossible to stay. For us in the Southern Hemisphere this is not a childhood. Sunshine, bare feet, swimming pools and gardens make childrens hearts soar and the price of Italy was too high. Sally often spoke of what it meant to be an artist and a mother. The Divided Heart, a book she often spoke of, talks of the belief that to be an artist and a mother one of them has to fail. Sally said that the fact that she is a mother is the very thing that makes her a better artist. And it did. Sally was not afraid of life, of taking risks, of moving... on and off the stage. Italy didn't work out for her and her family - not the art.

Being here is really not easy. At all. I miss my family desperately. But not being here is as difficult. Telling stories is not something you want to do. It's just something we do... And then we move... In and out of each others lives. And for now I am telling part of my story in Italy... my family are telling theirs in South Africa... and Sally her's in Australia.

Norman spoke of the verb in movement sequences, clear of any judgment or interpretation... so if you are doing the wall for example (that is miming climbing a wall) and you use only the verbs in the sequence... to rise... to suspend... to pull... and so on... Something else emerges. Because the verb itself has no opinion. And only when we have no opinion can we know how to say exactly what we want to say on the stage... and in life. So we study pure movement to allow the movement speak of you - Rather than you speaking of the movement. And of course neutral movement is impossible. But every now and then there is a glimmer of the beauty and force behind the personal chaos. Norman says that people wait to see your movement because somehow is speaks of who you are. And the movement must be dynamic... creating the wind in the ice skater sequence... the weight in the weight lifter sequence... the force in throwing the discus... Brought to life with vital accents. Like a boring landscape, and every now and the there is a tree, a rock, a bush, a sun set.

On Saturday after the full days workshop I sat on the bridge looking at the Ponte Vecchio one side, the sun setting behind just another church on the other, the deep blue Spring sky above, the river Arno still beneath me, the rush hour traffic streaming past, and I know that I am not European. And I remember the horizon on the salt plains in Botswana... that goes on for ever. Where the heat is the kind that lets you see the air. Where the yellow sand on the bare landscape stands up straight in the wake of the passing landrover - there is no hurry to return to the cracked earth and wait for another lift which may not come. From in the vehicle a little girl looks out the window and doesn't realise, it's not just hot, it's Africa hot. A lone lizard on a broken rock watches as the dust returns in a slow waltz. And so we move.

Norman told me the French bible states... in the beginning there was the verb.

The pic from our first workshop with Norman. Where Sally did the movement of throwing the discus... but was really replaying the story of her life in verbs. Ready for the next part of her story. Sally, here's to boring landscapes and the odd spectacular thorn tree.

Old images of landscapes from the photographic museum where I spent a day off... looking at an exhibition of war photographs. Another kind of movement.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Weekend Special at the Windybrow Theatre

This week I got the very exciting news that my play Weekend Special will be performed at the Windybrow Theatre in Joubert Park... the daring dangerous heart of Johannesburg... in the shadow of Ponte Tower! So excited.

Weekend Special is set on the streets of a Johannesburg Township. It tells the story of the relationship between a daughter and her single young mother, her best friend and the local gossips... And the actresses Deborah and Yule rock. I made it especially to perform for a youth audience - where it does really well. It's relevant, it's funny, it's wacky - They dig it. In South Africa we don't have a massive theatre going audience - and by taking good work into schools we hope to convert even just a few to darken the doors of theatres in the future. Mmm.

I'm your Weekend... Weekend Special! from Jenine Collocott on Vimeo.
This was the show we did for Dainfern College and one of the students in the front row filmed it - I think she did a fab job!

The shows are on the 16 and 18 June 2010 at 6pm - Come! Yay

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Breathe in...

We completed the massive journey through the abstract... neutral mask, elements, materials, colours and poetry... to arrive at human characters. Yay. And human emotion. How exciting. And it was... albeit really weird in the beginning... mind bendingly brilliant.

We started with breath work, which when used in therapy is called re-birthing or regression therapy. However when used in a theatrical context brings about fantastic and totally surprising creative results. Connected breathing and movement takes one into a trance-like state where emotions swirl, and it is this that is channeled into performance... one could say that all performance, all creativity, is channeling emotional energy and that this is an extremely vivid visceral experience of that.

I'll try and explain it as best I can... Firstly we all stood around breathing together... and because I'm not the worlds most gung-ho 'let's all stand around and bare our emotions to each other' individual, I initially found it quite difficult. But soon enough it stopped feeling personal and the work began. So yes, there we were, doing a bit of heavy breathing connected to specific organic movement and ultimately sound... all with the gentle guidance of Pol and Imanou who are breath masters from France. So it's all legit and brilliant. Breathing is a doorway into the unconscious world... blinking and breathing are the only actions of the conscious and the unconscious mind... but blinking yourself into and altered state is not really as viable an option. So yes, breathing takes one to the door of the unconscious. Knock knock.  Who's there?  Hello emotion. And it's amazing. We breathed and connected what came up to the theatrical world of grotesque characters... meaning how far could you push a character, amplify an emotion, and remain believable - like the human craziness you see every day if you dare to look... for example, a mad man on the street who shouts and spits and has lost all sense of himself... or a wild woman of the night whose ego has no boundary... or a spoilt adult throwing a wild unreasonable tantrum to get what she wants... or a tyrannical man who needs to state his claim on being a man. Life in extreme forms. After the breath work, once we were open and on the precipice of the unconscious if you like, we played these extreme forms in a way that each performer somehow disappeared behind 'the mask' of their grotesque/extreme form... a kind of theatrical shape-shifting or shamanic-type performance. In the same way that we all have a clown we all have a grotesque form... and perhaps many. We gathered in an intimate circle in our studio each exposing a amplified wild character that lives within us. And we laughed until we cried and sometimes we cried until we laughed. But most of all we breathed for what in a fleeting moment felt like for the first time. And we grew expanding ourselves in every direction.

And this, while not so far away the rest of the world - Egypt, Lybia, Japan - is falling apart. Humans. Nature.

As Giovanni said we dare to be creative with the time we have... Who knows what happens tomorrow.

Nick came to visit me for a week in our break... It was completely wonderful we spent a day in Bologna, an amazing Gothic city, where we climbed a terrifyingly high, frightfully narrow tower whose only purpose, however many years ago, was as a show of wealth... Italian men, seriously.

The Neptune fountain in the main square in Bologna - the four mermaids around him sprouting water from their breasts represent the only four major rivers in the world known at that time.

Nick and his favorite indulgence... drinking coffee x

We spent a day in spectacular village, San Gimignano, where we wondered up and down the beautiful cobbled streets amongst a vast number of boastful towers pushing against a determined ice cold wind wishing that the sun was out and that we could sit on a little bench looking out on the rolling Tuscan hills and drink red wine and eat cheese. Instead we found ourselves in a cosy little coffee shop drinking delicious coffee and eating pastries.

For the rest of the time we were in Florence... The Duomo (beware the Christian God!), Santa Croche (where all the big guys - Dante, Michelangelo, Galileo - have their tombs), San Lorenzo, The Uffizi... oh and the Damien Hirst exhibition 'For the Love of God,' in Palazzo Vecchio. An exhibition of a single art piece, a diamond and platinum covered skull, a real human skull yes. It was wild. We walked up a short ramp lined with information about where the skull was brought, who it is believed to have been... and so on... at the top a serious looking security guard pulled aside a heavy black curtain and we entered into a tiny pitch black room with a single dim spot light hitting the jeweled skull in a brilliant spangle of refracted of light that honestly you have to see to believe how beautiful such a macabre thing can be.

Nick in Italy from Jenine Collocott on Vimeo.
We wondered around holding hands, eating alot, drinking more, talking about theatre and planning the future. Breath out. x