An interesting session considering engagement with space.
I attended a masterclass at Greenwich Theatre run by Theatre Centre, who are currently touring Roy Williams’ Advice For The Young At Heart.
The session, looking at staging performances in schools, was led by the company’s artistic director Natalie Wilson. For this workshop, in particular, it was really interesting to have Wilson leading. As the artistic director she has to think constantly about the bigger picture – which is exactly what the session was trying to broach: how does a play work on all levels? You may have the words of a fantastic playwright to work with, but if the way in which you’re staging a performance doesn’t reach out and connect with your audience, it can become a lost cause.
This masterclass isn’t directly linked to the content of Advice For The Young At Heart, which attendees get to watch post workshop. I think the idea behind this is to allow participants see the work of the last two hours put into practice by the company – however, that evening’s show took place in a professional theatre, not the school halls and canteens in which teachers find themselves putting on performances, and which often play host to Theatre Centre productions.
The content covered was quite basic: we looked at forms of staging – in-the-round, traverse and end on. Several participants in my group were trying to push the boundaries of our given ‘end on’ setting to stage our piece with a more creative use of space. But it was good to bring it to a simple form: considering how your use of space can engage students is important.
The exercises that formed the masterclass worked well in demonstrating the diversity in performance created when using the stage space differently. However, I personally think a slightly more lengthy, slightly less practical session from Wilson would have benefited participants more. She had produced and presented a graph model explaining the influences between narrative, performer, audience and staging, and how they affect one another. It was really interesting, and well explained by Wilson, but I would have found it more effective perhaps to have a case study of one of Theatre Centre’s own shows during the session to demonstrate how they consider alternative spaces and audiences when they tour.
To find out more about Theatre Centre’s CPD sessions and touring performances, visit www.theatre-centre.co.uk.