On 1-5 September, 16 RADA MA Theatre Lab students performed their end of year project The Ecstasy and the Ecstasy in the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Malet Street. The postgraduate course comprises the foundations of Stanislavski’s system with brash experimentation to create a final examination performance that must tie in with course contents, wherein students are taught about the practices of the likes of Brecht and Grotowski.
This year’s students collaborated with American director Jon Stancato to create The Ecstasy and the Ecstasy, a thought-provoking and stimulating piece exploring the highs and lows of the ecstatic experiences humans encounter – ecstasy in its most animalistic and basic form, from religion to art, sex to personal annihilation.
From the beginning, the ‘meaning’ of ecstasy was made clear: there was no meaning – at least, it could not be explained, and throughout the rest of the performance we saw that the spectrum of ecstatic experiences range from the simplistic, such as taste, to the more complex, all-consuming relationships we have with religion and with one another.
Combining physical and poor theatre, the 16 students convulsed, sang, cried and danced as they narrated their individual encounters with what it means to be in love, in lust. The resulting piece was moving and intimate, and left me reeling with feelings of transcendence and a mixture of understanding and fear. By the end of the performance, each student was emotional, sweaty, gasping after two hours of delving into the darkest corners of ecstasy, and I must commend their pain and effort.
Rather than watching 16 people tell us what it meant to feel these things, they pulled us into the experience, forcing us to live through their eyes, and I truly felt it.