Franc Chamberlain MAG – The Next Five Years 1997–2002

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In On the Art of the Theatre, Edward Gordon Craig wrote against the idea that literature was at the root of theatre and argued instead that: ‘the Art of the Theatre has sprung from action – movement – dance’ (1980: 139). We can take this idea backwards into history and prove, if we wish, that Craig wasn’t the first person to have suggested this. Fine, but the point is that this statement, which was originally published in a 1905 essay, signifies that the attempt to define theatre in terms of what made it a distinctive art form was underway and that one strand of this definition is that theatre is not a branch of literature. From that point on, it seems to me, all of the key developments in actortraining have involved a physical-based approach. Stanislavski’s work at the First Studio and his later ‘method’ of physical actions; Meyerhold’s interest in the commedia dell’arte and then his development of biomechanics; Copeau’s interest in the commedia and in the work of the Fratellini Brothers; Michel St Denis’ insistence on the importance of gesture and movement and so on. I could add to the list Michael Chekhov, Grotowski, once again we can look at the training and see the importance of starting from the body; the early-morning kathakali eye-exercises for example. Indeed, if we think of it historically in terms of what we know about the importance of gesture in actor-training from previous centuries it becomes difficult to see where our non-physical based theatre lies, at least in terms of the actor’s training. It seems obvious to me that even training someone to act ‘naturalistically’ is to train them in the use of the body in an ‘unnatural’ situation. And where does dance fit in?

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhysical Theatres
Subtitle of host publicationA Critical Reader
EditorsJohn Keefe, Simon Murray
Place of PublicationAbingdon & New York
PublisherTaylor and Francis Ltd.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781134230976, 9780203012857
ISBN (Print)9780415362528, 9780415362511
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


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