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Voices – TOTAL THEATRE MAGAZINE by Dorothy Max Prior

Simon Edwards and Marian Masoliver of The Actors Space, in their own words

We met at Lecoq. We loved, it, got so much out of it that we wanted to share that with others – so we started The Actors Space.

The animals left and the actors came. The school is set in a sixteenth century farmhouse, an hour from Barcelona.

It’s been an organic growth. The workshops grew in success through word-of-mouth. People come back year after year.

We run workshops in The Clown, in The Creative Actor, and in Acting for Camera. We don’t really see a divide between theatre and screen work – this Lecoq-inspired work is the best training for any actor. It really is possible to ‘clown’ in any performance context – dramatic actor, cabaret turn, circus performer, actor to-camera…

Lecoq is not a ‘method’; it’s an observation, a way of being. It’s not a gospel. If you put it in a box, you might not be able to get it out! What you need is the minimum of set-up, then just let people play. Lecoq’s work lives on and grows – in the body, in the space.

Clown is many things, and clown includes the tragic clown. Comedy and drama are two sides of the same coin. The whole world is a potential theme for the clown. You play for the feelings, not for the laughs. This way of acting is a challenge to ‘psychological drama’ – Lecoq said play the experience, not your own personal experience.

A clown without an audience doesn’t exist. The clown always favours the relationship with the audience. There’s a direct contact: the eye contact is ‘at’ not ‘above’ the audience. The art is in playing the moment ‘in clown with’ the audience. Lecoq encouraged us to play ‘with’ the audience rather than ‘for’ the audience.

The clown’s fragile nature is revealed through doing things. You have to shed a lot of layers to get to a place of vulnerability, of ‘ridiculousness’. The clown uses her/his physical attributes: if you have long, skinny legs with bony knees, then that becomes an ‘asset’ rather than a ‘failure’.

Everyone is a success, everyone is OK. The world is currently set up with the ‘one gold medallist and the rest are failures’ mentality.

Children are natural clowns – but the clown’s aim is to be childlike not childish.

It’s you, not a funny character! Think of Chaplin, Tati, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers…

Actors, clowns, performers are human beings. We are not machines. TV comedy, in particular, can become a sausage factory. Think how few episodes there are of Faulty Towers. Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe were killed by the strain.

A good director is like a gardener. Let the actor – the creative actor – take power, or you might as well do puppetry. Encourage, find the good, and the actor grow wings.

The mask or costume is a protector.

Neutral Mask work teaches you transposition. You don’t have to traumatise an audience. And you don’t have to play your inner psychopath! It’s a safe approach that allows you to enter dark territory whilst protecting yourself. A good friend and colleague is Sergi Lopez, who played the villainous Capitan Vidal in Del Toro’s Oscar-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth. He used his Lecoq training to play this role. You can touch people without being devastated yourself by the role you are playing.

Beware the ‘dramatic effect’ – the lure of the ‘impressive actor’. The Neutral Mask asks for the ego-less actor. And the way of working values the ensemble; the co-operative theatre-maker.

The Actors Space is now our full-time home, but we don’t want to run a full-time school. We like the idea of it as a jewel, a special place to come for a short while. You can really change and grow, even in just two weeks.

Simon Edwards started out, age 14, as a ‘punk clown’ in the UK street arts/festival scene; later working as a performer/ company trainer for Kneehigh Theatre, and its offshoot, Wildworks. Marian Masilover worked as a performer with many legendary Catalan companies, including La Fura Del Baus, and with American/Mexican puppetry companies such as Los Titititeros. They met at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and have been partners in work and in life since, founding The Actors Space in 1999 – a centre dedicated to the professional training and development of the creative actor.

The Actors Space 2012 programme:
The Creative Actor 15h–28 July
Acting for Camera 1–14 August
The Clown 19 August–1 Sept.
Directing Performance 4-10 Sept.

All the above are residential, and dates include arrival and departure dates. Workshops are taught in English. The minimum age to participate is 18 years old. Fees are inclusive of accommodation and meals.

For full details see www.actors-space.org

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