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Notes from Ian Rickson's class for directors/ actors at the Haymarket

masterclass Feb 3rd on The Seagull.

General Notes

directing is about chasing detail.

ZONING IN- acting and directing about having the ability to endure (like Nina!) and to have 'slowed down' thinking.
tuning in to the environment- the actual space the actors/ directors are in- listening to the sounds in the room, and out of it. Becoming visually aware of what's around you. Awareness of whoever is near you. Spatial awareness. Focusing on yourself, being aware of your own body and breathing. Awareness of temp., colour etc.
all good actors listen and immerse themselves entirely in the role and read, read, read around it and about it.

in the rehearsal room - as a director, try to get rid of any fear or embarrassment. Create a safe environment where mistakes can be made and anything goes.

acting is from the gut, from the intuition AND everything comes from thought and preparation, including emotions and the heart. Head to heart.

for actors and directors directing and thinking about character- 1) what do I want? 2) what is in the way?
3) how do I get what I want?

TWO very important things to remember as actor/ director 1) think in pictures 2) have an active transitive need (or motivation)

references- Catching the Big Fish, by David Lynch,
Unta Hagen- Respect for Actors.


With reference to the last meeting between Nina and Konstantin towards the end of The Seagull- translation Christopher Hampton. (around p78)

Plays are made in the space between the stage and the audience. Actors have to 'conjure' things up for the audience... Nina has to feel what it is like to have to travel by third class rail- with all the plebs and the dirt and the cold. When she is talking to Konstantin about having to survive as an actress in Yeletz she has to have some understanding of what Yeletz is- what type of town it is, what are the people like, the architecture, the weather and housing and give some understanding of this to the audience and Konstantin and what this means for her.

Finding the hard facts- place, time, season, weather, etc
and then discovering the blurred ones- when exactly did Nina and Konstantin meet? When was the moment Konstantin fell in love with Nina. What was his reaction watching Nina act badly on stage? etc

Looking at every word in every sentence and noting every punctuation mark. What is meant by 'whirlpool' for example? Who is in the whirlpool, are Nina and Konstantin? What is the whirlpool?

What is the primal quest for Konstantin? - it could be to win his mother's unconditional love....

silence is never just a silence but a beat and always filled with something.

within a scene there always objectives covering real feelings- for example, in this scene Nina and Konstantin have not seen each other or come face to face for two years. Nina in that time has become a third rate actress, had a fling and a child and Konstantin has become a struggling writer also fighting his deep and unrequited love for Nina. Nina's objective in this scene might be to have a friendly encounter with Konstantin whilst trying to cover her real feelings- those feelings might be, from looking at the text; despair and sadness at her lot in life and or sadness or pity for Konstantin, or revulsion- what ever the actors/ director decide is there. Or her real motive might to try and get close to Treegorin, the successful writer and father of her child and with whom she is still in love, who is in the room next door.

There is always an obstacle barring the character's way- or desire. This obstacle can be internal, it can even be unknown or seen for something else by the character.

when working on any play or script one is always entering the writer's unconscious and subconscious. Find out about the author (if dead) as much as possible- visit where they lived, read their letters, understand the physical environment the writer has come from as well as their psychological one. Look at the landscape the play is set in. Talk to people from that place. For example for The Seagull Ian went to Russia, visited the house where Chekhov lived, visited Teletz, held rehearsals where Russian actors spoke the lines in Russian and Kristin Scott Thomas had to reply back in English- to get the timbre of the piece. He held rehearsals where when he rang a bell, all the actors had to speak with a Russian accent.


other interesting bits and pieces.

acting self pity always makes the audience passive.
Russian sentence construction packs a punch- what we take to say in 10 words they say in 3 for example.
The Return (a film) may be interesting to watch if anyone likes Chekhov. In fact I am going to watch it in a moment!
Susie Orbach a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst came into rehearsals for Hamlet.
Ian actually went to the real Elsinore in Denmark.
Researching too much might not be such a good thing.
Character's observations about other characters might not be reliable.
The ending of any performance is very important because it is this lasting impression the audience takes away with them. So think very hard about what you want that to be.

can't remember owt else!
V.

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