Friday, 2 January 2015

Thou Metest With Things Dying I With Things Newborn.

It's been a couple of year since I regularly blogged and so I've made a new year's resolution to try and get back into the habit. It was a useful exercise in trying to order my thoughts about Drama at St Mary's and certainly think helped to unify the huge amount of activity that goes on day to day for the students and staff here.

We're still incredibly busy - one of the reasons the blog fell by the way side a little, along with personal revolutions brought about by both birth and death, and my own appointment as Academic Director - but looking back now across the last two years it's clear that Drama St Mary's is in a strong place to face the future and it's probably interesting to begin the chart the next chapters.

We've developed a strategy to take us through to 2020 and increasingly are looking to focus our resources on actor training rather than academic study. Of course we want our students to be as sharp as pins and much of our curriculum looks in depth at learning how to problem solve, evaluate, analyse and take responsibility for the creative decisions you make, but we're also very much in the business of developing physical and vocal technique, offering students the opportunity to perform in a range of production and with a range of directors. From September of this year we're bringing on board a Technical Theatre BA to complement the training programmes.

Our MAs are also developing. The Physical Theatre degree has blossomed and is now regularly producing successful touring companies who have picked up a handful of awards at fringe festivals across the world from San Diego to Rome.

The MA Directing is being redeveloped in partnership with The Orange Tree Theatre, which will enable these students to train at the theatre itself. They'll also have their final performances showcased at the theatre in the Spring.

We're back to work fully next week - but before the day to day kicks in again my colleague Tina Bicat and I have taken ourselves for a couple of days retreat with a study group at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park to do some focused reading on 'The Winter's Tale.'

The retreat is being led by novelist Sally Vickers, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and the eminent Shakespearians Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson.

Tonight, after settling in, we had an introductory session from Stanley and Paul, who performed a great double act reminding us of the key themes and moments in the play.

We looked at Leontes' great rebuttal to Camillo where he spews rhetorical question after rhetorical question at his attendant Lord. It's a speech that always challenges actors. How in control is Leontes' here? Are the words coming from thought or are the thoughts racing ahead of the words? It's a destructive and flamboyant moment and it's hard to understand the sheer recklessness of his accusations.

There was comparison between this play and 'Othello', Shakespeare's other great tract on jealousy. Although there it's Iago's careful seeding that ensures the agony grows. Leontes' wrath, by contrast, is sudden and although he goes on to rehearse his feelings, firstly to his non understanding son Mamillius and then to Camillo himself.

There are a few mysteries in the play mostly around Paulina and her role in the resurrection of Hermione. Does Hermione die or is she squirrelled away into hiding for sixteen years? Is the statue real? Does it come to life? When does Paulina conceive her plan? Or is it simply Time that controls events? What has the relationship between the two women been in the interim sixteen years?

It's these and some of the other themes and moments that we're going to explore over the next couple of days.

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