by Jez Bond

This evening I headed over to the Rag Factory off Brick Lane for the inaugural session of Transmission – a new drop in workshop for actors. The group will meet on a weekly basis and the aspiration is to have its eventual home at the Park. As such I was invited to lead the first workshop.

There were twelve actors present this evening – and I imagine that numbers will increase once word of mouth spreads and the group gets established. I chose to explore ‘the influence of style on content’ using various scenes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as the text. We split into three groups, each looking at a traditional (old fashioned) approach, a ‘modern dress’ interpretation and an experimental/physical/’other’.

Bad choices can damage the power of a story and good choices can highlight a story’s poignancy but it was very interesting to note that the story (and its characters) shone through no matter the style – truly demonstrating that “the play’s the thing”. There were many times when the language of the play drew the actors to a particular delivery or characterisation and going against this would be an imposition of style over content. The actors at one stage despite parodying an old fashioned approach felt compelled to deliver lines in a more naturalistic way and ended up taking the scene in that direction.  It’s interesting how our natural (as in everyday) language – and, strikingly, our body language – tries to emerge.

Clearly the modern interpretation (whether manifesting through mobile phones and iPods or whether just through linguistic delivery) is the most comfortable to the modern actor. There seems to be an enjoyment with exploring the ‘other’ too. I think it’s a shame that more productions (and not just of Shakespeare) don’t explore this enough. There seems to be divide between mainstream produced work and ‘experimental’ companies. If theatre companies were to brave enough to find a middle ground we might have something explosive. Perhaps at The Park…….

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