Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Art of Epic Improvising Storytelling

Universal storytelling inspired by: 
the Kathakali Dance Drama of South India; 
Tibetan Buddhist ritual performance; 
the improvising storytelling poets of Upper Egypt; 
the Vaudeville theatre of Scotland; 
the Theatre of Lindsay Kemp; 
and Giles Havergal’s Glasgow Citizens Theatre Company.

"Nothing is hidden, as the rug he rolls out at the start of his voyage becomes the nearest thing resembling any kind of safety net, emotional or otherwise. In truth, it represents a magic carpet ride taking a brief, purging respite from all the turbulence encountered en route. Somewhere along the way, he becomes a stunning performer, first with flamboyant provocateur Lindsay Kemp, then as the Citizens' most adventurous arbiter of truth. Fragile, vulnerable and all but reliving past pleasures and pains, Rudic swoops nervily from moment to moment with reckless honesty, but without any of the afflictions of confessional indulgence of the worst kind. Exposed as he is, Rudic's warts and all selfportrait is a thrillingly intimate experience." Neil Cooper - Herald -

Most of my process explorations into teaching creative performance have taken place in Cairo where i have been living for the last 16 years. As a teacher I am unknown outside of Egypt. Before coming to Cairo, i spent 30 years as a creative theatre actor in the UK. I began exploring organic process with the performer and director Lindsay Kemp, who showed me that it was possible to turn acting from a technical craft into a creative extemporising art. After Kemp and acting school I joined the creatively innovative and internationally-renowed Glasgow Citizens Company where I explored organic process for 25 years. With 'The Citz' I was free to develop myself as the artist I felt I needed to be. The company was run by three directors each with their own unique talents: Giles Havergal Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. The plays were mainly European translated by MacDonald who also wrote new works especially for the company. Our productions created a considerable amount of interest throughout the UK and beyond and we led the way in an approach to classical theatre that was contemporary, passionate and visually stunning. Because I was very much a creature of intuition and of the senses, for a long time i had no idea how i did what i did. Through my early work with Kemp, I had adopted from the outset an uncompromising organic approach to playing a role; in effect playing myself rather than adopting conventional dualistic acting techniques. Awareness became a key factor in this living approach and over the years, I continued refining the process until eventually I felt that I had gone as far as i could go in the world of text-based acting. Despite the fixed text, i had always worked out of a spirit of improvisation leaving the door open for creative inspiration within the heat of the performance and i decided to take this onto the next level by working as an improvising dramatist using stories taken from my life in theatre and as a traveller. I came to Egypt, looking for clues in the traditional epic storytelling performers of Upper Egypt. While there, I became interested in how to teach others this organic approach based on embodied awareness. In essence my workshops are a mix of somatic lessons working out of a felt inner sense of self and what i call 'social improvisation' as a way of developing and refining awareness of the emotional body.  In Cairo i run workshops for actors, singers and dancers and anyone who feels the need to explore an integrated whole-self way of creative communication. I call it 'Playing the Self for Change'.

Neil Cooper - Herald Scotland