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Amber-Lily Foxon 25/10/14

I am going to be looking into the work of the 3 most influential directors in theatre history
Jerzy Grotowski, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Peter Brook. I will then be comparing and
contrasting different approaches to acting and I will be looking at the impact they have had
on the industry.
Jerzy Grotowskis had a unique theatrical approach that was based on two processes. The
first one being, A reduction to what is the essence of theatre and secondly breaking
down the walls of the theatre. I think the idea behind this was to eliminate anything
artificial meaning things like props, lighting effects or objects which were not essential. I
view this as a new and different approach because he wanted to focus more on the actors
ability and to change their perception on what is possible as actors, which is something I
have not yet experienced. Grotowski stated that, This was the point of departure. He
never believed in having music, scenery, decorations and lighting effects because he
believed they were not important. To me this shows that Grotowski really thought about
everything as well as characterisation. There would be two groups of people, the actors
and the audience but when removing all of them none essential elements, Grotowski
believed that it becomes possible to remove the division between stage and spectators.
I think the idea behind this is to be unpredictable and to use all of the space, for example
in Marlowes Doctor Faustus he used a very long table where the audience sat with the
actors. This created a close dynamic of relation between actors and spectators, with the
action taking place on and around the table where they were seated. I think Grotowskis
aim was to show the actors and the audience that there is no limitation in theatre and that
is what I find really exciting about his work. The fact that he was fearless and prepared to
take his work to a whole new level in creating not a stage but a place and atmosphere by
using just actors. A good example of this is in Kordian the point of departure where a
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scene took place in a hospital. What Grotowski did was he filled the entire space and set it
out as if it was a hospital. I think this is a great way to set a mood and an atmosphere in a
theatre because you want the audience to feel as though they are involved or even apart
of what ever is happening. I liked this approach because when I was watching it, I really
got a sense of atmosphere and environment, which for me made it feel so realistic.


Grotowski called it theatrical doctrine the Poor Theatre because it is like taking away all
the rich elements that are unnecessary. I also like the fact that Grotowski used a lot of
spiritual technics, he would ask the actors to call on spirits, then provoke their appearance,
so that the audience were seen as the spirits. This resulted in the actor creating himself a
kind of music and rhythm. The actors would do this by using the floor, shadows, reflections
of light, body, feet and voice. Everything becomes music. This technique amazed me
because of the level of visualisation and imagination which was so clear and powerful.
Looking into Grotowskis work in great detail has lead me to question what methods do I
find work for me? Do I want to take this and use it in my own work? The one thing that I
have learnt from his work is that you have to feel something and then act upon that inner
feeling.
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Amber-Lily Foxon 25/10/14
Vsevolod Meyerhold was a contemporary version of Stanislavski and Chekhov. His ideas
were influenced by Chekhov's work and by the intensive actor training he had in the
Moscow Arts Theatre with Stanislavski himself. However, they were both focused on
releasing the actor's emotional and expressional potential but they both had different views
and approaches to one another because Meyerhold wanted to create a new kind theatre
for a new era. He was one of the most enthusiastic actors of the new Soviet Theatre.
Meyerhold had a vision from a young age and knew what he wanted to change within the
theatre industry and was determined. Meyerhold used dance and physical movements to
develop each of the actors body awareness.The idea came from finding a means of
expression through actions. He went on to call this style of preparing and performing
Biomechanics. Biomechanics is a series of exercises to develop and release the
emotional potential of the actor through movement. I looked at a few videos clips based
on this and I found it amazing how strong and clear you had to be within your body
movements. Lines and Shapes generated by the body needed to complement the
expression of the face which, I think this is surprising because it allows the actors to use
their body in a way that makes them feel real emotion. I understand that Mayerhold used
masks and other materials as tools to emphasis different characteristics.
I believe that the creativity of the actor is shown in movements, which can be enhanced
and extended by the use of masks because Meyerhold's used make-up, hair, hats,
scarves, eyelashes as well as Commedia dell' arte as a mask. He explored this technique
in his training because he realised that, masks enabled the paradoxical nature of theatre
to be explored in rehearsals and performance. I think this is interesting because it is a
complete contrast to Grosowskis work. Ive learnt that Mayerhold liked to experiment with
different materials whereas Grosowski liked working from the basics. Meyerhold said that
the mask forced the actor to externalise his means of communication to use the body.
This to me indicates that by using the mask it allows you to focus purely on your body
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movements as your facial expressions are hidden behind the mask. I think this is a clever
way to practise on you physical skills. Unlike Grososki, Mayerhold experimented with
puppetry as a theatrical device. He had a very strong vision which helped explore his
boundaries of the theatrical form. Meyerhold was inspired by the Japanese theatre, in
particular the Kabuki theatre of japan, as puppetry was a very important part within their
pieces. Mayerhold hated anything predictable and so he went on to explore deep into the
grotesque ways of life. I like this idea of taking theatre and creating discomfort because it
mixes opposites, comedy or tragedy, life or death and beauty or ugliness. I personally think
its bizarre but I do find the contrasts interesting because they can take you through mixed
emotions and then you can start to question yourself as an audience member. Meyerhold
felt that it challenged the audiences perceptions and he liked how it was naturally
controversial. I think it stretched the norm to an extent that it became unnatural which in a
way helped him achieve his ideal performance. To conclude it is a very mysterious and
fantasy like approach but I think it did enhance Meyerholds intentions of surprising the
audience. What I understood from this research is that on a contrary to Grotowski, you do
something and then you feel it afterwards. This is a more phycological angle as a posted
to an inspirational angle but I also believe that it is based on reactions from the inside. I
really like this approach because it teaches actors to be sensitive to their bodies and to
feel what their bodies are doing and it is about reacting mentally and emotionally to that
physical and inner feeling.
Peter Brook is an English theatre and lm director, whos work has been a huge success
within this industry. His career began in the 1940s with productions of Shakespeare but
with a modern twist. Continuing to his recent work in opera and epic theatre, makes him
one of the most inuential directors of the 20th century. Through Brooks childhood he
always had a keen interest in making lms. He went to Magdalen College, in Oxford where
he studied English and Modern Languages. When he didn't get accepted into the
University of Dramatic Society, he decided to recreate the Film Society. Brook made his
rst lm on a 250 budget by using old sets and some young actors from among his
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friends and classmates. I think this shows that Brook was dedicated and passionate about
creating theatre and nothing was going to stop him from doing what he wanted to do. I feel
like Brook knew where he wanted to go but just didn't know how he was going to do it. To
me this is an indication of his early condence. The reasons behind Peter Brooks work
seems like he is trying to nd a truth in something that is spiritual, pure and universal.
Using body movements, gesture, rhythm, sounds, chants, etc., he puts his production
together until sound, movement and visuals have been created. His productions are
seamless, the acting synthesised, all the characters part of a complete picture.
I think his aim is to create for today what he believes Shakespeare achieved in his day. He
takes away and removes each layer of unnecessary materials until the play is allowed to
speak for itself. This approach to me allows the piece to have its own voice and to gain its
own energy and dynamics. This is a similar approach to Grotowski because he also used
the bare minimum. He believed that we as human beings are complex enough within
ourselves to share and create something powerful. Grotowski has been a gure of
immense inuence in twentieth-century theatre. Brook has adopted many of his ideas. It is
interesting that Brook regards Grotowskis work as specic to his situation in Poland. This
appears to contradict much of Brooks own teaching. I feel as though Peter Brooks work
offers an insight into tough times and difcult situations. I also think stories are so powerful
and crucial because they are actually based on a truthful story and they are happening all
around the world. From looking at the work of Peter Brook I have come to the conclusion
that he structures his work around 3 elements energy, movement and different relations. I
love the idea of using all 3 of these elements because I know that they are essential to any
kind of theatre you want to produce within this industry.
To Conclude, I think Grotowski and Peter Brooks have similarities in their approach of
simplicity. The idea of simplifying something can be surprisingly powerful and this is
something that I want to learn from because I am starting to understand that sometimes
less is more. I have learnt that the real meaning behind theatre is to share, influence and
educate what you know and share it in an artistic way, with an audience but there are
endless possibilities to what you can achieve and do. I found Peter Brooks the most
difficult to understand and research so I have now just made a personal judgement from
what I have seen. I believe his work goes deep into important subject issues that we
currently are facing in this day and age.
References:
Jerzy Grotowski interview Wywiad z Jerzym Grotowskim - YouTube. 2014. Jerzy
Grotowski interview Wywiad z Jerzym Grotowskim - YouTube. [ONLINE] Availably at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1nA4HCa6zI. [Accesses 22 October 2014].
Jerzy Grotowski, Tragiczne dzieje doktora Fausta", 1963 - YouTube. 2014. Jerzy
Grotowski, Tragiczne dzieje doktora Fausta", 1963 - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQLYehzGtEE. [Accessed 28 October 2014].
Training at Grotowski's "Laboratorium" in Wrozlaw in 1972 Screener - YouTube. 2014.
Training at Grotowski's "Laboratorium" in Wrozlaw in 1972 Screener - YouTube. [ONLINE]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRyLLTvs00c. [Accessed 28 October
2014].
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Amber-Lily Foxon 25/10/14
Meyerhold's Biomechanics - YouTube. 2014. Meyerhold's Biomechanics - YouTube.
[ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoq8_90id2o. [Accessed 29
October 2014].
Vsevolod Meyerhold - YouTube. 2014. Vsevolod Meyerhold - YouTube. [ONLINE] Available
at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Hw9icvuUzo. [Accessed 29 October 2014].Peter
Brook
2014. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/
peter_brook_tcm4-121234.pdf. [Accessed 01 November 2014].
Peter Brook: 'Simplicity is not a style' - video interview | Stage | The Guardian. 2014. Peter Brook:
'Simplicity is not a style' - video interview | Stage | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: http://
www.theguardian.com/stage/video/2012/may/25/theatre-peter-brook-director-interview-video.
[Accessed 01 November 2014].
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