Working with Vincent Mangado from Théâtre du Soleil was one of the greatest opportunities I could ever ask for! I have learned so much in this incredibly physically intense week. Vincent worked us very hard physically – the company he works with train vigorously with their own personal trainers and Physiotherapists to ensure their bodies are strong. He compared an actor’s body to a sharpened pencil or a neat new paintbrush. The body is an actor’s tool and should not be mistreated – eat right, stay fit and healthy, and strong. But we are not body builders or weight lifting champions, we are just strong and flexible and able to hold our bodies in uncomfortable positions. We especially focused on the core and upper body strength. Now that it is the end of our four-day intensive session, my body is very sore and tired.
I took pages of notes throughout the time with Vincent. We worked on Chorus Ensemble and Silent Movies. We began to create strong connections and complicité with each other from exercises using balancing sticks and “leading the blind” to build trust and focus and learning how each other move and respond to touch. This also helped build major-minor roles. Improvisation was a very strong part of our work this week, listening to music and finding a vision to then improvise a scene. Learning to really listen to the music, as it set the tone of the scene, was actually harder than expected. I think this is because when we have a scene in mind or an emotion in mind we play that, and when a piece of music comes that forces us to change the speed of our movements it can throw us all off focus. Finding moments to stay still to create suspension was very important and one that we often forget – we think that because we are physical, we must constantly be moving, but there is so much strength and power in being still.
Vincent really taught us about respect for theatre: to speak with respectful language to each other and not using “pub talk”, not to break character on stage even when taking direction, and appropriate behaviours in devising. It was valuable discipline. We learnt not to be heavy in our movements, but not to be too light that we were floating. A big challenge was to find the balance between doing unrealistic movement without making them caricature but also making it believable – avoiding clichés.
As much as this week taught me a huge amount about being a physical theatre actor, there were great lessons every actor should take on board. Théâtre Du Soleil is an incredibly inspirational theatre company, and I urge every actor to get along to one of their workshops. Their entire ethos about theatre and stage and creation is inspirational and motivational. They have made me want to create stories to teach, motivate, encourage, and touch people with nostalgia, childhood, love, and magic.