Art is violent. To be decisive is violent. Antonin Artaud defined cruelty as ‘unrelenting decisiveness, diligence, strictness’. To place a chair at a particular angle on the stage destroys every other possible choice, every other option. When an actor achieves a spontaneous, intuitive, or passionate moment in rehearsal, the director utters the fateful words ‘keep it’, eliminating all other other potential solutions. These two cruel words, ‘keep it’, plunge a knife into the heart of the actor who knows that the next attempt to re-create that result will be false, affected and lifeless. But, deep down, the actor also knows that improvisation is not yet art. Only when something has been decided can the work really begin. The decisiveness, the cruelty, which has extinguished the spontaneity of the moment, demands that the actor begins an extraordinary work: to resurrect the dead. The actor must now find a new, deeper spontaneity within this set form. And this, to me is why actors are heroes. They accept this violence and work with it, bringing skill and imagination to the art of repetition.
Anne Bogart, A Director Prepares.
We’re in the final stages of putting The Perfection of 10 together. I know, right? From one show to the next with nary a break. But it’s been great (and a big challenge) working on two very different shows that will go up within about a month and in the same space. The Esplanade Studios series has, as promised, been experimental. And when you’re working within unconventional methods or ideologies, it can be scary to make a stand, and to make a decision to put forward something that hasn’t been tried and tested.
For the actor, making choices without trying to make one (mindfuck much?) can be scary. I love how Anne Bogart puts it…we are being cruel. The fear of this cruelty and the fear of killing the possibility of a supposed better choice can undo an actor or a director. Working on two experimental pieces has made me aware of this that Bogart puts so eloquently. And both processes have also made me much more aware of the importance of craft – that to create theatre is more than deftness in elocution or execution, it also demands commitment to the cruelty of creation.