The 2 Chairs 1 Table sessions were initially planned to stage a one act play for me to “rehearse” being a director (so actor hor?). Tze Chien prescribed the staging format as a challenge for me to focus on the performance.

After my first session with the actors, the initial idea didn’t make sense in light of the limited rehearsals I had with them (who had graciously given their time to me.) We only had 6 sessions together, and without everyone present. Instead of staging something just to stage something, I decided to abandon my initial idea and instead converted it into a devise/workshopping session.

I’ve had 4 sessions of my workshop with the actors so far. Frankly I wasn’t quite expecting to start the kind of work we’re doing so soon.

I was interested in telling the stories of actors. I built my rehearsals around that. First starting with memory evacuation, simply sharing our journeys thus far as an actor. Using a technique adapted from workshopping a script (another project under Tze Chien’s directorship), the actors shared their memories using the Hotseat method (where an actor is bombarded with questions about his character). At my instruction, they brought to life the stories using the other actors, improving around 2 chairs and 1 table. I wanted to investigate the line between stage and life, particularly curious about how these extremely real moments could be translated into the theatrical.

I was inspired by French choreographer Jerome Bel’s work, “Veronique Doisneau”.

…We spend a half an hour in the intimate company of someone who might have been a great artist had she been a little less fragile, had she not had a back operation at 20. Veronique Doisneau shares her passion for dance with us that is what we take away. – From a review of the work

In an interview, Bel says, “The “non performance” principle doesn’t systematically apply to all my ideas. Here it’s not possible, obviously, since classical dance requires great virtuosity and extraordinary commitment from the performers. However, the dancing will be done without any of the elements that usually surround it: music, costumes, lighting, partners and scenery. This type of presentation will, I hope, conserve the reflective distance which, it is true, is the main interest of my work so far.”

Bel’s idea of non performance was present during some moments of sharing by the actors, and it wouldn’t have been possible without actors who completed trusted each other, and my process.

But I’m still on the hunt for the theatrical.

The last rehearsal I had (4th), I introduced a Likay-inspired way of creating theatre. I daren’t say it’s THE Likay way of working, which originates from Thai street theatre. That would require more respectful study. I found great meaning in this form, particularly how the actors improv their performance within a loose structure provided by a director figure. In this form, the actor has much control.

I admit I probably shouldn’t have thrown my actors into the deep end of it. Yeah, probably won’t do that again. Haha. We floundered together, with me trying my best to communicate without locking in (which would be counter to the form I wanted to experiment with). But I saw enough beautiful moments that came out of the mess for me to keep trying again. It’s a huge risk they took and I am very thankful for that.

To be continued…

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