What with the proliferation of student theatre that amasses itself weekly in various venues around Cambridge (be it the ADC, Pembroke New Cellars, or, indeed the Corpus Playroom), I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to find so few directors willing to discuss their ideas and share with others. This I denoted from the general emptiness of the already quite intimate Playroom for the first of its several “directing workshops”.
Despite the lack of participants however, the workshop was still very enthusiastically led by Playroom Committee leaders Hannah Lee and Miranda Barty-Taylor, who managed to compensate for the lack of audience with their professional attitudes and insightful commentary. Having no idea what to expect, I found the process of going through two previously selected scenes from different plays quite interesting, having never been able to witness directing in action before (besides from my own), such opportunities being rare in Cambridge.
Nevertheless, despite the subheading of “directing in a studio theatre” not much headway was made in this area, besides a few passing comments about focussing audience attention (the Playroom has audience on either side of their intimate staging area, which presents challenges in terms of blocking, or where to direct the action), and how to set the space. Furthermore, having gone through the two scenes and analyzed such details as character motivation, possible angles of comedy, and then elicited feedback from the two actors themselves, there could have been more in terms of experimentation. Both approaches seemed to follow the same read-through format, which then expanded into a wider consideration of both the text and characters. There could have been more variation, for instance, in choosing scenes from plays that were completely different (i.e.: one scene could have been naturalistic whilst another could have been from an absurdist or more physical play). Working on the scenes in this manner did, however, produce some good results, with the scenes continually strengthening with each run-through. Lee and Barty-Taylor were also very effective in providing feedback for their actors and in really trying to develop the action, thereby showing their competence as directors. It was also refreshing to hear their personal comments as regards to their previous directing experiences and it was insights relating to their tried & tested methods which I found most interesting. Nevertheless, the ultimate lack of audience interaction, which this workshop so desperately needed, found the experience somewhat lacking.