Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Shared Experience: Bronte & Shelley

Some time ago I saw the theatre group Shared Experience perform Bronte at the Oxford Playhouse. The play took what was known about the Bronte family and combined with imagination set the lives and interactions of the family before us. The play started with three girls wondering what it was to be a Bronte and then, before I knew what had happened, they had become the Bronte sisters. Emily Bronte (Elizabeth Crarer) stood on the kitchen table pointing, in silence, out into space scanning, with a pointed finger, the audience with an absent, yet haunt gaze I found her presence poignant, gripping and entirely enthralling. I was gripped. Crarer had utterly engaged me with her character. The portrayal of closeness, isolation and distance without a hint of loneliness in a tangle of what seemed mental unrest was unsettling yet engaging and convincing. I loved it.

This evening I was at another Shared Experience event: Mary Shelley in Convocation House in the Bodleian library we were privilege to the first draft of this new play which, in full, will be touring next year.

We didn’t see the whole play but a select few scenes. The occasion was to give the audience a glimpse of what the director, Polly Teale, called ‘behind the scenes’. I was gripped. Totally gripped. Again Shared Experience have captured torment, emotion and atmosphere beautifully.

Something really interesting to me was the ‘clapping’.  We were told that during rehearsals the director will, occasionally, clap. This is the sign for the actor/ess’ to freely express the emotion within them… the sort of thing the character is ‘feeling’ deep inside. Then, when the director claps again, the scene resumes and interactions and communications continue much like they do in real life. It was, really was, incredible.

Shared Experience are brilliant.


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