I've recently come back from a wonderful 7 weeks making an opera with Katie Mitchell in Aix-en-Provence - the piece was Alcina an opera written by Handel in 1735 for his first season at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. It's got some beautiful arias in it and our singers were amazing; Patricia Petibon, Philippe Jaroussky, Anna Prohaska, Katarina Bradić, Anthony Gregory and Krzysztof Baczyk (also with Elias Mädler and Lionel Wunsch). Along with them were a fantastic ensemble of actors, who made it possible to create a rich and fascinating world around the main action. The production will go on to be performed at the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow in 2017.
After a great run at the Young Vic at the end of last year, The Way Back Home is going to be revived at the Opéra National de Paris at the end of 2015. Although it's the same production, it's going to be an entirely new cast of young French singers from the National Opera Studio. Robin Tebutt, who was assistant director on the original production, will go out to run the beginning of the rehearsals, and then I'll go out to make sure that everything is as it should be in time for the opening on the 4th December. If you have friends with small children in Paris, then do let them know about it - here's a link.
In March and April I was out in Havana again, helping Ballet Rakatan develop a new show. We wanted to walk a line between the overtly commercial and something a bit more off-beat. We worked hard generating material that came from the dancers themselves; their own experiences, humour and imaginations. There are a lot of challenges around making work in Cuba and many unexpected things crop up which can be very frustrating - however, the company are amazingly talented and in the end we presented a work-in-progress to an important european producer who was very excited by the work. Hopefully the company will be able to go on and create a production that truly comes from them.
After working on Happy Days at the Young Vic, it was a short trip up the road to the National Theatre to work for the first time with Lyndsey Turner. She was putting together a spectacular production of Caryl Churchill's 'Light Shining in Buckinghamshire' with a cast of 18 actors and a community cast of about 35! It was a mind-blowingly complicated show to work on, but Lyndsey's ability to keep it all together was inspirational. It was fantastic to work on a piece that examined British history in ways that I'd never been exposed to at school - particularly at a time when the country was on the cusp of a general election - a moment when we can opt for change and the instability that brings with it, or be dictated to by fear and hang on to things the way they are... When the election result came through, Carolina and I were in the land of Cromwell's New Model Army - a movement which strove to subvert the existing order and build a fairer, more social and more democratic system, breaking down the structures that entrenched the divide between the haves and the have-nots...
At the end of February Carolina and I made a short film with artist Daria Martin. We'd been involved in the development of the project for some time and after a few delays we finally got to film it. As well as generating material, Carolina also performed and I worked as scene director. Simon Stephens had written a script based on development work we'd done and as well as Carolina, it also featured Anamaria Marinca and Myles Westman. It was the first time I'd worked with a proper film crew. I loved it. It was also amazing to work so in depth on the subject of synaesthesia, particularly the idea of mirror-touch synaesthesia. As soon as the film is going to be exhibited, we'll let you know.
In 2012 I worked on a project called 'Blackta' for David Lan at the Young Vic - as part of that process I did some development work to generate material for the show. We had a great bunch of people helping out, one of whom was working as an intern at the Young Vic; Ava Davies. 2 years later she was writing about Visual Theatre for the magazine 'Art.Zip', a publication that is 'dedicated to bringing together the world of art in China and the UK'. The whole issue was very well put together and a great insight into who is making visual theatre in the UK today. Here's what she wrote about us...
Text by: Ava Davies / 撰文：Ava Davies
Translated by: Li Ruixue / 翻譯：李瑞雪
Theatre O is a difficult company to pin down: they have produced only a handful of shows in their 14-year tenure, with their artistic directors Joseph Alford and Carolina Valdes also choosing to collaborate with auteurs such as Katie Mitchell (on a children’s Christmas production of The Cat in the Hat at the National Theatre in 2009) and the Young Vic Theatre (on Juliet Stevenson’s ‘Happy Days’ in 2014), rather than solely create standalone works. They don’t have any specific theatrical influences: Alford comments that “first and foremost ‘life’ is our biggest artistic influence – what it is to live and struggle in the world and how to express those struggles and lives in a visually poetic and visceral way. We want to tell stories that come from looking out at the world, not gazing inward to the small world of theatre.” Their name arises from the exclamation, ‘oh’, which can express feelings of joy, sadness, pain and confusion, all of which are elements of life which the company choose to embrace whole-heartedly.
O劇院的風格很難被簡單概括：在劇院藝術總監約瑟夫·奧爾福德（Joseph Alford）和卡羅來納·巴爾德斯（Carolina Valdes）的帶領下，從其成立至今的14年中，他們不僅獨立創作了許多的劇目，而且與很多劇院和個人合作製作了眾多的作品，比如與導演凱蒂·米歇爾（Katie Michell）合作完成了2009年在英國國家劇院上演的兒童劇《帽子裡的貓（The Cat in the Hat）》；還有與倫敦青年維克劇院（Young Vic）合作完成的2014年上演的朱麗葉·史蒂文森（Juliet Stevenson）的《幸福時光（Happy Days）》。O劇院似乎並沒有一種特定的藝術風格，奧爾福德認為：“藝術創作的靈感來自於我們的生活，怎樣去用真摯且詩意的方式來表達我們在生活中面對的重重困難，以及我們究竟是為了什麼而努力生活，這些便是我們關注的核心，這也是藝術創作之中最為重要的部份。我們要放眼全世界去講述真實的故事，而不是把自己關在一個狹小的劇場空間之內。”O劇院的名字來自于字母“O”的發音，“喔”的發音象徵著我們感到喜悅、悲傷、痛苦亦或是困擾時會發出的聲音，這樣的隱喻也從側面印證了劇院“一切來源於生活”的藝術宗旨。
Their rehearsal rooms are collaborative and friendly, relaxed atmospheres where burgeoning ideas and threads can be nurtured and turned into living, breathing pieces. The process of creation is almost as important as the product itself: they admire artists such as Ridiculusmus, Katie Mitchell and Romeo Castellucci, whose focus and attitude towards their work infuses the company’s drive. A broad range of techniques is used to showcase their ideas – physical theatre tends to be a main factor, as is the tactical use of music. Alford defines visual theatre as “theatre that finds visually poetic metaphors to express different human experiences” and a medium that also creates “a physical and imaginative empathy between the audience and what they are seeing”, a definition which sums up Theatre O’s oeuvre. The UK theatre scene’s preoccupation with text-based work is insufficient for the company, who seek to “find the theatrical forms that cut through the inadequacy of words and engage with us on that profound and unexpected level” and push the audience to experience and be challenged by, rather than just passively watch, a performance. It is Theatre O’s belief that creating arresting images pushes the audience to draw upon the “unconscious physical memory of [their] life experiences” and thus “receive and interpret instinctively”. And unlike many visual theatre companies, Theatre O does not have a reliance on technology and projected images, believing that in excess these can act as replacements for the audience’s imagination and lull them into a sense of unfulfilling security and comfort.
Theatre O certainly acknowledge the complexity of the relationship between audience and performer, recognising that visual theatre and the audience are symbiotic. Alford comments that as the audience, “We are recognising situations and emotions…through that experience ourselves. What [Theatre O] try to do is dig into the essence of what that experience is (as we see it) – therefore it is not just a replication of the experience, but an interpretation.” The company does not want their audience to be complacent: they have to infer information from the images shown to them by the performers, and draw on their own past experiences to give the production meaning.
Their feted 2013 adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s turn of the century novel The Secret Agent began life at the Edinburgh Fringe before transferring to the Young Vic Theatre. The novel addresses prescient themes of governmental bureaucracy, responsibility and corruption and the touring production draws out the essence of this in an admirably cogent running time. The account of the play’s conception is classic of Theatre O – starting out with a minimal script and their devisor-performers in a rehearsal room, the production took shape through improvisation alongside the actual script by the professionals, until a coherent form was created.
Theatre O unequivocally support the idea that life informs theatre and theatre informs the way in which we see the world. They are an optimistic company, forward-looking and exciting, who place faith in and never patronise their audiences. They understand that theatre can operate on a gut, profound level and they seek to create that feeling every time an audience sits down to watch one of their shows.
2013年，他們改編自約瑟夫·康拉德（Joseph Conrad）小說的作品《特務（The Secret Agent）》在愛丁堡邊緣藝術節公演前，曾在倫敦青年維克劇院上演。這部巡演作品將小說中涉及到的政府官僚作風、責任感以及腐敗等問題用令人欽佩的說服力在有限的表演時間裡表達的淋漓盡致。這部劇的創作模式也一樣沿襲了O劇團的創作傳統：先是在排練室中用最簡單的劇本進行演練，並在演員逐漸添加即興表演後將劇本內容逐漸豐滿。