Tristan & Yseult

March 30

April 13, 2014

in CST's Courtyard Theater

A World's Stage Production
from Cornwall, England
adapted and directed by Emma Rice
writers: Carl Grose and Anna Maria Murphy

Emma Rice on Making a Show

by Emma Rice, Joint Artistic Director, Kneehigh Theatre

For me, making theatre is an excavation of feelings long since buried, a journey of understanding. Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment his book about children’s relationship to fiction, states that “our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in our lives.” He argues that by revealing the true content of folktales, children can use them to cope with their baffling and confusing emotions. My fascination with certain stories is fuelled by my own subconscious…In my experience, our basic needs and desires are the same – to be communicated with, to be delighted, to be surprised, to be scared. We want to be part of something and we want to feel. We want to find meaning in our lives.

The event of live theatre is a rare chance to deliver all these needs. We can have a collective experience, unique to the group of people assembled in the theatre. I don’t want the fourth wall constantly and fearfully placed between the actors and their audience, I want the actors to speak to their accomplices, look at them, to respond to them. I want a celebration, a collective gasp of amazement. I want the world to transform in front of the audiences [sic] eyes and demand that they join in with the game. Theatre is nothing without the engagement of the audience’s creativity. Theatre takes us right back to Bruno Bettelheim and his belief in the therapeutic and cathartic nature of stories. We tell them because we need them.

Months before rehearsals begin, I start work with the creative team. We gaze at books and films, sketch and begin to form a concept; an environment in which the story can live, in which the actors can play. This physical world holds meaning and narrative, it is as much a story telling tool as the written word. Stu Barker (musical director and composer) and I exchange music we have heard, that inspires us or just feels right. We talk of themes and feelings. From these conversations he creates a musical palette of melodies and soundscapes. With the writer or writers, we talk and dream. We map out the structure and the overall shape of the piece. They go away and write collections of poems or lyrics or ideas. Each writer works in a different way but what none of them do is to write a script or a scene in isolation.

We lay the foundations, then we forget them. I f you stay true to the fundamental relationship between yourself, your team and the subject matter, the piece will take on a life of its own. Armed with instinct, play and our building blocks of music, text and design, Kneehigh do fearless battle. One of our most used phrases in the process if ‘hold your nerve.’ There is no room for neurosis or doubt, these will only undermine the process, hold your nerve, stay open and delight in the privilege of making theatre.”


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