I have had a week of the strangest dreams with mixes of friends from all stages of my life all jumbled up and including last night Samuel L Jackson coming to return a coat that did not fit. It's not the moon but the 50th anniversary of the drama degree that I took at Exeter University. It was a rare beast set up by young theatre makers who were influenced by studio based laboratory style practices such as were happening in Poland with Jerzy Grotowski, or with Peter Brook's long rehearsal processes and long cycles. The brain child was John Rudlin who brought us his knowledge of Commedia del Arte, Dadaism and Surrealism. It was made possible by the genius mind of Shakespeare expert Professor Peter Thomson, and various others such as Les Read, Nick Sales and Glendyr Sacks.
What was unique about it? Many things but particularly the idea that a British university would offer a practice based course as opposed to looking at historical or literary aspects of theatre. It was a pioneer. The inspired and intelligent team fought also for assessments based on practice so out of the nine parts of our final assessment seven, if I remember correctly, were practical.
We had studio spaces. Another fight was to acquire and maintain the Roborough which had been a science lab as our performance space. It was a huge flexible space with beautiful tall windows and scary basement vaults that I never fancied going into.
What is more in my year back in the eighties the numbers were capped so that there were eight of us doing single honours drama and twelve doing combined with English and one or two more combined with German. That meant that for three years we worked together constantly so it was as if we were a mini theatre ensemble.
I think I will need many posts to put the experience into adequate words. We were young. far from home and swimming in a sea of creativity that was as overwhelming as it was wonderful. There was sweat and confusion. What held it together was the vision and flare of the founding team, including the strong presence of Les Read, Dorinda Hulton, Nick Sales and Glendyr Sacks.
We were kitted out with black karate suits, black leggings (which were the limit for most of the guys) and a black leotard. The idea was to take out personality from the process of the rehearsal room - these were laboratory theatre concepts - somewhere between Peter Brook's "Empty Space" and Grotowski's "Poor Theatre."
The truth is that it took years to be able to balance such an intense, exquisite and strange three years. We didn't have modules but worked on a theme or concept for five weeks leading to a performance. For this reason fellow graduates have become dramaturgs, opera directors, fine artists, writers, headmasters, community centre leaders, academics, researchers, and think there is even a diamond merchant - in other words people who found their own weird life combinations.
Five weeks of full time hours on themes like Kathakali dance drama; Mask work and Commedia; the structure of a Shakespearian five act history play (including writing and performing our own); and so on.
The feather in the cap was the final third year project which was to make 20 minutes of theatre - anyway, anyhow you wanted but with the rule that it had to be 20 mins. We acted in each others and each took responsibility for the tech in one discipline so I was one of the sound team.
I think I'm glad that this was all before mobile phone and even video cameras. So we were just making and doing constantly - most of it quite bad but with much enthusiasm.
My karate-suit's trousers ended up being faded and softer than a cloud. In my last move they got thrown out which in this 50th anniversary nostalgia, I know regret.
If I've learnt to make it up as I go along it was from these years. There were mistakes and it was damn confusing at times yet finally a catalyst for nearly all the other stages and impulses in my life.
So it brings me great joy to see faces I have not seen for many years, and to be able to feel all the same hope, desire, enthusiasm, emotion, vulnerability, tenderness and passion.
Youth is wasted on the young, of course. And as Picasso said, "It takes a long time to become young.”
I am enjoying from afar this 50th anniversary which far from making me feel old, makes me feel extremely young and more determined than ever to make similar experiences possible for other.
Deborah Claire Procter
The news around the world is a whirl wind. We search for a horizontals that seems it will take us forever to re-find. In this light whilst leafing through old journals I found an inspiring quote from the determined British film-maker Terry Gilliam who has seen his fair share of up and downs, and the twists of outrageous fortune.
Read it to take your mind back to its creative problem solving centre...
As a child, I always drew funny creatures, funny characters. But I think the trick is not to grow up, not to learn to be an adult. And if you can maintain the kind of imagination you all had when you were babies, you would all be wonderful filmmakers. But the world tries to make you grow up, to stop imagining, stop fantasizing, stop playing in your mind. And I’ve worked hard to not let the world educate me.
Whole article: Ten Lessons on Filmmaking From Terry Gilliam
It's a rainy Saturday in Buenos Aires and Oscar Edelstein just shared a homage to the late Muhammad Ali on his Facebook page.
Maybe it's strange that an avant-garde composer would be moved to post about the passing of a boxer, especially with so many perceived divisions between high and low culture. Yet perhaps what Edelstein noticed with the nose of a life-long experimenter was Ali's spirit as a searcher speaking out, and looking for meaning and new perspectives.
So it seems a moment to follow Edelstein's lead, and share the historic interview with Sir Michael Parkinson, who said today that Muhammad Ali "was the biggest star they've ever had boxing, and maybe ever will have."
The interview is the famous speech where Ali asks why are all the cultural images - from angels to Tarzan in the jungle - are of white people.
Asked about the first time he met him backstage, Parkinson said: "It's not often, given the job I had, that I was allowed to be gob-smacked, but he did gob-smack me as he walked across the floor. I'd never seen a more graceful and beautiful man. He was extraordinary."
As Edelstein wrote, "This man was the greatest boxer that I have seen but someone who also thought, and this is what they never forgave. See the interview, it is really not to be missed."
The interview is from 1981, an incredible 35 years ago, when this kind of discourse around race was not so mainstream. So it seems that Ali's bravery in the ring was really therefore nothing compared to his fight to speak out.
Ali died the same day that in her final commencement address as first lady, to graduates of City College in New York, Michelle Obama talked about diversity; free speech; the achievements of United States such as Google, eBay, the artificial heart, the telephone, blue jeans, Russian-born Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," the Brooklyn Bridge and the White House; and she even acknowledged that she wakes up every day in a house built by slaves.
She remembered "the son of Polish immigrants named Jonas Salk who toiled for years in a lab until he discovered a vaccine that saved countless lives" and "the story of the son of Jamaican immigrants named Colin Powell who became a four-star general, secretary of state, and a role model for young people across the country."
Michelle Obama spoke about the danger of building walls.
Of course we all know that walls can be physical but also intellectual and emotional, they can be of class as well as of race or religion. My naive hope is for a future where the only walls we will need are those to put bookcases against.
In remembering the brave voice of Muhammad Ali, I hope that we also take a moment to remember to include in that list of achievements of the US many more figures such as (to name a few) John Coltrane, Spike Lee, Prince, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Josephine Baker, and of course next on the list, let us now hope, that Muhammed Ali will be there.
Thank you for provoking us to see the world from a different angle, Muhammed Ali. When you get to heaven may you float like a butterfly, and please let us know that the angels really are from all walks of life.
RIP Muhammad Ali.
He who is not courageous enough to take risks
Copyright © Deborah Claire Procter 2018 Clear Insight Productions, All rights reserved.
Dear David Bowie,
How can I remember? To answer the question for myself amongst the hundreds and thousands of Facebook posts, and perhaps also as we share a birthday, I stumbled upon the video for "When I'm Five" (1968). I realised how deeply that I need to thank you for your bravery to play outside the lines and for giving us your humble and beautiful actor-singer-dancer-clown.
For me, it is also the film "Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence" which always brought me to tears and, "Wild is the Wind" (1976) which ever captured something so unassailable as youth and yearning.
Back into the wind we will all surely go.
"God Only Knows" (1984)
Thank you and bye.