Training Workshop in Shanghai

‘Making the body “all eyes”’: An intensive two-week psychophysical workshop applying principles to Samuel Beckett’s plays

Organised by Vertebra Theatre, Shanghai

1429 August 2017


The workshop will be taught in English with Mandarin translation. The work on Beckett's texts will take place in English and Mandarin.


This training process introduces participants to a psychophysical paradigm and approach to awakening the actors’ bodymind in performance. It begins by focusing on the development of the contemporary actor’s interiority, i.e., how the actor might discover, awaken, shape, understand, and deploy ‘energy’ (qi), awareness, focus/concentration, and feeling to the ‘matter’ of performance—the impulses, structure, contours, and texture of the tasks or actions that constitute a specific performance score shaped by particular dramaturgies.

The process described here has been developed since 1976. It is a unique combination of psychophysical exercises drawn from traditional Asian disciplines of body-mind training, ‘transposed’ through a practical studio-based language that allows the principles informing these traditional trainings to become immediatey useful to the contemporary actor. While the exercises are ‘traditional’, the pedagogy is contemporary.

The work begins with pre-performative psychophysical training to prepare and awaken the bodymind through Asian martial/meditation arts - Chinese taiquiquan, Indian yoga, and the closely related martial art, kalarippayattu. Bodymind connections are practically elabored through the exercises as are a sense of activation through breath in movement, the development of focus/concentration, circulation of energy through the body and awakening the bodymind to partners, ensemble, and the performance environment.

During this two week intensive workshop I will introduce participants to a small selection of exercises, and how the elements and principles of the training are applied to performance of structured improvisations. We will then apply the principles and processes to some of Samuel Beckett’s later/shorter plays such as Play, Footfalls, A Piece of Monologue, Not I, Ohio Impromptu. We will conclude by looking at video clips of performances where the work has been applied including Ota Shogo’s The Water Station, and playing ‘the maids’.