What a difference a workshop makes.

The other day I took part in a workshop at ARC, Stockton Arts Centre. It was run by physical theatre company Tangled Feet. I’d heard of them but not seen any of their work before. 
I wanted to go because it is ALWAYS fun to do a workshop and to meet new artists (besides I made a belated New Year’s Resolution to myself to say yes to as many artistic things as possible). It also fitted with the process of making One, the idea of participating in ‘skills labs’ with a variety of practitioners. This workshop was an opportunity to play with a company whose work is predominantly physical. As well as an opportunity to learn this was an chance to get out of my own head, lay off the words and use my body for a change. 
In all honesty the exercises we were put through, on the whole, were not new to me but the whole workshop was a real pleasure. The company ethos of total collaboration, that all members regardless of roles have input in to the creation of the work really comes across and they were just a really great, easy-going bunch to be around. And I never felt talked down to. This was sharing, not teaching (note to self: good to remember in case I ever have to run one of these things).
The group were quickly put at ease (I don’t think I was the only one to be relieved that the workshop wasn’t full of nubile 17 olds but mature artists like myself) and the two hours just flew by. After a short intro to the company, their history and methodology we did some warm up games, a short physical warm up and then we were into some material generation exercises. 
We looked at everyday tasks, at simple interactions and how as an audience we naturally look for meaning and create narrative. How simple, physical movements can be interpreted even without any ‘acting’ and how groups moving together with simple instructions can start to build pictures. The company talked about how these exercises, and similar, allow them to build a pallet of images from which to create a show.
While none of this was ground-breaking I began to think about the limitations of words and what scope there was in this for a person making work alone. Could I set myself tasks, video them and see if any images leapt out at me? But with no-one else to instruct or react to could I really lose myself in the movement? Could I bring together a group of artists/friends (as Leeds’ company Uncanny have done this week in fact) and use them to help me create my own pallet of images? How useful would this be, knowing it would only be me performing it at the end of the day? Would I be in danger of creating something I could never recreate?
I am glad I made the effort to go to Stockton for this short workshop. It was just what I needed to start the year. It was utterly refreshing to a) do rather than think and b) to work visually/physically. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will do my best to take what I can into the rehearsal space with me in a couple of weeks. It’s already got me thinking…

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