What is LSW - A London Shakespeare Workout?
|One of the outstanding aspects of living in New York City over the past twelve years has been an institution called The Shakespeare Workout, which is run on a regular basis by a marvellous individual, Eloise Watt, and her encyclopaedic knowledge of the Bards canon. Actors may come and go as they please, attending whenever they can. Indeed, why shouldnt one have a place to regularly workout on ones body of Shakespeare, (A GYM FOR THE BARD so go speak), much as one goes to a gym to workout on ones own physical body. Surely, both offer as much succour to the soul! LSW is, without question, an effective tool to arm an actor's confidence and awareness for the week to come.|
Where is LSW & When?
|Londons Shakespeare Workout, a gym for our Bardish souls, takes place on a regular basis between 1330 and 1700 (1.30 pm - 5.00 pm) during many weeks of each calendar year within the spacious confines of The Art Room, 152 Arlington Road, Camden Town, London, NW1, (map here) which is conveniently located only one minute away from the Camden Town Tube Station. On-street parking is free in many spaces of a Sunday. When you come out of the tube on Camden High Street, take the first right onto Parkway and Arlington Road is, conveniently, the first left. The Art Room, which during the week houses art classes for children between the ages of five an fifteen, being the inspiration of LSW Member, the West End veteran Nellie Shepard, is immediately opposite a church called, appropriately, Our Lady of Hal which, itself, is next to an estate agent who works out of a Double Decker. The creative atmosphere of the Art Room -- where the works on the walls change each week -- inspires a wonderful, ever changing atmosphere where play in encouraged. Colourful indeed. "Is there are cost?", I hear you ask. Certainly there are no fees or dues or LSW and, for once the London Shakespeare Workout is even cheaper than its American progentior. Suggested donation guidelines recommend £2 for Professional actors/waged and £1 for professional acting students as opposed to the $15 in New York. Monies collected are used to offset the LSW costs, (rent, copying, etc.). The Ham and High has said: "For an afternoon's stimulation and entertainment, LSW must rank as London's prime bargin. "|
Any Clues as to What Transpires at LSW?
week sees certain basic elements and they fall out like this:-
Physical and Vocal Warm Up (15 min) This is usually a merry combination of physical and vocal delight employing at various times such elements as LSWs own variation of an ancient Thai three tonal oral exercise, the communal clap, and many other intriguing and ice-breaking exercises. You never know whats going to happen, but then that's generally true at LSW. The warm-ups are frequently punctuated with laughter and, when her television commitments allow, are lead by the glorious Robyn Moore;
WitSlings (12 - 20 minutes) During this segment LSW participants get that rare opportunity in the Workout, i.e., to sit. With the Co-ordinator in the centre acting as a purveyor of witty repose, each member selects a line of the Bards text, which has immediately thereto been distributed. Within a two minute time frame, each participant selects one iambic line from that text which 'speaks to them' and, through their own inspiration, writes at least four to six lines of original iambic pentameter. The results are frequently breathtaking. Some people have been known to write over twenty lines in the same space of time. The more barbed a la the Bard the better. Still, it is all in good fun as each member reads their contributions out - (one would say clean but that is sometimes in suggestive question), - whilst still serving a practical purpose. This element also serves as something of an acting exercise with various members being asked to approach their witslings in different lights, or in a mass session to have people respond in kind with their WitSling upon hearing another which they feel bears specific reference, (ironic or otherwise,) to their own. Again, no two sessions are alike. They are as different as the individuals who collectively make them up.
25 minutes) Interactive Shakespeare. Standing in a circle anything, and indeed
everything does happen. One actor may start a speech and end up sharing it in a trio,
quartet or sextet. Another may desire Battle Noises or Quiet
Keening to augment their segment of the bard. It is a communal sharing of
energies. All one has to do is ask for it. All participate. Any passive
activity on the rim is entirely active. This is a chance to own your Shakespeare; to
refresh the old and celebrate the new; to roll it about in your mouth; to interact with
other performers; to be able to scale walls of confidence and find yourself caught up in
the immediacy of a Shakespearean whirlwind. Rejoinders of, say, one to three lines
are always greatly valued. Each week is different from the next. Occasionally the
Clumps sessions are underscored by a variety of instruments. Clumps provides a
chance to find the physical taste of the language in your mouth and be wholly free to
swirl it about. Simply, Clumps is a weekly celebration.
Any Other Info on LSW, the Gym for the Bard?
|Well, the above represents the so-called standard features in an on-going
project which harbours differences. LSW has embodied a vast amount in its brief two
and a half year history thus far. In the truest sense, its a bit like
going to a professional party never formal in anything but its stimulating
intrigues -- and one that is continually rife with fun and good Will !):-
Work Not For Commentary. Within a supportive environment, people present work (monologues or scenes) to the group for everyones combined enjoyment, although this is usually enveloped in the Clumps segment.
Work For Commentary. Having distributed copies of the pieces to be presented (monologues, scene, song, etc.) the Workshop member(s) present their work for a special guest and it is discussed amongst all of those present. Frequently, the pieces have are tried from several different perspectives. Here it is important to identify what ones goal in presenting the material is (e.g., audition, working on some specific aspect of technique, for your own enjoyment, to revitalise something you feel may have fallen stale or perhaps for some specific experiment.) Anything goes --- In New York, certain artists have enacted a monologue and then represented it as an original dance work. In overseeing the LSW Work for commentary, we have been deeply privileged to have with us, sharing their enormous expertise, the likes of Dame Dorothy Tutin, Faith Brook and with returning visits from the justly lauded Janet Suzman, the extraordinary Lynn Farleigh, the hugely respected Diana Fairfax and the Olivier Award Winning Sheila Reid, among many. We have been blessed indeed.
Speech Labs. Wherein a single speech is taken by an LSW Guest Leader and worked on utilising the entire membership. Among the guests spearheading this undertaking have been extraordinary performer/director Matthew Francis, the Olivier Award winning Josette Bushnell-Mingo, the magnificently imaginative Malcolm Sinclair, the hugely immaginative Artistic Director of A&BC, Greg Thompson and the RSC/National Theatre Veteran and one of the most extraordinary British actors of all time, Greg Hicks.
Verse Labs. Wherein the skills necessary for a suitable suit of Shakespearean armour, namely an actute ability with verse are practised, practised, practised. Chief amongst the LSW Guest exemplars in this regard are the extraordinary Sam West, and the longstanding RSC veterans Bill Homewood and John Normington.
Interactive Shakespeare. In testament to the LSW Prison Project, indeed in a valuable exercise inspired by the skill of the inmates of HMP Woodhill, one actor speaks a speech of Shakespeare and another actor responds line for line, utilising the language they have just heard. There is no rehearsal. This is truly from the gut and on the ear. The results have been astounding.
Radio/Audio Labs. Wherein the skills necessary to achieve
optimum audio performance have been approached from a practical perspective. LSW has
been honoured to have in this regard as guests the celebrated John Tydeman, former head of
BBC Radio Drama; the award winning producer Alec Reid and the producer of Riverrun
Productions who has directed all of Shakespeare's plays for the new Arkangel recordings,
Clive Brill. Who could possibly ask for anything more?
Workshops on Shakespearean Improvisation; LSW has been treated, again in this regard, to a wonderful variety speerheaded by such as the wonderful directors Astrid Hilne, Nick Cohen, the wonderfully exciting Sarah Davey and the justly celebrated Ken Campbell;
Dialect Sundays:- Where LSW members are encouraged to perform speeches in varying dialects, under the skillful eye of the internationally noted dialect coach, Terry Besson.
Vocal Sundays:- Where LSW members work through the Bard and on their cords under the watchful ears of such master magicians as Mel Churcher and Robert Palmer.
Music Sundays; where people bring in instruments/taped
music/sound effects to accompany their work. In a new tradition LSW is now
underscoring certain weeks of Clumps - Nicol Dennington has thus far stood out in this
regard for her beautifully pliant playing of the Irish harp. In the Shakeathons we
have been honoured with the glorious musical underpinings of the celebrated contemporary
composer, Paul Ayres;
Fun for Alls where plays are cast six weeks in advance, people learn their roles, and come in and present it on a free form basis at the Battersea Arts Centre and other locations. So far LSW has presented a highly successful performance of Antony & Cleopatra featuring Robyn Moore and Max Bonamy and an entirely gender reversed Twelfth Night wherein the women played the men AS women and the men, the women AS men. This delightful undertaking featured, again among many, Eva Fontaine, Sarah Rice, Chris Robson and Steven McMurray. The latter was also featured in the Westminster Arts LEAP Festival and as a highlight of the Pride Arts Festival in a multitude of performances.
Shakeathon Sunday:- For the Workout closest to 23rd April, there is
always a Shakeathon Wall to Wall Shakespeare. The concept for this exciting
undertaking was born and lovingly developed by the magnificent performer and veteran of
both the RSC and Peter Brook's Company in Paris, Robert Langdon-Lloyd. Created under
the title 'Shakespeare Dreaming', it is as if Shakespeare has fallen asleep and the
Shakeathon becomes the embodiment of the Bard's dream. The inaugural LSW Shakeathon
(26/4/98) lasted four hours and embodied 147 professional performers, the second in 1999
topped 200 and gaining both in length and popularity.
As one excellent actress and LSW member, Neve
Taylor, has put it: "LSW is that rare and very exciting undertaking which can serve
as a lifeline during those periods when one is not actively strutting and fretting one's
hour upon the professional stage. It frequently serves as a positive reminder of why
one's chosen to go into this profession. The good LSW does is inexhaustive."
Still, the Best Way of course to learn about LSW is to come and see for yourself! We promise one thing of which you can rest assured: A rousing LSW welcome.