Everything about my time with OBRA Theatre was rich and authentic. The food. The people. The place. But most importantly, the performance. OBRA strips back theatre to its bare bones, creating spine-tingling performance that speaks to the soul. Essentially, they cut the crap.
Kate and Oliviero's practice is pure and simple (but that doesn't mean it's at all easy!) It's theatre without the drama (in the 'lah-dee-dah' sense) and rejects a commercial craft which assumes 'one size fits all.' They shun the idea of 'perfect' performance because life on stage will always vary (night-to-night and moment-to-moment). This is part of the lure of live performance and is something which simultaneously scares and excites me! During rehearsal you will never hear "this is how it should look" because their work is about creating a life on stage that breathes; where thought processes flow and response is instinctive. It is an honest practice that leaves no room for bullshit (as a matter of fact, fakery sticks out like a sore thumb!) which can feel intimidating at times because all 'masks' are off, leaving only simple human contact.
But 'raw and real' is so much harder to create than 'forced and fake'. It needs to be nurtured in order for it to grow and bloom. Yet don't be misled by the word 'nurture' because the process is unbelievably tough on both the body and the mind. A day's training with OBRA would leave me feeling fulfilled and exhausted because the work requires total engagement from all four 'selves': the physical self, the intellectual self, the emotional self and the intentional self. (Think of your mind like a house with 4 rooms. It is essential to go into every room each day- even if just to dust- in order to keep things neat and tidy. Far too often one of these 'selves' gets forgotten, causing disharmony and dissatisfaction.) For 10 days I got the opportunity to properly exercise each of theses 'selves', which has firmly anchored a sense of balance into my being! And yet I know what Kate would say at this: "stop trying to be so profound!" Because whilst they do make poignant performance, the process behind it is always practical, malleable and open. As what works for one text, or for one person, might fail for the next. Instead of forcing profound they find solutions. Solutions which offer the actor different ways of getting the text into their body. So that when an onstage situation arises (e.g. the actor suddenly finds them self thinking about last night's curry instead of the imminent death scene) then they know how to get themselves back into the imaginary world of the text.
What I loved most about OBRA was their desire to adapt and learn. They have methods in place but the boundaries are fluid and malleable. This creates a sense of freedom (as I mentioned in my previous blog- Present Presence) and a deep mutual respect between practitioner and pupil because they don't claim to know it all. They explore and experiment in a space that is free from pretension and prejudice and without the 'been the done that' attitude of so many practitioners. Their craft is as curious as their work, constantly changing and developing dependent on the task at hand. Yet this attitude extends out beyond the rehearsal room and right across Au Brana Cultural Centre. And I will really miss the sense of community, collaboration and contentment that I found on the farm.
Thank you OBRA Theatre for a fantastic fortnight. It's definitely not a "goodbye" but a "when can I come back!"
-Obra Theatre Co.: http://www.obratheatre.co/home/
-Au Brana Cultural Centre: http://www.aubrana.com/