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Topic Summary

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 27, 2009, 01:49:20 AM »

Sorry, another "finally".

Don't forget the DVDs of Berkoff's productions.  East and Salome are good productions directed by Berkoff.

I hope this helps.  Let us know how it goes, and you and your students are welcome to use the site to dig further or ask questions.

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 27, 2009, 01:46:14 AM »

Finally there are resources on the site.

The interview with Berkoff

"Within your directing, how much freedom does an actor have to create within your aesthetic?

Oh, a tremendous amount of freedom.  The more ideas, the more diversity, the more community to kind of experiment with a different character everyday, every hour.  To keep changing, finding, and then gradually honing it down.  An enormous amount of freedom, because we rid ourselves of the block of a kind of naturalistic narcissism of just obeying what they’ve seen before.  Those kind of actors are appalling and they don’t fit in.  What has happened is that they’ve come from the National Theatre or the RSC.  Some have been very good from those companies and some have been very, very bad because they have no real training.  Some have very good voices and very often they have a laziness and an inability to express themselves physically.  There’s little dynamic in them"

The Rosen dissertation has good stuff:

"As he does with other artistic medium, Berkoff chooses specific elements as reference points for his work.  Many of the sets of Berkoff’s productions evolve out of the rehearsal process.  In the scripts of The Trial and Decadence Berkoff does not list a set designer; likewise, in the original program and script for East, performed at the Royal National Theatre, Berkoff again did not list a set designer.  Presumably, the minimal sets for these productions evolved out of the rehearsal process, leaving Berkoff with control over these elements.  Berkoff has a keen sense of how to communicate, visually, what he wishes. "

The Knight dissertation is equally good, but concentrates on Berkoff the playwright rather than the director:

and Kenneth Lauter's essay on Coriolanus

"The death scene in Berkoff’s Coriolanus was perhaps its most brilliant and violent moment? and its most audacious use of “physical theatre.” Here is what happens. First, several Volcian soldiers mime stabbing Coriolanus. He falls to the floor, on his back, head to the audience. Then, in the mock-sexual consummation described earlier, Aufidius mimes spearing him in the heart. At first, we think it is all over? but no!? Coriolanus moans, grabs the invisible spear which impales him, flexes up on his heels, and proceeds to slowly rotate on its axis 360 degrees until he lies head toward the audience again? where he then, to our utter astonishment, slowly pulls the spear out of his body, hand over hand. Then and only then he dies.

It’s every actor’s dream. (Was there ever a death scene more over the top?) Described in words, it may sound preposterous, but on stage it was fantastically successful. It seemed to last forever, even though it only took a few minutes at most. You could hear a pin drop during it? except for a) the loud thuds of Berkoff’s boots on the floor as he slowly levered himself around on the spear, and b) his grunts of exertion at each rotation."
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 27, 2009, 01:25:01 AM »

The Theatre of Steven Berkoff is a photobook with excellent photos of his plays.  176 pages which give a good feeling of how Berkoff directs.

The photos pages of the site give various production photos, directed by Berkoff and others, but showing how the plays can be performed

Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 27, 2009, 01:15:16 AM »

Berkoff has written many books, one of the best is Meditations on Metamorphosis.  It is an enjoyable read, a production diary, which is fun and insightful.

"Metamorphosis... demands that the actors reflect their inner being with the gestural emphasis of the body and keep themselves in a constant state of alertness.  This enables the audience to read the  characters as well as hear them in order to follow the story".  This links to the previous message which talks of the power of Berkoff's theatre choreography as part of his direction. (page 9)

On directing the actors for Mr. and Mrs. Samsa "their activities are performed in sculptural freezes to the accompaniment of a metronome, indicting that their lives are dominated by their domestic habits, as regular as clockwork.  So now I am refining each scene and stripping away anything that is showing woodworm."
Posted by: Iain Fisher
« on: January 27, 2009, 12:59:21 AM »


Your students are lucky getting to study Berkoff!!

There are still very few books on Berkoff.  The only full length book studying Berkoff is "Steven Berkoff and the theatre of self-performance" by Robert Cross.  This might seem ideal for you, but it is not easy reading.  I suggest if you use it then get the students to be prepared to skim and select specific passages rather than read the book as a whole.  Some examples:

"Berkoff's bold projection of himself as an 'experimental' adherent of French theatre... Berkoff in fact worked towards his own exclusion by adopting a position that signalled unequivocally the distance he wished to place between himself and British mainstream theatre" (page 83)

"With the actor's  body taking on more significance in the overall dramaturgical concept , the director/ choreographer assumes greater control than the playwright" (page 85).

More to come...
Posted by: Glynis
« on: January 20, 2009, 06:23:32 PM »

My A Level students are currently looking at Berkoff's style and have been very inspired.  I need to find them some quite clear and useful background reading for them from which basis they can see how he has worked and does work as a director.  This will be important for them, so they too can show how they are putting his theory of acting and the theatre into their own practical work.  I would be very grateful if some research sources could be suggested.