When I was eighteen having already completed a two-year foundation diploma in drama, I auditioned for an intensive 1 year Community Theatre Course. This involved three separate terms. Term one was Theatre in Education (which I absolutely loved), which was a wonderful success. Term two was Cabaret (on the unforgiving Stoke Newington Cabaret Circuit) which I also thoroughly enjoyed, (hecklers and all). And the third term was on Mime and Street Theatre (which I hated with a vengeance). It is the one time in my life when I have found the criticism to be crippling. Never again! Mime does nothing for me.
However I recently had to re-tune myself, to enjoy viewing a more sophisticated form of silent performance.
I recently saw the oscar nominated film The Artist. I love the 1920’s, I loved the trailer. I loved the music. I loved the dance. I loved the romance. I loved the little dog. It was shallow, frivolous fun and very good. But It was also very difficult for me, especially the first half. I was tired. I had entertained the evening before, and been in lectures for much of the day.
I have heard it said that there are different ways of engaging and learning for different types of brain, and I found the ‘silence’, within the visual film, incredibly difficult. Unless it is the peace filled silence that I am seeking, where all senses are quiet and afire with intuition. The lesser silence (the one accompanying the visual) deprives me of an almost vital stimuli, for my sense of perception to adequately receive the world around me. For me any form of silence needs to be mastered. There is a knack to finely tuning in to the silence (with a precision) in order to remedy the other senses more articulate, that one can so easily overlook. A knack that has taken me quite a while to master. And one during The Artist that I mastered perfectly, only towards the end of the movie.
The visuals were great. The accompanying music was great (at times hypnotic), but without words my brain was lazy, and I kept drifting off, glazing over, and resurfacing only minutes later. I missed whole mini swathes of the movie and could feel my head nodding, then regularly filling in the blanks to catch up. This was not to do with tiredness alone. It was to do with having to re-programme myself to be lost in the genre of the silent movie, which in the days of childhood I so naturally had mastered with the likes of Laurel and Hardy etc. Back then it was all so easy to reach that other world of blinker-vision, where the Earth could quake and it wouldn’t even cause me to blink. Now however I can not so easily escape to that uninterrupted land.
I can however, quite easily read a chapter of a book and at the end of the chapter realise I have taken nothing of the text in, but just used it as a medium to distract myself whilst I day-dream. The same thing can happen when I am listening to dialogue on the radio, or most easily when listening to the iPod. The distraction of the noise allows my mind to be else where. I have to concentrate and focus so hard when only one or two of my senses are being stimulated if I want to stay on track. Else I miss things (on occasions I miss everything) apart from the deeper thoughts that is.
I think when more of my senses are operating in conjunction with each other I am very awake and perceptive and have great insight. With my creative nature I appear to tune in slightly differently. A prime example are at my beloved art galleries, the work only truly comes to life for me when there is more than one medium. In fact the more mediums the better. The visual, the touch, the audio, the written word, the engaging with the space, the atmosphere etc. For me it is this combination that truly allows me to experience life in its full glory. For me it needs to be all sensuous. This is probably why I have always loved the theatre.
One of the most memorable pieces of theatre I have ever seen was a production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie. As the audience were taking their seats, a performer was on stage cooking real sausages on an old range. This automatically brought the senses into full attention in a new way, that I had never experienced in the theatre before. That performance of Miss Julie was watched, experienced and remembered with all my senses heightened to another level, from their ordinary usual state. And never forgotten.
The lack of this experience in my childhood education, is possibly why I found my uncreative school not conducive to my learning type. This is also possibly why I love the arts, and the theatre, and, above all other faiths, the Catholic faith. Catholic Mass, steeped in history with its contemporary homily, with its rich textures and colours, incense smells, candle light, chants, liturgy and prayers all aid my senses to lift my soul up to God, to a transcendental place, where my spirit touches with His.
And all this makes me wonder how much of life we regularly miss. To look and not to see. To listen and not to hear. To touch and not to feel. To be out of sinc or not tuned in. The equilibrium of the senses, all buoyantly in play together, in support of each other, allowing each of the other senses to fully extend and flex themselves, allowing the inner us to transcend.
And yet after all this, still, the silent movie (in me, by the end) achieved just that. Quite a different technique and skill. A re-learning to quieten and detach the other senses, in order to slowly discern the truth, through our senses independently being articulate, and working alone. This whole response provoked by the medium being offered. Fascinating.