For my response to Brook’s book ‘The Empty Space’ I have separated out and identified some key insights.

REPETITION IS DEADLY

The first insight, is the necessary but also self-destructive nature of repetition in rehearsal. A challenge for any successful work of theatre is to find a way to overcome the deadly, hollowing out of liveliness that occurs from repetition. A successful theatre must embrace its own ephemeral nature - it must respect the dynamic, shifting, ever-evolving understanding of the play itself.

The rules of rehearsal should not calcify or become stagnant, and this is expressed in the need for evolving challenges.

To begin with, there should not be any people who watch the rehearsal as ‘hostile faces’ could be creatively stifling. In the early phases there is a need for excesses, indulgences and incomprehensibility for which a trusting and safe environment is a precondition. However, like any of Brook’s rulings this is contingent on where the group is at in their creative process. At certain points in the process it may become entirely necessary for spectators to add tension, to break up habits and to catalyse group organization and precision.

Aggressive language and tone might be necessary at certain points in the process in the interest of speed and consolidation, however at other points this may be stifling.

Director is there to help group evolve towards ideal situation. To ‘attack and yield’, to ‘provoke and withdraw until the indefinable stuff begins to flow’.

OVERPREPARATION IS DEADLY

The director can prepare as much as they want, but given the fleshy nature of the materials of theatre there is no way for them to understand a play by themselves. It is of primal importance for the form and construction of the play to evolve continuously - ‘iterating, changing, scrapping’ as the whole gradually takes form.

Other members of the team have their own sensibilities which are likely to ‘turn searchlights’ onto the director and their process. An actor might do something ‘unexpected and true’ in rehearsal, and the director must have enough flexibility in their structure and vision to allow others to take this up and respond.

By soaking up these ‘searchlights’, the director can take advantage of the emergent creativity and richness of group creation methods. However, this creates a point of tension as at other moments the director will need to take hold of their judgement to provide compactness and focus to the vision.

Ideally, the form of the directors ‘blueprint’ is ‘incomplete’; ‘clarity without rigidity’, or ‘open’ rather than ‘shut’- with the later the finalization of the design the better.

Managing a successful rehearsal is certainly more of an Art, than a science, with there being a time and place for almost any kind approach. The goal for rehearsal is to identify what the group is lacking, and to adjust catalysts and structure accordingly.

THE OBSERVER

The observer plays a critical in the development of theatre. During rehearsal the ‘vital assistance’ of the observer comes from the director, whereas in performance it is the audience. In both cases, the gaze is what galvanizes and activates a performance, elevating the ‘watcher’ to a very vital and active role. The watcher is embroiled in this interaction with the performers whether they are aware of their participation or not. This more spectral definition of interaction is an interesting provocation to the more physical definitions that are common today.

Brook’s theatre is always interactive, as it takes place in the emotional environment that is created by the interactions between directors, designers, audience and stage.

A SIMULATIONIST APPROACH TO THEATRE

The Fuchs piece encourages ‘simulating’ a world with its own customs, inhabitants and aesthetics before making design decisions about a particular feature of a play. A ‘theatrical world’ map seems like a good way of enhancing a sense of coherence and verisimilitude across various design decisions in a project.

This has some interesting parallels with a simulationist approach to game design, where a designer makes use of simulation to generate narrative events. These systems are often designed to encourage emergent behaviour which in the context of theatre production could introduce some interesting improvisational elements. I am interested in exploring this connection in further blog posts and experiments.