I didn’t know what to expect when I got a call to attend an R&D workshop facilitated by the Youth Theatre Kenya (YTK) on December 2, 2023. I recalled my experience participating in ‘Devising Performances’ on their invite and quickly heeded the call. I knew it would be worth it.
For me it was also a chance to interact with familiar faces all around as the session begun with a with well-coordinated motion artistry, patterns of movements that culminated in a story.
Youth Theatre Kenya has stood out with its unique approach to theatre by enforcing and relying heavily on motion artistry to tell stories. This has been evident in their recent projects such as, ‘Matumaini’ and ‘YTK Devising Performance’ that channelled an impressive level of collaboration between artistes through the whole process of creating a theatre piece, from the script work, stagecraft up to the showcase.
On this day they kept the ball rolling as they partnered up with the Olivier Award winning theatre company, Frantic Assembly, an internationally renowned theatre company from the United Kingdom, celebrated for their physical and collaborative approach, to offer skills-based workshops.
My experience with the Frantic Assembly was one of a kind. I was used to being creative verbally, but I got to realize that I could get so creative using my body. Physical theater is a niche that we should really embrace. Intentional body movement gives purpose to once performance. 3 words to explain my experience IT WAS CRAAAZY!!!
If you are like me and wondered how some stunts are done during theatre performances without harnesses, then you were probably asking yourself how much working out thespians really do. This was in my head when we went for session one of the Frantic Assembly Skills Based Workshop; first at the Academy of Dance and then eventually at the Kenya National Theatre. We handled lifts and safety when performing the lifts. It was massively intriguing when we had whole techniques broken down into more palatable parts. Within two hours, we were lifting each other and twirling around the room. The amount of trust required to carry out such intricate performances was beyond anything we could have imagined. We made an exhibition performance just before the class ended and that deconstructed our ideas of acting with words and facial expressions.We also learnt movements on the floor that had a lot of inspiration from nature’s creatures and elements. This was aimed at making us well rooted to our physical body and our surroundings. Having to move intentionally despite your profile was highly critical. Understanding nature helped us to be focused and was greatly beneficial to our performances. A few take-home moments for me were; you don’t really need words or facial expressions every time when you’re performing. This was evident when we had different people come up with movements, then were grouped and eventually made performances that we watched together and made inferences about what was being performed. The expressions and sounds would probably dilute whatever it was you wanted your body to convey. However, eye contact was paramount. Where you looked changed the whole interpretation of the performance.
Mugambi Ikiara, performing artist and participant at the workshop attests
The workshops ran from the November 22to the of December 2 with a variety of talented artists taking up the challenge and honing their skills, and benefiting from Youth Theatre Kenya and Frantic Assembly’s partnership.
Secondly, trust and consent are the most important when you’re working in a group. Even if the Frantic Assembly facilitators had worked with each other for years, they always asked if it was okay for them to engage any physical contact. Once established, they had full trust accorded to whoever their partner was. The performances became a lot more fluid than it seemed initially. I cannot express how easy it is to always break down a massive project into more understandable parts. How lifting and twirling each other on stage changed from building the wall of China to drawing a smiley face fascinated me. Finally, movement with purpose made the whole idea worthwhile. The whole process is to ensure maximum efficiency in safety and story telling. We tend to get in our heads a bit too often. True expression comes when you’re ready to be bad at stuff and learn, and when you’re ready to feel vulnerable when performing.
Mugambi Ikiara adds
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