Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts...


steele glynne
Written by graduate and DSL director Glynne Steele

Don't try this at home. 'Place your hand on a red-hot stove for a second and it'll feel like an hour.' Okay, good. Now 'spend an hour in the company of someone you love, and it'll feel like a second'. That's, apparently, how Einstein once explained Relativity - that 'unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time.' Ha.

Well, I'm a smidge shocked to note that it's 15 years since I joined DSL as a student. I say 'joined' because that's what you do with DSL, you join the family. 'Attend' would somehow feel too...formal. At DSL you're part of a vine-like, tendrilatious web of connectionivityness, reaching out backwards and forwards through the space-time continuum.

As with all families, there are times when you see them a lot and times when you don't and, having recently directed my first Scene Study block with a talented company of 10 students on the one-year programme (that's all there was in my day, a one-year programme), I've been back in the family fold again - and what an amazing experience it's been.

Alex and Joe and Josh and Karen and Maggastina and Natalie and Nichola and Rachel and Stephen and Una were so UP for the challenge of working on their stretch-casting scenes that I almost cried. (Almost). Right from the table-read, they moulded themselves into a formidable and mutually-supportive company who, quite simply, looked for the best things in everything they all did. They also played against type, mined one another's lines, dug deep, strove to find the truth of every moment and gallantly resisted the desire to replicate. They simply soared. They defied gravity. Seeing them play and be open and learn all at the same time was wondrous - despite the tears. Theirs, not mine (almost...) Tears are normal, of course (my fault for making them blub).

Their fearlessness, tempered - and counterpointed - by their fearfulness, made me think a lot about the bigger picture of our basic human need to be creative. For the last couple of years, I've been working on a bid to acquire and transform a Victorian library in Acton W3 (where I live) into a multi-fangulated Arts Centre - theatre, film, music, dance, food, education, inspiration (see www.oldlibraryacton.co.uk) - and it confirmed my instinctive belief that society needs the arts now more than ever. Problem is, they (the arts) are seemingly more misunderstood than ever - especially in a world of increasingly infertile funding. I was recently able to catch a friend performing in a stage version of Orwell's '1984' and, in some of the later scenes, there's a clear vision of what a world devoid of humanity - or, artistic expression? - would be like. And it was horrific.

The arts are what we do with what we are, yes; but if they're only seen to be about 'fame' (whatever that is) or self-expression, we may as well call that 'transmission'. Because we're nothing without others, the real value of the arts is about 'audience' - the reflections we receive by participating in them.

We. Are. Everyone's audience.

In this sense, then, the success of the arts - and, therefore, arguably, human society - is much more about 'receipt'. The more curious we are and the more flexible we are, the more specific we can be for our particular audience - and the more our authenticity is able to prosper. And that's what the Tremendous Ten Company (they don't know yet that's what I call them...) began to get a real feeling for - and it was very powerful to behold.

This question of authenticity is an interesting one when you start teaching at the school you went to - especially when some of the greatest teachers are still there - in the words of Withnail, 'I feel...unusual'. Staff meetings, staff tea, staff room, staff cakes, staff seats in the theatre, staff this, staff that, staff stuff everywhere...it felt a bit like a weird transgression. I mean, it's only 15 minutes since I was at DSL as a student - far too short a time to make this kind of leap.

(pause)

No, wait...15 YEARS.

Oh my. What was that quote about relativity again?