(One day guest & Audience member)
At a time when theatre is made in a rush and encouraged to be created sold and viewed as a product I found George Dillon’s process to be a brave and exciting step. It was a genuine experiment – with a genuine risk of failure. It threw the participating audience into simply watching and searching and considering – What is a Man and What is Art?
As a theatre maker, aware of the insecure climate that theatre exists in, I think it is important to stop and examine the roots of our work.
Partaking in and witnessing this experience ignited many questions and inspired me to continue to support the culture of theatre.
Tanushka is the Artistic Director of Company:Collisions
(One day guest & Audience member
I really enjoyed the experience of working on Ecce Home and found George to be really open, engaging and supportive. He obviously had the respect and the conviction from his performers, who were totally committed and were very keen to make the project work. As an outsider coming in you were party to quite an intriguing and risk taking process – you were thrown into the unknown, were expected and encouraged to go with it at all turns. I personally enjoyed the freedom and potential chaos involved in the process and the workshop environment itself was very fulfilling – it was especially nice to work with some of Glenn Caulfield’s beautiful and grotesque masks in an atmosphere that was as playful as it was informative.
A stimulating, thought provoking experience that lingers in the mind and makes you question what the boundaries of the theatre really are.
Tamsin is the Artistic Director of Actors of Dionysus
(One day guest director)
I would say that what I experienced with you and Ecce Homo had a potent intensity about it. A magical timing of circumstance versus time versus personal daily life and ongoing biography.
The question you created as a facilitator and actor and practitioner of art, through stepping into the unknown empty space, is a powerful and very important practical soul tool.
You conducted yourself and your opening to a new comer, me, with delicacy and courage and most of all, listening trust.
It was a turning point in my life.
I also saw some of the finest mask work I have witnessed so far in almost 20 years of working with the mask.
Thank you George
Glen is a mask maker and Director of the Evoke Studio in Madrid
(One day guest director)
In mid winter Brighton, I am usually so disconnected from other artists, it is always a joy to be asked to join an artistic community and to take part in un-pressured creation; to experiment with the nature of the artform. We so rarely have the time these days to create work without needing a Product, and to have the time to simply play. I was really flattered to be asked to join the group for a day & went in to the space very open-minded.
It was also a slightly intimidating offer – to come & lead a workshop / offer direction to a project I was not allowed to prepare for or to know anything about before the day. Intimidating because it allowed me no preparation, and this always leaves me nervous! Although I hoped to be able to deliver new, fresh & alternative ideas, I was also aware that I could be bringing exercises that were completely against the group objective – one that I was deliberately not told. But this absence of knowledge made me be honest about my thoughts, and to the point with performers – it was refreshing not to have to hide behind preparation!
However, it was also an act of faith that I could deliver blindly and we could create together on the spot. I was willing to trust George and the performers process. It has reminded me that the joy of creating is in the moment, and that spontaneity for a director is a key feature of our work – one that we are rarely allowed to indulge in! I usually spend most of my time pretending I know what I’m doing, smiling whilst internally I’m thinking ‘I DON’T KNOW! DON’T LOOK AT ME! I ONLY KNOW ITS NOT WORKING!!’ So to be able to feedback in an unpressured way was a joy – I am now thinking…’YOU DON’T KNOW AND NEITHER DO I! HURRAY! LETS PLAY’
After watching the beehive, I realised that the group felt very heavy & needed to play. Also needed reminding that humour can be as cruel as anything – when pursuing random acts of cruelty & kindness..
I am still in the dark as to how my presence affected the groups process, but for me the day was extremely rewarding and acted as a refreshing change. It was really moving to see a respected and established artist open up his directorial process, and to challenge his own theories. His enthusiasm and belief were addictive. Thank you very much for inviting me – it was an honour to work with you all and I hope you have all recovered from such long hours!
Really hope you carry on with this work. It was fascinating.
Claire is the Artistic Director of Periplum
(Company Member – Musician)
When George first approached me to be the musician on the project, and explained briefly what he would like to happen, I thought he was a bit barmy and taking a fairly big chance to get something to work. However, after working with him on quite a few projects and really learning loads, I totally respect and trust his work, so I knew it would be a challenge, but it would be very rewarding. I wasn’t wrong!
George had told me on our first discussion that really in some ways I would be directing what was happening on stage through what I was playing, and the sounds I was making. I have worked a lot with George, mainly with him as a solo artist, and it was interesting to see his direction for the actors. He gave them lots of room to discover things, and some quite specific direction, but what really came across was George’s trust of everyone’s ability.
The audience in the end, became the director as a mass. Their participation on the public performances was breath taking. It had a profound effect on everyone, and people are not going to forget their experiences in the room for a very long time.
It would be fascinating to do the work again, especially with different actors and participants.
I’m very pleased I had this opportunity to be involved in this project, so thanks to George, The Nightingale, and The Arts Council, the rest of the acting team, the participants and especially the audiences!
(One Day Guest – Musician, who stayed, becoming part of the company)
Charlotte had told me about working with George in the past over a period of many years. The earlier productions of Hamlet and The Gospel of Matthew sounded really interesting to me. He came across as someone who was determined to create challenging new theatre and to cover new ground – challenging in both an intellectual and a visceral way. The associations with Steven Berkoff added to this impression.
Soon after rehearsals started, Charlotte asked me if I would like to come along. I went along a little apprehensively at first. I had never worked on a theatre project before. I never looked back after the first rehearsal I attended. I found it riveting from the start.
There was this tension in rehearsals between them being very open-ended, as if anything could happen, and yet very tightly structured. I found it wonderfully free to be able to play music in such a spontaneous way, either responding to what the actors were doing, or sometimes prompting them and giving them ideas and moods to play with. There was a jazz-like feel to the process where people were improvising and responding to each other.
I really enjoyed the variety of approaches in the rehearsals: the warm-up routines, the martial arts exercises, people joining in for a day or two, the clowning workshop. It challenged us to look at the ‘play’ in new ways and with fresh perspectives.
Despite the fact that George was keen for the actors not to be emotionally involved in their improvisations, there was a very emotional and intense feel to both the rehearsals and the ‘plays’ themselves. The audience in their feedback also seemed to find it a very emotional experience.
I feel very proud to have been involved in this production and I very much hope that it can continue at some point in the future.
(Company Member – Performer)
I have been a colleague and friend of George’s for 28 years – we formed our first theatre company together in 1980 – I worked with George on the application for Ecce Homo, so it was very clear to me what George wanted to get out of this R&D as a director and artist. The ‘Beehive’ exploration was also a way for George to follow through techniques he had been developing in workshops, and to work on these approaches with a professional group of artists from diverse backgrounds. He wanted to make the process inclusive, positive, supportive and educational. Overall, the R & D more than achieved these objectives.
The Process was the most important part of it. George set up a working process which was very inclusive, and deliberately made open to other artists from other art forms. The process included positive group bonding exercises and honest discussion about the work done the previous day.
In the group exercises George was always encouraging and supportive of the performers. We were never criticised but encouraged to expand our choices when appropriate. This consistently respectful and loving approach brought the best out of the group. The morning session each day began with some analysis and prepared the group for what we were to try on each day. George was often open and vulnerable about what was known and unknown, and when he was unsure of where to go next … this encouraged group input and collective responsibility for the project.
As a theatrical investigation of what it means to be human, in Ecce Homo we were trying to find a performance style that was not theatrical performance, but a way of presenting humanity in the most natural way. It was difficult to leave behind the habits and techniques of performance, but the aim was to strip these away, to get rid of masks in our behaviour as performers and people, in order to genuinely make contact with our “guests/audience/visitors” and find ways of encouraging them to engage in a way that was deeper than merely observing.
This was difficult to achieve in a short space of time – there was a tendency towards a rather ‘po faced’ physical theatre performer style, particularly in front of an audience. However, despite this, there were moments of genuine contact, joy, truth, beauty, cruelty, chemistry, natural drama that were discovered by group and guests together on the nights of the ‘showings’. These discoveries were very exciting.
As a performer of some experience, I was challenged to reject all technique learned over nearly thirty years, to trust spontaneity, to work constantly in the moment, to allow myself to be both vulnerable and cruel, neither of which I am entirely comfortable with in life or on stage. The discoveries made were for me, liberating and encouraging. The process is exhausting, as one must be constantly engaged on every level – it is obvious when a performer is not. There is no character to hide behind, no technique to get ‘lost’ in. There is constant responsibility to the whole from every performer, not just the director.
I was impressed and moved by a noticeable shift, and change in direction taken by George with this project. As a director, there was never any time in the process when he was judgemental or negative … there was constant acknowledgement and awareness of what we were trying, even when it didn’t always succeed, and respect for that.
(Company Member – Performer)
Having participated in an earlier workshop in which we experimented with some of what we came to know as the ‘Beehive’, I came with some idea of what to expect. To say my expectations were exceeded and exploded by what took place over two weeks of intense work is an understatement. I say intense only in that we were pushed out of our comfort zones as performers. Never did I feel the work to be hard. Painful in what we discovered yes, but a degree of trust was quickly established and for this reason risks could be taken without a hard fall.
Creatively during the development period every time we entered the space we discovered something different, sometimes extraordinary, sometimes not but always our work yielded something new. Suffice to say this period was a remarkable time of creative freedom rarely experienced by my self as a performer. One in which, if a level of comfort was reached with our group work, the introduction of guests from various disciplines (dancers, artists, teachers, mask makers) sometimes contributed sometimes disrupted but ultimately tempered our work.
I have to say at this point I am talking about what happened before an audience was brought in. Although invited guests became active participants within our work a real audience, coming naively to our performance, standing on the edge of an empty space, pushed our work into areas we could never have anticipated. We took further another aspect of the empty space, that it is the same space for everyone who is present. Our audience was one who could feasibly walk into the space, speak or shout even – anything was possible. Giving them permission to do this, teaching them our own language with its own grammar developed over two weeks, was the difficult task we faced every night coupled with the dual objective of giving the piece a structure that built and development.
The first night, overall, we failed to bring the audience into the space but, as with all this work, our experience moved us forward as did the second night when we succeeded in getting the audience to participate but failed to build the performance with these new but exciting foreigners in our midst.
What quickly became clear was that this work was continually in flux more so than most other theatre pieces. Perhaps the music helped here sometimes following sometimes, when we were stuck, leading the action. I was interested to read Grotowski’s original ‘Beehive’ described in terms of jazz, an observation made by our musicians early in the process about our own work. Developing a language, even scoring a piece physically and vocally, had been something we were only able to touch on due to time restrictions during the two weeks. A future development could be to do so and then, at the point of putting it in front of an audience, forget everything as the performer enters the space.
Even at this fairly rudimentarily level encountering the audience became potentially explosive, violent in a way that could overwhelm them with love or disgust. On our first night the best example, and at the time, surprising, even alarming was from a member of the audience who found the first few minutes of Ecce Homo standing on the edge of the space with no rules, no clear distinction between audience and performer, so painful she had to express it. Firstly through coughing and then through a mixture of laughter and protest at what this was about. Having watched the entire performance she responded during feedback claiming the performance was cruel and made her feel disgusted so much so that the next evening she wanted to experience it again. Her reaction was so pure and so unexpected I think it left us scared of pushing the audience any more on that first night and ultimately led to our failure to bring the audience on during the rest of that evening’s performance. This, more than any, was a performance that evolved in front of audience and in fact was, despite efforts to bring in participants before the first night, dead without them.
In terms of individual artistic development Ecce Homo opened many doors for me both personally and creatively. Giving me the opportunity to assess where I’ve come from, where I am presently and giving me glimpses of places I may go in the future. I don’t think I have ever been to or worked in a theatre piece that has the potential not only to affect but change an audience. This is what I want from theatre as a performer this is what I want from theatre as a spectator.
We didn’t always succeed. This was a beginning and, as such, was more about the process than the final performance. It took me back to a place of unknowing where I tried to forget everything I have learned as a performer. We had to keep reminding ourselves of this and often lapsed back into acting or bad habits. We learnt again what it means to break a space with your presence. How powerful and how vulnerable you become. We were treading a thin line between creating a performance language that made us arresting to watch but one that could be borrowed and developed by the audience. I don’t believe we ever fully achieved this but we made the first steps towards doing so. The next exciting stage would be to do this.
(Company Member – Performer)
Ecce Homo has been a fascinating process for me, and everyone involved. Four actors, a director, two musicians and an audience have created something timeless, and yet entirely of its time and location.
The project has seen us treading a liminality between spontaneity and structure. By fluctuating between or balancing along these two places/approaches we’ve been left with nothing to hold onto, thereby creating a space and time in which anything is possible and opening up the divide between us as performers and others as audience. We, as actors become as naïve as the audience, perhaps more so, as we can be left with little expectation of conventional theatre practice to hold onto. In this way, for a time, we have strived to become anti-actors.
A shared trust and understanding in the company has offered participants the chance to move and speak freely, something we rarely, if ever, have opportunity to do. Time shared in the space has in one sense become about just responding. Where necessary the company place a safety mechanism of leading by example. Parallel to this, Ecce Homo has demonstrated an extremely successful method by which to devise theatre, in (should we wish it to be) its most human form.
The process has set us on a path toward finding shared global truths that resonate with any person willing to join the space. We have begun to create a grammar and a vocabulary that is not reflective of, but inherent in human nature. Ecce Homo holds a language that is entirely dependent on the moment in which it occurs yet simultaneously is universal. It can develop or be recreated with each newcomer, and no matter how often it gets recreated I suspect it will always be familiar. Ecce Homo could become many things. I hope only that it continues to develop and be shared.