This summer I spent a week studying and training at the Jacques Lecoq drama school in Paris, being a French student with a great interest in theatre this was a dream come true for me. Lecoq is a very unconventional drama school as it focuses on students developing their creativity through studying movement and improvisation rather than teaching you to simply follow directions. Fair to say the course was eye-opening as well as physically and mentally exhausting.
Every day would start with movement analysis, for example we looked at all the basic movements involved in pushing and pulling. Now I’m going to be honest you’re right to think this is really pretentious (I would be desperately struggling to see the point of it) but then in the second half of the day everything would sink into place as the skills we practised in the morning transferred into improvisation and miming workshops. Another thing to point out is that Lecoq is an international school meaning one moment I’d be improvising with a man speaking Hebrew without a common language and somehow (despite it being terrifying) it turned out fine – people laughed and that’s usually a good sign right?
This was what worried me most – would I be able to understand anything let alone communicate in any meaningful with anyone? So it was a lovely surprise to discover my French was actually a lot better than I’d previously imagined (to all French students, even when you feel like you’re learning nothing your French is still magically improving) and I had seriously underestimated the power of body language. The school really teaches you to look beyond conventional means of communication and forces you to observe and listen to each other on a deeper level.
Meeting and working with people of all ages from all over the world also meant I was exposed to a wealth of alternative points of view. Discussing the possibility of Britain leaving the EU (and now considering the refugee crisis) with all these different opinions and life experiences has shown me that fundamentally we’re not that different – we all laugh, we all cry and we all inhabit the same planet. In a society that increasingly values the individual over the collective and social media that actually prevents us from genuinely connecting with each other, learning how to communicate on these deeper, more intrinsic ways seems more vital than ever.
But enough of the airy fairy art talk. Lecoq’s emphasis on creativity and spontaneity meant that we could never do the same thing twice and we were always pushed to make discoveries for ourselves; analysing our own habits in order to move as far away as possible from them; learning the rules of mime and masks so that we could better break them. This is paradoxically incredibly tiring yet energising as for each exercise you don’t understand there’s a breakthrough to be had. This unrelenting search for new ways of working and seeing the world is sure to stick with me whether I end up working in theatre or not.