Discussion Questions

  • In viewing the clips or photographs of Miyagi’s Antigone, to what extent does the chorus set the scene or create the atmospherics of the whole production? Take the time to write down some of the qualities used in the chorus movement. How do the effects of the water, the lighting, the costumes and the music enhance the sense of ghostly rituals? How do their movements differ from those of the actors, and why might this be important to understanding the play? What other rituals might be used in a different production of Antigone?
  • The notion of strophe and antistrophe in the chorus suggest two movements that turn against one another, or one group that moves in one direction and the other in reverse. Using a chorus text in any classical Greek play divide up the lines between two groups. Establish two line patterns (it could be entries/exits, steps and return steps, or gestures that work in two directions) and use these to create a pulse. Once established, divide the lines between the movements of this rhythmic call and response. Critically this should change the image of the chorus as a unified community to one made up of multiple harmonies.
  • The National Theatre 2012 production of Antigone demythologizes the setting and locates the play in a corporate office, which dramatically changes the movement repertoire of the chorus. The choreographer Aline David shows a group of young actors how to create a chorus using repetition, timing and variation in a set of gestures. Using her approach, consider how the chorus helps the audience to understand ‘what they should be looking at and how?’ You might compare the use of the chorus in these two different productions, those of Miyagi and the National Theatre, hence contrasting the Japanese with the English movement landscape.
  • Noh aesthetics is a complex philosophical system, but you can discuss what examples you might have seen of the quality of hana, the actor’s energy, or yugen, its expressive beauty, in theatre that you have watched. Remember it doesn’t have to show beauty but could be also the deepening quality of an actor’s portrayal of character. For instance, the film actor Harvey Keitel portrays many ugly, brutal characters but always with incredibly distinctive grit and subtle movement. Does maturity in the actor add to knowledge of hana?
  • Both Roman rhetoric and the Natyasastra make the case for the detailed stylisation of gesture as signs of character. What do stylised movement vocabularies bring to performance that more naturalistic approaches may not have?
  • Khan and Cherkaoui’s dialogue with rhythm in Zero Degrees illuminates its narrative with a twisting pattern of arm gestures. Use this structure of interspersing gestures to tell a story about travelling or migration from one place to another. Experiment with using gestures in sympathy with one another, or in opposition. How does migration put bodies in situations of not knowing the correct gestures to follow? What do the inanimate bodies of the dummies contribute to the production’s movement and representation of survival? Use the videos to discuss the ways in which the production extends these questions through the choreography.
  • Processions can be depressing, think of a funeral procession, or pompous and devout, or perhaps a lot of fun. The British theatre company Forced Entertainment has a deconstructive approach to making theatre, so if you have three or more people, try using their method of ‘raiding the dressing-up box’ and create a continuous line of characters who enter from one side of the stage and cross to the other, wearing or using one garment or part of a costume (hat, shoes, belt) at a time. If you can pass behind the stage, then the line can progress in one direction, or alternatively divide the box in two and cross back and forth, but keep the procession continuous. Of course, different characters will bring their own rhythm to the progression – crawling, running, limping, staggering, stumbling, skipping etc. The variable movements of dressing and travelling, and the parade of assorted figures, like Chaucer’s pilgrimage, will lead to questions about humanity; how robust is the gait? Who does too much or too little? Have they endured hardship? who shares the crossing? where does it stop and when does it end? Does a particular kind of hierarchy appear? Who might this procession represent?  What other plays do you know in which processions are important? How would you stage them?
  • The Tempest includes many scenes in which vernacular movements and comic timing contrast with the other-worldly aspects of movement, such as from Ariel and in the masque and dances of Act IV. If you consider digital technologies of representation, discuss how distinctions between the real and the virtual may provide a critical or intensified sense of the play’s other colliding binaries, such as race and class, gender and species, nature and mind, master and slave, kingdom and colony, patriarchy and sons, patriarchy and daughters, divine and banal, heaven and earth.  How might, or does, manipulating the modes of virtual representation enable these contradictory theatrical realities to appear as productive, perhaps irreconcilable, tensions? 
  • Is the use of horse and bird puppets merely a way to elicit sympathies in War Horse, or is there something else at stake in using puppets? What makes a puppet in Jarry’s terms a form of grotesque reality? Or is it more Kleist’s greater grace that appeals to us? How do you respond to them? Does it make any difference to learn that the puppets were constructed in South Africa for this global theatre phenomenon?