no. 15

‘Sensibilisation towards theatre’
Theatre games involving objects, communication, space and sound

Caroline Wilkins


Gesture is statement, expression, communication and a private manifestation of loneliness, a “signal through the flames” (Artaud) – yet this implies a sharing of experience once contact is made. (Peter Brook)


My choice of approach was determined totally by a preliminary group discussion with Andreas Lenhard on the manifestations of autism in a person such as Sybille, author of the text entitled On the other side of the mirror. The ‘norm’ is implied by each society and involves education, conditioning, functional response, recognition of signs, and articulation through codes such as the use of language and speech, as a means of communication and expression. How can we as conditioned human beings enter into the ‘other‘ world of an autistic person? Is it possible to re-examine other forms of communication that we have discarded since childhood but remain deep in our unconscious? Perhaps we sometimes rely on these more than we think…

It is vital to make a clear distinction between theatre as therapy and theatre as an exploration of possible realities. A performer is well aware of this difference in him/herself, allowing for a suspension of the ‘norm’ in order to enter into other modes of play, but retaining a sense of trust in the self that can be returned to. The first game in the workshop I directed in the first week of the lab involves choosing an object at random from a selection placed on the floor. They are an assortment of clearly functional ones and obscure ‘objets trouvés’. Most importantly, all judgment of self and others is suspended during such an exercise. Each person is encouraged to ‘play’ with the object individually and invent another use for it that has nothing to do with its actual function. We are exploring other, lateral modes of thinking, where the creative, improvisatory potential comes into play. Furthermore, gesture, communication and body language are called upon to support a verbal explanation and demonstration of this new reality as each object is presented in turn. We want to be convinced.


The second task involves working in pairs, preferably with no knowledge of the others’ native tongue. One tells an anecdote either in ‘gibberish’ (onomatopoeic nonsense language) or in their own broad dialect, the other attempts to interpret the story into a common language for the group (in this case English). Gestures and mime can be used to help the communication between the two. Inevitably the interpreter finds themself having to tune in to the storyteller, following intuitively any lead or indeed drawing on their own powers of imagination and invention when the ‘thread’ is lost. The audience in turn has to be ‘convinced’ of the explanation. The use of sound effects, noises, and onomatopaeic ‘glossolalie ’is often a hard task for a performer to enter into, as it demands a suspension of our social conditioning and self-censure. That is why I offered the possibility of speaking in a broad native dialect as an alternative choice, as it actually lies somewhere between the two.

Lastly there is a space and sound exercise that implies listening and responding to the others’ voices and sounds, also allowing for moments of stillness. The group lies in a heap on the floor, or very close to each other, with or without musical instruments. Total relaxation is important, any gesture or movement is also possible. Take the voice / instrument through a journey whilst telling a story, using any language, sound, following it through different emotional states, whether intimate, angry, amused, etc.


Peter Brook [1968], The Empty Space, Penguin, p. 57




Texte und Kommentare zum Labor 2009 werden hier veröffentlicht

Texts and commentaries on the 2009 lab and related research subjects will be published here.