Plays, Poems & New Writing Story

An actor’s playful soul: an experimental approach to The Taming of the Shrew

  Director Maria Gaitanidi shares how the classic 1978 film Molière inspired her approach to casting roles for theatre

3 minute read

When I was 16 I watched Ariane Mnouchkine’s 4-hour film Molière, a fictious but not only, story of the life and work of the French theatre maker. I remember myself not going home but wandering the streets in Brussels where I lived at the time till late at night giving my parents a true fright (we were on the verge of knowing the existence of mobile phones).

Ariane Mnouchkine’s Molière (1978).

Molière’s chariot of actors crossing the French countryside under adverse weather conditions, unfriendly audiences and scarce food had burnt a mark in me. I carried with me through my travels, research and work since then this magnificent agility of an actor’s playful soul, when all is possible from the simplest repetition of a word full of images, to the slightest impulse given by any moment in the now.

When I arrived in London in 2011 I started experimenting on ways of encountering the author’s material with one’s own, without an external casting imposition. How do the actors make themselves available to the role? How do we approach a role without interpretation or judgement? What if our idea of ourselves and our abilities were but a small leaf of something gigantic, free, unexpected?

Artwork for The Taming of the Shrew. Photographer: Johan Persson.

When I started gathering the ensemble for The Taming of the Shrew I looked for actors who would be challenged and excited by such process, to not know, to listen to one’s own desire for a role, to hear what a role gives, an opportunity for personal transformation. This is not given, it can be cultivated like an inner seed or flame. Our first week of rehearsals our main aims were the following: work on a role that we want and with a partner that we want. One of the most beautiful things is to watch an actor discover what they are for, it demands great humility and acceptance, being on a creative path of self-knowledge. All the roles can reveal things and we can reveal aspects of the roles that would remain otherwise forever unknown if we were to limit them with specific interpretation.

In a few days, casting will be completed organically. And yes it might be completely unexpected but what is creation if not in the sudden becoming of something that was not a moment before.

Working with Shakespeare, where roles are symbols, eternal figures carrying truths more true than ourselves, one can only disappear behind the actor who chooses, freely.