‘Riotous Company is questioning through words, movement, pictures, music, people’, is the company motto currently being explored in the first week of rehearsals for Out of Blixen.
Blog post by Rachel Jamieson, Observer on 'Out Of Blixen'
MFA in Actor Training and Coacing, Central School of Speech and Drama.
The quote ‘question authority’ is generally attributed to U.S. founding father Benjamin Franklin and the concept ‘question everything’ is believed to derive from ancient Greek playwright Euripedes or perhaps revolutionary scientist Albert Einstein, but a little fact-checking reveals that the origins of these rebellious proverbs are actually unknown. Regardless of the roots of these philosophies, their radical wisdom is embodied through Riotous Company, which first and foremost embraces questioning through various theatrical methods and perspectives.
After just three days observing the process of devising Out of Blixen, this grad student has been welcomed and encouraged to join the company in questioning the world around us from an array of artistic points of view, including, but not limited to ‘words, movement, pictures, music, people.’ There is a quiet riot happening in this process, as all participants are esteemed contributors being seen, heard and nurtured by their colleagues. Each individual is a comrade in cultivating a harmonious space of listening and valuing everyone’s input. Faith in playing with new ideas and seeing new viewpoints – ‘questioning authority,’ ‘questioning everything’ – is at the heart of this process.
From the Oxford Dictionary, the word riotous is ‘marked by or involving public disorder,’ ‘characterized by wild and uncontrolled behaviour’ or ‘having a vivid, varied appearance.’
Riotous Company’s display of ‘public disorder’ is one of questioning the established roles of director as mastermind with actors diligently executing their commands. Here, there is playful anarchy, as the freedom and autonomy of the collaborators are celebrated and a generosity of spirit makes this ‘wild behaviour’ possible. Trust in the inherent dramaturg, director, writer, technician, and artist at the heart of every associate is celebrated, regardless of title, collectively nurturing the artistic vision of the community.
This process is also meticulous, as no stone is left unturned. In just the first few days of rehearsal, scenes have been tried from several distinct pathways, each proposed by different members of the performance team taking turns leading the group. Those of us observing from outside the performers’ process are also encouraged to share valuable discoveries from each exploration and those gems are added to the collection to be later fashioned into accessories and ornaments, altogether forging the ‘vivid, varied appearance’ of the production.
Each scene is an expedition, and each day compiles more treasure from the world of Karen Blixen, a twentieth century Danish adventurer, perhaps best known for her autobiographical novel Out of Africa. Her short stories are explored through riotous listening, equality and trust with adventures in ‘words, movement, pictures, music, people.’ It is still early in the process, but eventually the greater community of audience members will join us on this journey of new discoveries, perspectives and questions: treasures unearthed ‘out of Blixen.’