Complicite: Opening Doors

Feature in Issue 6-2 | Summer 1994

Faroque Khan, a student from Strathclyde University and a member of the Scottish Mime Forum, opens a door on the time he spent last winter with Théâtre De Complicité.

Mime at the office, Catherine and Jane. Moving furniture, setting up: new office space – new office staff, Judith and Sarah-Jane. Organising files, making tea (we all made tea). Researching, answering the phone, word-processing, looking at CVs (as you do), laughing, joking, at times getting bored but never for too long, Expenses paid (thank you very much). Mark, nice guy. Annabel Arden, ‘Hello, nice to see you again’. Friendly and informative chit-chat. Simon McBurney, infectious nature, serious yet comical, passionate, and at times obsessive. Circumstances change and new opportunities arise.

Design week. Throwing ideas, discussions and initial plans.

Rehearsals, actors, games and introductions – a communal meal for all involved. In the process gathering laughter, tears, new experiences, observations, revelations, health and pain.

Discovering people, meaning, creativity, agreements, arguments and disagreements. Discovering a passion for work, inspiration, John Berger: warmth in words – words of wisdom, acceptance, at times boredom again, but most of all discovering new friends.

Passionate ranting? Dribble from a diary? A fairy story perhaps? Well please, allow me to explain. What you are sharing in the aforementioned are certain episodes from my placement experience, October 93 – January 94, with Théâtre de Complicité in London.

To elaborate with hindsight, and from a student’s point of view, this was a ‘golden’ opportunity in the truest sense. What should have been an administrative placement grew into a deluge of surprise possibilities and eventual realities. All served as very valuable training and learning.

The Complicité camp is ‘hot’. From the diamond-cut efficiency of the administration and marketing to the whirlwind of creativity in the rehearsal room. Simon McBurney works with feverish intensity which soon catches. But, what continuously flows (and did flow) throughout and all around was a current that communicates and emits a relaxed approach. And this brings me to the backbone of this article.

Complicité do not need ‘bumming up’, that is not the purpose, their reputation stands high with or without. What does need mentioning is their attitude to education and training.

Throughout their history Théatre de Complicité have recognised the need for education, training – the sharing of skills. The company still adhere to this fact. For the production of The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, I was not the only placement/attachment and during the course we also saw observers (from across the globe as well as home) in the often sensitive area of rehearsals. This does not mean that the rehearsal process was not sacred, on the contrary, the trust of the actors and director needed to be won. But, what it does indicate is the willingness to share where possible.

In a recent conversation, there issued a voice of concern regarding accessibility to training and education, especially in the field of physical theatre. Well, yes, I whole-heartedly agree, it was not easy securing a place with Complicité but well worth the effort. There are unfortunate realities that exist concerning education/training, funding, resources and time. But, there are avenues available which need to be sought and where there are none, then, they need to be created.

Complicité may not be perfect but they do offer, in my opinion, certain routes that forward the development of education and training,

If theatre or physical theatre is to further evolve, advance and flourish, then the doors to education and training need to be opened wider. This is not just for placements but for all, performers, directors, et al. In our multicultural world there is a lot to be learnt. To achieve this the caring and sharing perspective seems to offer a fruitful hope.

I sincerely thank Théâtre de Complicité for my time with them.

Faroque Khan, BA in Community Arts, Actor Strathclyde University, Jordanhill Campus, Glasgow.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-2
p. 10