A Performance Write-up by Ros Maprayil


When I arrived at Trinity College Dublin for the first of the performance lab seminars, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The last time I had been involved seriously in performance was during my GCSEs, which had gone rather well, and then during my early twenties at the Edinburgh festival, which is probably best forgotten; so, it was with a mixture of delight and trepidation that I kicked off my shoes and leapt into the unknown.

For the performance lab, 13 of us were under the keen guidance and enthusiastic instruction of Dr Nick Johnson and Dr Jonathan Heron, who led us on a creative journey into the world of Beckett. We began the week by learning about space and voice and did a number of warm-ups and experiments using our bodies and voices that helped us to bond as a group and also to push ourselves a little outside our comfort zones.

We were introduced to Beckett’s prose text, Companywhich Company SJ were in the process of rehearsing at the Samuel Beckett Theatre. Luckily, we managed to catch a sneak -peak of the work that goes into the technical rehearsal process before watching a special preview. This was incredible!

The performance that we would present would involve us taking a line from Companythat resonated with us. We scoured the city of Dublin for a Beckettian voice that caught our ear. Movement and voice would eventually be combined to create a piece that drew us together. It was fast-paced work and even the day before the performance I wasn’t really sure how things would play out. I found the week filled with so much to learn. I threw myself into the process wholeheartedly, never completely sure of where it was leading. This feeling of not knowing created an excitement and anxiety which made me much more committed to each moment.

Even though I didn’t know what to expect at the time, I now feel that Nick and Jonathan’s empowering instruction inspired us to curate a piece that was personal to each of our voices and encouraged surprise collaborations. We managed to create something unique out of what seemed like disparate fragments of voice and movement.

Over the week I noticed how well we worked as an ensemble and it was lovely to see how people with different experiences, backgrounds and from different disciplines supported each other, bounced ideas off each other and worked together to create a dynamic space. I also noticed the way in which in moments of doubt or uncertainty the ensemble was able to trust in the process and communicate ideas effectively with one another in order to push the boundaries and produce the best work possible.

On a practical level, I learned a lot about performance warm-ups, how to use the body and voice within a space, and how to create an immediate connection with someone. Overall, the week at TCD taught me a lot about collaboration and trust. The final piece that we showed was something I still feel quite proud of. It made me feel how much impact a performance can have and how valuable it was to be able to work with teachers like Nick and Jonathan who have an instinctive way of getting the best out of a group of diverse individuals.

Being part of the performance lab made me feel excited about theatre and performance that isn’t only based on what I have read or seen. Taking part made me want to know more and do more, it whetted my appetite to work in an interactive way by making me embrace what I had spent so long thinking about. I now believe that if you want to write about theatre there is no better way to understand it than by being part of it. The lab showed me that not only do I quite like being scared, but also that sometimes it’s only when you leave the comfort of the everyday that you finally find your place.

Ros Maprayil (Doctoral Researcher at the University of Reading)