With conventional theatre, 90% of the decisions are made before everyone is even assembled together in the same room: the play will take place in this theatre; the actors will be on the stage, the audience politely in their seats; the lights will all be on the grid; the play text is provided; the actors all know who their characters will be and how many lines they get to speak. With Free Theatre's devising process we are liberated from these constraints. We begin with a theme or set of ideas we wish to explore. We may or may not use a theatre. If we do, it may be that the actors are in the seats and the audience on the stage - or we might remove the seats altogether. We don't know at the start what the text will be, nor if there will be any. We don't know what characters we will play, nor if there will be any characters in any conventional sense. All of these decisions are made along the way, as we discover the best ways to explore our ideas.
Ryan Reynolds, Actor
In the Free Theatre, we have a foundational warm-up exercise where we run in a circle. The aim is to try and move together as one. This doesn’t necessarily mean moving in exactly the same way, but moving together, which may also involve different movements as we search for a ‘sense of group’. This is the basis to our ensemble approach to theatre, a way of building a sense of company with a focus on the body; quite different to the head-oriented approach of the usual naturalistic, ‘talking heads’ style theatre. Our ensemble approach is also quite different to the economic and social environment of professional theatre in New Zealand where actors work more as individual ‘guns-for-hire’. The circle run is a building block to a theatre practice that resists what we are told are the social, economic and political realities of our society.
George Parker, Actor