Theatre Devising – What I Learned

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  • Sara Gauci

Devised Theatre is defined as a method of theatre-making, also referred to as collective creation, in which the performance originates from collaborative, often improvisatory work by a performing ensemble. It has grown more popular over the years, and it has contributed to a large part of theatre-making.

There are so many ways you can go about devised theatre. You can start with a central theme that you want to base your piece on, which leads to research and acquiring knowledge regarding the subject so that you can then decide on the message you would like to pass on to your audience. Another way of starting out is by workshopping methods and/or exercises to create pieces that might then make it to the piece later.

Through my personal experience, I have tried out both methods, and both are equally rewarding. It is quite astonishing how through simple techniques created by practitioners, such as Bertolt Brecht, Jerzy Grotowski and collective group Frantic Assembly, that so many complex pieces can be created. The beauty of devising theatre is that there is usually no creative restriction. Despite the typically long process, it has given me the best opportunity to leave any biases behind, think on the spot and, ultimately, meet people who I consider to be my best friends.

Looking back, I start to realize how much devising theatre has helped me improve personally and develop my skills as a theatre student. I had to think outside the box, come up with ideas that others haven’t already thought about, and open my mind to a different thought process that I wasn’t used to.

What I found to be the most helpful when devising theatre is to always take note of each session and write it down in my dedicated notebook, so that if I need to look back on ideas that I might have dismissed before, maybe they could be used at a later stage. This came in very handy with a recent devised production which we were fortunate enough to put together multiple times, and we had to remind ourselves of the initial idea and theme that we were going for; it serves as an excellent grounding technique that I have found helpful ever since.

It is important that if you are considering going into a production which will be devised, make sure that you are open to anything (within reason, of course). My advice would be this: don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Sometimes, what you think is the most outrageous of ideas, could be the ones that end up being the best part of the performance.