In the second edition of Learning through Theatre Cora Williams eloquently outlined the development of the actor in theatre in education (‘The Theatre in Education Actor’ 1993: 91-3). The relationship of the actor to the TIE company and the artistic process points to something both radical and unique in the history of British theatre. Since the inception of TIE the term actor-teacher ‘encapsulate[d] the very nature of the then new theatre form, a hybrid, one species emanating from educational drama, the other from a traditional British theatre background’ (ibid.: 91). Today, because of a lack of funding and training, that species stands on the edge of extinction. That is the subject of another essay, but the challenge for the actor, I believe, whether working in educational theatre with young people or on the ‘main stage’ of our theatres, remains fundamentally the same: to engage the audience’s creativity. In this essay I would like to focus on playwright Edward Bond’s
collaboration with Big Brum Theatre-in-Education Company and how this has developed the company’s approach to acting – or as Bond calls it ‘enactment’, which is not about ‘acting’ at all. I will concentrate on some of the key aspects of this approach, in the hope that it will identify something new in the relationship between the audience and the actor which may be of interest and use to other performers – and especially to those working in TIE or TIE-related practice. The work of the actor-teacher described by Williams is an extra-
ordinarily dynamic one that was made possible by having a permanent company of actors in a TIE company. In 1993 there were dozens of TIE companies employing three to ﬁve full-time actor-teachers, something that is extremely rare today. This is a factor that makes it even more imperative to look for new ways of thinking about the actor-teacher (or performer) in TIE and how to engage the audience creatively. The advantages of having full-time actor-teachers are obvious because
the TIE actor must constantly develop the TIE programme and performance, so that the interaction with the audience is continually renewed and refreshed. The relationship to audience in TIE is unique because the audience is also participant. ‘TIE is the irregular sphere which invites and needs the audience to perfect it’ (Williams 1993: 102). In TIE the young people are invited to interact, intervene and
manipulate time and space with and alongside the actor-teacher. But I believe that the theatre exists to connect with the audience in a way that brings it, if not physically, then imaginatively, into the performance space in order to seek what Bond calls our humanness. To do this in drama is an act of self-creation. As David Davis puts it:
In drama, whatever happens on stage happens also in the self of the audience. They are not mere spectators. This is because the self must always seek meaning. This is simply the result of the way in which the self is created by the early infant. The audience is not just ‘on stage’, they are in a sense the stage.