Monday, October 18, 2004

Complicite – Origins and Influences

Week 1: Simon McBurney – Co-founder, artistic director and actor.

Simon McBurney was born in Cambridge in 1957. He read English at Cambridge, then studied at the Jaques Lecoq School in Paris. In 1982 he co-founded the theatre company Complicite, along with Annabel Arden, Marcello Magni and Fiona Gordon.

While McBurney was in Paris, he saw the work of Mnouchkine, Besson and Philippe Avron, as well as musical theatre and clowning companies. Along with Lecoq, these all proved to be strong influences on his own ideas and ways of working, and elements of them all can frequently be found in Complicite productions. However, he was also influenced by his parents. When he was growing up, he never had a TV; instead, his mother wrote and staged pantomimes. McBurney says, “It was a climate of imagination and creativity which was not bound by economic success and that rubbed off on me”. His father was another early influence – he was an architect, and consequently many Complicite plays involve themes of history and memory.

Complicite have no set method or text. There is a strong emphesis on collaboration, and the idea that a story or play can “grow” through the actors. As Simon McBurney says, “If you cultivate a garden and you plant too many things in it before you have given it a chance to breathe, the garden will become choked up and never achieve its own life”.
Ruby, Charlotte and Emma

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