Saturday, October 23, 2004

Origins: Jacques Lecoq

A common thread between the founders of Complicite is Jacques Lecoq. Simon
McBurney (an artistic director and performer), Annabel Arden (a director and
performer) and Marcello Magni (director and performer) all studied under
Jacques Lecoq at his school in Paris. (Fiona Gordon is also a co-founder of
Complicite, but she did not study under Lecoq and is no longer working with
the company.) The working and teaching methods and artistic elements used by
Lecoq greatly influenced McBurney, Arden and Magni and was the cornerstone
in the origins of Complicite.

The methods of Lecoq began to grow when he was young. Jacques Lecoq was born
in Paris on the 15th of December, 1921. As a young man, he was greatly
attracted to sports, leading him to join a gymnastics club at 17 and
continue his studies at a college of physical education. It was not until
the German occupation of France that Lecoq began to experiment and put his
interest in physicality at work. He joined a group of young people who used
the arts of gymnastics, mime and dance to express opposition to fascism.
After the liberation of France the group combined theatre and movement in
experimental performances.

Italy, its theatre practitioners and its theatrical history shaped Lecoq's
views and practice of the theatre. In 1948 Lecoq travelled to Italy as a
professor at the University of Padua where he learned and practiced commedia
dell'arte, and discovered the art of mask making. When introduced to the
sculptor Amleto Sartori, he began making masks of cardboard and eventually
the sculptor revived the making of the original commedia leather mask. (At
the school in Paris, Italian mask making and commedia dell'arte greatly
influence studies and performance.) While in Italy, Lecoq, along with
Giorgio Strehler and Paolo Grassi (founders of the world famous Piccolo
Teatro in Milan), founded the Piccolo Drama School where Lecoq taught
movement and was introduced to Greek tragedy and the roles of the chorus.

On returning from Italy, Lecoq founded his International Theatre School in
Paris in 1956 and began applying his gleaned knowledge and seemingly
unorthodox methods. This school gives two years of education to its
First Year
* 'Psychological play without words'
* Neutral mask
* Elements
* Materials
* Poetry
* Painting
* Animals
* Larval and expressive masks
* Objects
* Passions
* Characters
* Situations
* Music
* Investigations
* Stylistic constraints

Second Year
* Gestural laguages
* Melodrama
* Commedia dell'arte
* Bouffons
* Tragedy
* Clowns
Each week of study the students have their own theatre which Lecoq named
'auto-cours.' For an hour every week the students work on devised pieces
which begin from simple suggestions given by Lecoq. The students either work
in small groups or as the whole class. 'Auto-cours' involves playwriting,
practice and most importantly collaboration.
Complicite is without method; rather, its methods are malleable and ever
changing, but the methods of Lecoq can clearly be seen in Complicite: in its
collaboration and experimentation.


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