The Space to Move by Christian Darley

I never met Christian but did attend her memorial event, a year after her death. I would have loved to meet her – hearing about her work and having read her book I can safely say that my practice would have been influenced by her – that my views on training for and beyond the theatre would have been influenced by her.

Christian had much worth sharing – and so it was one of her best friends who encouraged her to write down her experience and thoughts on teaching and theatre; it is a testament to her spirit and generosity that three of her closest friends got together over a year to edit her book, supported by the principal of the drama school where Christian used to teach, championing her work.

I was working with Linda Baker at the time when she began to work on the manuscript, so I have had a special connection with this book. Reading the first draft was a joy. And reading the finished product made me feel like someone was articulating my own values in a much better way than I ever could.

The Space to Move is precisely about that: about creating the space for actors to move and therefore, feel. You can’t act without moving – even if that movement consists of just your breath fueling your stillness. Only yesterday at a mask workshop, I was reminded of the need to move to discover during improvisation. Move, continue moving and the thoughts and the feelings will arrive. You just need to create the space for them.

Christian gets to the heart of what actor training should be and if you are interested in theatre but have never been through any kind of formal training yourself, you should read it. For it explains what drama training should be: discovering yourself, discovering others, surrendering to the work and above all, allowing the joy of exploration to come through.

If you are a theatre practitioner, especially if you are in charge of facilitating the work of others (as workshop leader, as director) then I urge you to read this book. It talks about issues such as trust – how trust can only be built through weeks and needs to be built slowly; it talks about the importance of contact work; it talks about how we should work on the voice through the body, as this is its shell. And all of this is done with warmth, care and humour. Just like theatre training should be.

 “I often tell actors that imagination is in the body: rather than being limited to a space in the brain, it lies in the movements of fingers and toes, in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. In improvisation, imagination is the response of the body to space, time, music and human dynamic that fuels the thinking brain, not the other way around.”

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