Theatre of Illusion

I’m currently involved in a collaborative project entitled: “Theatre of Illusion” at Dartington Summer School, with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Alison Chitty (Designer), Stephen Plaice (Librettist/Writer) and Stephen Langridge (Director). This began yesterday and will continue until this coming Friday, 14th.

In our party are three young composers, six actors, two designers and three musicians, along with a lighting designer. Stephen Langridge, Stephen Plaice and Harrison Birtwistle are acting as mentors and course leaders, along with Alison Chitty who will oversee the set design.

Our challenge is to explore the musical and theatrical potential of Faust; the original chapbook (Historia von D. Johann Fausten, published in 1587) not the Faust of Goethe or Marlowe. We’re putting together a theatre piece based on the first instance of Doctor Faustus’ sorcery in the book, where Faust conjures the Devil’s Agent (Mephisto).

We began the project today and started with an exercise in improvisation. I’m quite new to this and made a few suggestions but will get more fluent as the week goes on. I’m told the music for the project is to be entirely improvised, with clear punctuation points and structural specifics to inform its outline. The main concern for me is to ensure that the music complements the action, and vice versa, without resorting to ‘musically describing’ the event, as might be done with film music, for example. We discussed this in a workshop; how the music will serve a different purpose for this project, rather than simply to mirror what’s going on onstage. H. Birtwistle briefly mentioned a piece I’d sent him a few months ago and has offered to discuss it with me. I must find the piece somewhere in PDF format and print it off over the next couple of days to have a lesson on.

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