The Influences Upon Steven Berkoff Essay

Upon analyzing Steven Berkoff as a practician I have ever deeply noted that his theories are really hard to specify due to their of all time altering and various nature. The deficiency of official certification on Berkoff ‘s theories makes it particularly difficult to to the full grok what precisely the Berkovian public presentation manner involves and dictates. Fortunately he has written a few diaries which chronicle the dry run and originative procedure he has gone through for his assorted productions. Among these publications is Mediations on Metamorphosis ( 1995 ) , a diary of Berkoff ‘s clip spent in Japan directing the ten percent major production of Metamorphosis, and Coriolanus in Deutschland ( 1992 ) which chronicles the dry run procedure for his 1988 production of Coriolanus in Munich, Germany. However, these diaries are chiefly autobiographical and lack much theoretical context. In 1969, Steven Berkoff presented the introduction of his version of Frank Kafka ‘s Metamorphosis at the Round House Theatre in London. This production was important because Berkoff – helping for the first clip as writer/adapter, manager, and histrion in a full-length undertaking – presented an aesthetic which would go identified as his artistic hallmark. Metamorphosiscombined elements of Brechtian Epic Theatre by utilizing histrions to purposefully stand for characters instead than go them ; Antonin Artaud ‘s Theatre of Cruelty by interrupting from traditional theater texts and inquiring the histrions to bare their interior ideas as if they were human-sacrifices to make ritualistic theaters ; Jean-Louis Barrault ‘s “ total-theatre ” by utilizing all possible agencies to bring out the significance – witting or otherwise – of the drama ; and Jacques Le Coq ‘s theories of mummer, motion, masks, and ensemble, by utilizing the performing artists to make the environment. Berkoff has besides been seen to integrate some of the ocular techniques used in Kabuki, a extremely stylized, extremely rhythmic classicalJapanese signifier of theater. ‘Kabuki music rises about the organic structure of the histrion. It does non enforce itself upon the histrion, but alternatively gives musical and rhythmic look to his motion, and in making so increases the flow of theatrical expressiveness toward the audience. ‘ ( 1974, p.113 ) Another facet of Nipponese Kabuki is apparent in Berkoff ‘s traffics with masks and face pigment.

Even though Berkoff appropriated production manners from others and adapted the spoken words from a novel, the terminal consequence was unambiguously Berkovian. In Mediation of Metamorphosis ( 1995 ) Berkoff seems to somewhat dispute person to specify his manner when he writes, “ More than of all time I feel my work develop into a sort of school, non by stiff expression but by larning certain techniques which expand your political orientation and communicating accomplishments. ” ( 1995, p.137 ) There are subjects that have undeniably remained comparatively changeless throughout Berkoff ‘s work, subjects that can be seen as slightly of a base to the Berkovian theoretical model. These subjects I speak of are routed chiefly in the belief that the histrions inherent aptitudes should be trusted over all else and the occupation of theory is to assist arouse these inherent aptitudes. Berkoff ‘s common subjects of extended physical look, transmutation, and over-exaggerated experimental accent upon the spoken word should hence be used as a agency to arouse and overstate the histrion instincts when covering with the character.

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“ The ambiance is in the sound which should come from the pharynxs of the histrions. Therefore their sound can command and magnify their state of affairs, since people make sounds every bit good as traveling and talking. This is entire and human, and in this manner you return to the histrion his mimetic gifts and his unwritten expressiveness. At the same clip one is seeing the state of affairs in human footings, as a narrative told to us by participants. ” ( Gambit, 1978, p.17 )

Berkoff believes histrions should make their ain sounds and so breaks traditional mummer conventions. Like many of Le Coq ‘s pupils, Berkoff freely changes the pure signifier of mummer to make his ain single manner. Surprisingly Le Coq encourages this pattern as it essential to his belief in leting the histrion to work as an person, believing “ it is of import to be unfastened and non to copy the manner of person else because you will ne’er be every bit good as he is. Each is better in his ain manner ” ( Lust, p.106 ) .In pulling from this infusion it is clear that I believe Berkoff is frequently sometimes regarded excessively extremely for ‘originating ‘ his public presentation manner when thought in peculiar about his direction of single development. Most of his public presentation manner is derived from Le Coq who has been proven to hold steadfast roots in the pattern of Commedia delle Arte. It seems that most of the Berkovian individualism stems from his Berkoff ‘s ain idiosyncrasy. InModern and Post-Modern Mime, Thomas Leabhart summarizes the influences upon Le Coq:

“ Lecoq’sschool is one of those theaters that, instead than being a rsum of what has happened, has helped immature performing artists find new waies and so regenerate the theater. Lecoq ‘s whole vision of the theater is like Copeau ‘s, remain on the peripheries of the commercial theater, non desiring to give themselves to it as it exists. They, like their instructor, work apart, continue their artistic vision, nurture their strength, and steadily increase their power to act upon the class of theatre history. ” ( 1989, p.101-102 )

Like Lust ‘s definition of postmodern mummer, Leabhart ‘s sum-up of Le Coq ‘s influence is applicable to Berkoff.

Previously in 1973, Berkoff and The London Group declared their ain mission statement:

“ To show play in the most critical manner conceivable ; to execute at the tallness of one ‘s powers with all the available agencies. That is, through the spoken word, gesture, mummer and music. Sometimes the accent on one, sometimes on the other. ( Theatre Quarterly, 1978, p.39 )

This philosophical statement is an ideal illustration of the invariables that have remained throughout Berkoff ‘s subsequent calling ; stylised motion, mummer, overdone vocal work, direct reference, asides, and improvisation are constituents of about every Berkovian public presentation. Berkoff expects histrions to willingly sacrifice themselves physically and emotionally, ready to execute whatever undertakings are necessary to light the text.

When covering with texts, as a manager, Berkoff does non seek to bring forth a actual reproduction of texts on phase. It rare to see Berkoff trusting on the purpose of the writer, alternatively he uses the texts to relay his ain thoughts on phase. He has n’t denied this. He said himself said that his version of Hamlet ( 1979 ) was “ a dissection of the drama ” ( I am Hamlet, 1989 ) , and his theatrical production of Agamemnon was attempted as an “ analysis of the drama instead than a realistic rendition. ” ( 2007, p.123 )

Berkoff preponderantly ever sees the set as his ain duty as he believes that it is critical in conformity with his desired aesthetic and theoretical projection. Most of the clip he is seen to utilize minimalist sets normally dwelling of one stationary prop, a couch or a tabular array for illustration. He believes that any mental environment desired can be created utilizing mummer and so it is unneeded for inordinate usage of props. Many of his plants have been performed in tight close one-fourth environments with extended usage of glowering visible radiation and shadow which seek to stress the physical presence on phase.

Everlastingly on a pursuit for verve Berkoff is really prone to interrupt theatrical conventions, ensuing in a manner of to a great extent a contradictory nature. These contradictions are a partner of his finding “ to see how I could convey mime together with the spoken word as its opposite spouse, making the signifier and construction of the piece ” ( 1995, p.53 ) . Features such as this can be easy traced to his preparation with Jacques Le Coq, whom Thomas Leabhart, writer of And Post-Modern Mime ( 1989 ) , as modern learning “ mime to speak. ” ( 1989, p.101 ) To blend these antonyms, Berkoff relies on mummer, a traditionally soundless signifier, yet he cherishes the spoken word ; his productions are really extraordinary energy wise yet depend on great nuance ; the histrion should ne’er demo himself to be self-aware yet his presented ego is really much so ; Berkoff carefully choreographs motion yet he encourages improvisation.

Other beginnings of Berkovian theory is rooted in interviews and short articles ( some of which Berkoff has written ) which have been printed in assorted diaries. One the most important of these articles titled “ Three Theatre Manifestos. ” ( 1978 ) In an interview nowadays in the Three Theatre Manisfestos ( 1978 ) Berkoff outlines his doctrine which, harmonizing to him, has changed little through the old ages ; he summarizes his theories by saying:

“ In the terminal there is merely the histrion, his organic structure, head and voice… The histrion exists without the drama… he can improvize, be soundless, mummer, do sounds and be a informant. ” ( 1978, p.11 )

Another infusion from Three Theatre Manifestos depicts Berkoff sounding unusually similar to Antoni Artaud and his Threatre of Cruelty: “ Acting for me is the closest metaphor to human forfeit on the phase ” ; ( 1978, p.7 ) other echo the ideas of Brecht “ By depicting the accident, the informant becomes the accident ; he is at that place live overing it. ” ( 1978, p.11 ) The ocular elements of a Berkovian production are strikingly blunt. Classical Greek theater, Nipponese Kabuki, and Vsevelod Meyerhold ‘s constructivism, are peculiarly influential on Berkoff ‘s ocular aesthetic.By blending minimum sets with really theatrical costumes, masks, and lighting, the ocular focal point is on the histrion. Though the costumes draw attending to themselves, they serve to stress the performing artist and aid to make the environment and the word picture.

To pull a decision on Berkoff ‘s genuineness in theatre one must take at expression at his work in a broader sense. Berkoff ‘s part and influence upon theater is clear, but his topographic point as a name in history in questionable. Berkoff ‘s public presentation aesthetic will doubtless ever exist – in assorted different signifiers – but whether he will be credited with association is a inquiry for future historiographers. However because his work is exhaustively grounded in the plants of many celebrated theaters names his manner will doubtless be incorporated into many future creative persons works – wittingly or non.


  • Berkoff, S ( 1995 ) Mediations on Metamorphosis, London: Faber and Faber
  • Berkoff, S ( 1978 ) “ Three Theatre Manifestos. “ Gambit vol.32 p.7-21
  • Berkoff, S ( 1989 ) I am Hamlet. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, Interview with Anthony Claire.Anthony Claire Show. BBC Radio, London. N. digital audiotape.
  • Berkoff, S ( 1996 ) Agamemnon and The Fall of the House of Usher. Oxford: Amber Lane Press
  • Elder, B ( 1978 ) “ Making the Inexpressible Uncommonly Well. ” Theatre Quarterly, p.37-43
  • Ernst, E ( 1974 ) The Kabuki Theatre, Hawaii, University of Hawaii Press
  • Leabhart, T ( 1989 ) Modern and Post-Modern Mime. New York: St. Martin ‘s.
  • Lust, A ( 2000 ) From the Grecian Mimes to Marcel Marceau and Beyond: Mimes, Actors, Pierrots, and Clowns: A History Of The Many Visages Of Mime In Theatre. Kent, Scarecrow.
  • Keefe, J ( 2007 ) Physical theaters: A Critical Reader, London, Routledge

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