Reactor Core Theatre
New kid on the block …
Philip Shepherd is the director of Reactor Core Theatre – a company that is dedicated to the core philosophy of his book, New Self, New World. The implications of that philosophy urge a liberation of theatre from its custom of literal, fourth-wall representations – in which actors pretend to be characters in a story and take on the job of expressing the emotions and reactions of those characters at the appropriate times and in proportion to what is happening on stage, so as to sustain the audience’s belief in what is happening.
Theatre as ‘literal representation’ is a relatively recent phenomenon that owes much to the influences of film and television: in their ability to present every last visual and auditory detail of a scene, those media render the audience’s imagination more or less functionally redundant. Imagination, though, is the very lifeblood of the theatre. If we are to change theatre to honour the role of imagination, we have to change the way we honour the performer’s role.
Naturalism can no longer be the actor’s aim – but nor should we aim to develop a formalized style of performance, although such styles have served Japanese Noh, Chinese Opera and Kathakali, among others, for centuries. The formalization of such styles is supported by and expresses, intentionally or not, a tacit hierarchy – something that resonates deeply for us still, but which cannot naturally arise as an expression of our 21st century culture: the doubts we harbour about the hierarchies we live with are too deep-seated.
If we look to those time-honoured theatre traditions, though, we find that the aim of the performer was not to express a style; rather, the aim of the style was to allow the performer to live and make manifest the mystery that runs through and sustains all things. In the re-conceived provenance of RCT, that ancient task is the one that the actor takes on – and it is a task that asks of the actor, above all, a self-achieved surrender. The outcome is not an abandonment of style; instead, the formalization of a style is replaced with the forms of a liberated sensitivity.
If an actor’s movements and voice and expressiveness are to arise from the lived mystery, the actor can only succeed through devotion – a devotion carried into practice through the deepest possible physical training, and a heart that has been opened to the world’s subtle wholeness. That is the principle that guides RCTin all it does – and we have found that engaging in that work fulfills all that we as theatre artists have been called to offer of ourselves.
RCTis a subsidiary of Phyzikal Theatre, which is a registered, non-profit organization. Those wishing to support the work of RCTin any way are welcome to contact us. And if you are able to offer financial assistance, you would receive not only a tax-deductible receipt – but our astonished gratitude for supporting us in our goals and helping us on our way.
Philip is currently working on a new script for a one-man show and is hoping to produce a workshop version of it early in 2014.
Actor’s reel – scenes from film and television: