The fortnight prior to the start of term, other students may have been lounging with a turkey filled belly, slowly getting ready for the return to college. For the Ad Astra Performing Arts actors, we were already up and running with intensive training and rehearsals for the semester ahead. On Sunday the 4th of January we ventured to Sligo where we would stay for the week, training with the Blue Raincoat Theatre Academy at The Factory performance space. This is the fourth year running that the acting strand has included this workshop in the program and, for me, it was my second experience and I couldn’t wait to get started.

The workshop is given by David Goldsworthy from the Roy Heart Theatre. Roy Heart was an actor of South African origin who founded the theatre along with David and many others in the 1970’s. Their techniques were experimental and innovative, straying from the traditional and restrictive methodology employed during that time. Their aim was to free the voice from any physical and psychological restrictions self-imposed by the individual based on preconceived notions of what the voice ‘should’ sound like. Founders and teachers of this technique relocated to France, specifically a chateau in the South and occasionally venture around the world to teach workshops, such as our one in Sligo.

Our days consisted of an early rise thanks to the eight alarm clocks in our small room. Then breakfast and an easy warm up consisting of stretches, massages and rubbing. Our morning class focused on improvisation, group work, partnering up to work on breathing tension and any parts of the body that were inhibiting our vocal production. A short tea break followed and then we were back in to surround the piano and work on our vocal quality and range. Along with scales, arpeggios, a bit of barking, growling and screaming, we learnt two four-part traditional songs, the first from Kenya, the second from Russia. After a few days the melody was familiar enough to us that we were able to belt it out and improvise around the rhythm and the harmonies.



We had a break for lunch which usually consisted of soup to warm us up in the cold weather, then throughout the afternoon we focused on individual tutoring. Each person had prepared one or two songs which they performed to the class and David, unaccompanied. These songs ranged from David Bowie, to Cabaret to Elton John and Raglan road. After singing it through once, David would make us do something bizarre to shake off our nerves and the tremor in our voice, whether that is sprinting around the space, being chased by girls, doing a twisted contemporary dance or simply taking a breath between phrases. Throughout the week, every member of the class improved dramatically and the results over the past year for some of us have been phenomenal.


For the evenings we worked as a company, developing ideas for our ‘work in progress’ performance in April. I won’t give away anything yet but all I can say is that it is not to be missed. Last week we came back to UCD to do a week of physical training with our director in residence Kellie Hughes. We are also delighted to be joined this semester by Roisin Laffan who started the program in 2012 but took last year out to tour with a contemporary dance company. The nine of us worked in the morning doing corporeal mime training, continuing our work from Barcelona in the summer. Our afternoons were spent in a workshop mode, collaborating scenes from plays, some old, some new, as well as poetry, music and some of our own written work. I have probably said too much already but if you are intrigued, watch this space and pop down to see our performance in April!