Tyrone Isaac-Stuart and Isaac Ouro-Gnao have a candid conversation on the tour so far and ways to elevate the work further.
Father Figurine is as multidisciplinary as the cast involved. The work tells its father-son relationship story through dance, music, acting, spoken word poetry or a combination of them all.
And all these mediums have been used to great effect so far. Our Omnibus Theatre audiences (Jan 4 and 5) described the play as a “detailed performance” with music to acting being “engaging and though-provoking”.
One audience member even commended us on our relationship on stage saying “it is rare in dance to see a parent-child relationship which is believable. It was performed with great honesty and integrity. I also felt the performers were emotionally involved”.
Yet it’s this very medium – acting – and the use of emotions with depth that brought out a realisation in our conversation as we looked back at the first performances. There is more to tap in to.
“I remember breaking down in the second [performance] and in some ways that was eye-opening for me,” says Tyrone. “I was trying to feel the emotion of crying… and the combination the physical sensation from you holding onto me, pulling me and me pulling back, all intensified the physical sensation of the emotion. That in some ways helped unlock the crying state. [But] I was just a bit [surprised] as to how the emotions came out like that. What it did make me reflect on from that was it made me question how to replicate that.”
That in some ways helped unlock the crying state. [But] I was just a bit [surprised] as to how the emotions came out like that. What it did make me reflect on from that was it made me question how to replicate that.”
Acting from a dancer’s perspective is a unique experience. Often, it isn’t the primary tool. It’s rather secondary or complimentary. Therefore, the approach to emotional connection on stage can either be unconventional or linear to that of an actor. The method we habitually rely on is method acting – drawing from personal moments past to unlock the emotional state required for a character.
“Last month I was able to hang out with some actors and I was involved with how they approached certain things,” Tyrone adds. “One of the things I found quite interesting was that, to them, showing the emotion of crying isn’t just about crying. The tears may not come out but what’s more powerful is their awareness of the emotion they’re trying to portray. Knowing that there are different techniques to getting the same emotion. For some actors it’s not about drawing on traumatic experiences because they don’t find it sustainable to be doing show after show and thinking about the time someone died, or the time xyz happened, as that can be traumatic in itself. It’s not necessarily a healthy way to do it.”
And I second that. The nature of the beast of this piece is all the mediums working in tandem and harmony. And acting, although strong, is the medium we can elevate much further. Over the past few years, Father Figurine had the help of two dramaturgs in its R&D phases. And I’ve been at the centre of taking their tools and techniques on board. Tyrone has been in the hip hop theatre world for a while and is well versed in characterisation.
Tyrone also stepped into the process in December last year, over a two-week period, acclimatised to everything from script to choreography, and embodied the character so well that our relationship on stage was applauded. This speaks volumes of his talents, of our talents complimenting each other. Undoubtedly.
However, we’re aware of what can make us as multidisciplinary artists applying acting techniques, and ultimately Father Figurine, even stronger. There is more we can tap into. There are healthier ways to be emotionally expressive, and there are healthier ways to heal and approach trauma. Much like Father Figurine asks of its characters, it seems to be asking the same of us. A beautiful irony.
Father figurine continues its tour at Cornerstone Arts Aentre, Didcot (Thursday 28 February); The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury (Friday 8 March); Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (Friday 15 March); and Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London (Tuesday 19 & Wednesday 20 March)