'A series of simple tasks that speak of life and nature' Joseph Chaikin, in The Presence of the Actor
In 2005 a group of actors and directors began to meet to read plays, aiming simply to rediscover and enjoy great works of dramatic literature. By 2007 Presence Theatre was formed. The company has since presented a number of performances and staged readings and continues to hold workshops approaching different genres of drama from the actor's and director's perspective and with the audience always in view. In 2009, the company acquired charitable status.
Presence Theatre believes that the theatre is an art form whose primary strength lies in the power of the actor and the word. We think this must remain the case even, and perhaps especially, when the form of a production is innovative. We embrace the classical and modern repertoire as well as new plays, and furthermore we seek to address the problem of the ever-shrinking repertoire in our mainstream theatres. We broadly seek to heal the divisions which have been imposed between the various forms of theatre in the last decades and to help to advance the medium in every sphere: art, production, education and community.
There is a wealth of material, both contemporary and historical, which remains largely untouched by the main houses. We do not mean 'neglected classics', or 'discoveries' (the same authors periodically dug up officially), but rather works from a different imaginative or moral universe, that can (by that very resource) enrich, inform and 'quicken' our present moment with fresh experiences, perspectives and intensities; that favours resonance over topicality. Lorca defined theatre as 'poetry standing up'. Poetry, whether verbal or physical, is surely the point
We also aspire to an approach to acting and directing partly inspired by the American actor/director Joseph Chaikin, from whose book The Presence of the Actorour name is derived. This is principally about engaging with the form or forms of a drama before making decisions about behaviour or character, in order to achieve 'a series of simple tasks which speak of life and nature'
In addition to staging productions, we run a very popular and long-running monthly professional actors' play reading group, exploring new writing, often with the writer in attendance, as well as unfamiliar UK and International repertoire, the latter often in new translations; we also run developmental workshops and projects and run this website as a forum for exploring and promoting new and unfamiliar drama and furthering debates and discussions.
We have a diverse and vibrant group of professional actors who come along to out reading group sessions whenever they can. We also have an ever-growing general mailing list. And we look to link up with practitioners and companies around the world. At the moment we are planning to workshop and stage readings of new work from the exciting theatre culture of Quebec; Norwegian drama, including the extraordinary work of Jon Fosse; the hugely diverse and powerful plays of veteran Argentinian playwright Griselda Gambaro, as well as exploring the UK Early Modern repertoire of Jacobean and Caroline drama. Productions in development include a new play by Laurie Slade, Supermoon The openness is all.