Cheryl Parmenter on training with Gaulier: The elusive search for presence

You either have it or you don’t. That is what we are led to believe. Certain actors have the innate ability to compel without words, projecting an aura that makes an audience hold its breath.

In training with Philippe Gaulier, very few students ever impressed him. Failure became a daily occurrence. What was he looking for? ‘I will know it when I see it. You must find it. You must have pleasure.’

Playing a bouffon clown in class one day, I waited outside the door for the command to enter. Unsure of what would happen beyond the door, my mind raced: I could burst into song; I could trip over my feet … Each time I thought I had nailed it, I was greeted with ‘You leave!’

Seven times I entered, seven times I was sent back to re-enter: ‘Again! With pleasure!’

By the tenth time, I was frustrated, fuming and feeling utterly vulnerable. My mind was a fog of emotions unable to conjure any ideas. I threw the door open and furiously entered: ‘Alright! This is all I’ve got!’


This is an extract from an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Theatre, Dance and Performance Training on 20/07/17.

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