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.

To read the rest of this article, view it online here:

Workshops for GCSE and A Level studies

Here’s an idea for next academic year to help you and your students get to grips with set texts and find confidence in physical theatre: I’ve just updated the Education Workshops page with workshops on Accidental Death of An Anarchist, The Servant of Two Masters and Berkoff’s Expressionist Theatre. I have loved working on the specific detail of these texts this year to bring them to life with students.  And getting stuck into Berkoff and expressionism has unleashed a whole new raft of ideas to share. I can’t wait to share them with you! Book me in early to benefit from this year’s workshop prices 🙂

Another fantastic day of Commedia dell’Arte!

Thanks to a wonderful group of performers for a brilliant, high energy day of Commedia dell’Arte last Saturday. I always love to work with new people as I find I learn so much from you. The day brought together academics, actors, teachers and others seeking a new experience in a fantastic mix that resulted in funny, engaging scenes, hilarious characterisation and fervent discussion. The true art of comedy can be discovered when we play the stock characters in performance and explore the relationship with the audience. As was observed by several performers on Saturday, it is difficult to predict how donning the mask and stepping out from behind the backdrop will transform you; you become someone else in a way that can take both you and the audience by surprise. A pleasure to observe.

There is never enough time in a day though! There is much more to explore and so many more characters to learn about … so watch this space for the follow workshop!