Acting & Professional Development Training 2017 – 2018  

“A day without laughter is a day wasted” – Charlie Chaplin

Commedia dell’Arte Two Day Masterclass

Dates:      Saturday Dec 2nd & 9th 2017
Time:       10am-3.30pm
Venue:    The Actor’s Workshop, FACTORY 8, First Floor, Upton Road, Southville, Bristol BS3 1QZ
Cost:         £70
Booking: by PayPal through The Actors’ Workshop 

An intensive two days of physical play!

Commedia dell’Arte provides a core training for actors working with physical theatre, comedy and masks. Having worked for over twenty years with this form, Cheryl draws on a wealth of experience in this two day, practical masterclass. The focus will be the use of comic techniques, bringing to life the archetypal characters, and exploration of comic slapstick. We will explore classic lazzi from A Servant of Two Masters and slapstick sequences from Accidental Death of an Anarchist, amongst other sources. With the foundations laid in week one, the second workshop will take participants into greater detail of characterisation, relationships and devising scenarios, ending with in-class performances and discussions. Whether you are an actor, a teacher, a director or a student, you will find this masterclass invaluable training. Participants will need a good level of fitness as this is high energy work!

Olly Webb
Workshop Participant

Sat Dec 2nd – Masterclass Day One:

  • The movement, mannerisms and behaviours of the stock characters
  • The origins and development of the characters and the form
  • The voice of the mask using the breath, grummelot and dialogue.
  • The key principles of mask work
  • Audience interaction
  • Comic techniques
  • Devising using spontaneous improvisation

Our starting point is the physicality of the characters exploring movement and behaviour, then relationships between characters with classic pairings e.g. Master and servant, Doctor and patient, dumb and dumber fools. Staging and the relationship with the audience is considered throughout along with comic devices to allow the mask to work effectively. We recreate well known lazzi and work on short scenarios. There is an element of performing to the rest of the group as the day progresses, as a comic mask needs an audience to play off and much is learnt from watching and analysing others in the mask.

Sat Dec 9th – Masterclass Day Two:

  • A deeper exploration of the repertoires of the main stock characters
  • Honing and refinement of your characterisation through the masks, both vocally and physically
  • Development of comic material (e.g. lazzi, tirante, sproloquio, concetti)
  • A focus on staging, complicite, audience interaction and comic techniques
  • Rehearsal, performance, reflection and refinement to fully understand how to work the masks in performance.

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run in association with The Actors’ Workshop.
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The Expressionist Theatre of Steven Berkoff – CPD Workshop


Dates:      Saturday April 21st 2018
Time:       10am-4pm
Venue:    Five Ashes Village Hall, East Sussex, TN20 6JA
Cost:         £65, including lunch
Booking: through Off The Text Workshops

This practical workshop is designed for drama teachers to provide them with a set of tools and techniques that will be easily transferable to the classroom. Cheryl will clearly reference a range of practitioners who have inspired Berkoff’s practice to lead him to develop his distinctive Berkovian aesthetic. This knowledge, together with the skills and techniques learnt, can be passed on to inform your students’ practice and applied to the students’ own performance and portfolio work. The workshop will cover:

  • The Expressionist Mask – exaggerated characterisation using body, face and voice to create a stylised total character mask without the need of the physical item of the mask (Grotowski).

  • The Chorus of Heightened Expression: The Berkoff Wall. Creating psychological and physical environments with a group of performers; using tension states and ‘masks’ to create choral tableau that mirror, amplify, comment on the emotions of the protagonist (Lecoq).

  • The Grotesque Human-Animal. Individually, and as a chorus we will work with animal states and exaggeration to link to Metamorphosis and the creation of the human beetle (Lecoq/Artaud).

  • Corporeal Mime (Decroux) starting from isolations and plastiques (Grotowski) leading into rhythm and synchronisation (Meyerhold). Working with the metronome beat to control and syncopate movement, finding precision, choral movement, expressive ‘mie’ (Kabuki). This is about working from the body to the mind, bridging the gap between impulse and image, allowing the body to create the image for the mind; wearing the emotion on the outside.

  • Physicalisation of Language – vocal patterning, vocal effects, range, emphasis, exaggeration, soundscaping, choral voice, taking the imagery into the voice.

  • The Actor-Spectator Dynamic (Brecht) direct address; illeism (3rd person voice); asides and comic timing.

Extracts and sequences from a range of Berkoff’s plays will be explored. Whether you are seeking fresh inspiration for teaching Metamorphosis, looking for techniques to inspire devising or wanting to enhance your practice with a deeper understanding of expressionism, rooted in the work of practitioners, grab your place on this course now – limited places available.

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Register your interest in our future workshops

We are currently putting together a series of workshops for 2018. If there are specific workshops you would be interested in us running, please do email us to register your interest:

Past workshops & masterclasses

Berkoff Physical Theatre Workshop

To express drama in the most vital way imaginable; to perform at the height of one’s powers with all available means.” (Berkoff)

Explore Steven Berkoff’s approach to physical theatre through an entirely practical day. Renowned for his powerfully expressive, physical character pieces, that reject notions of naturalism, in favour of blatant theatricality, Steven Berkoff’s distinctive style is both popular and controversial.

Tony Bennett
Head of Drama, Balcarras

This Berkoff day will incorporate:
  • Exaggerated characterisation using body, face and voice to create a stylised total character mask
  • The chorus of heightened expression to create psychological and physical environments
  • Stylised, corporeal mime
  • Physicalisation of the voice using the vivid language of Berkoff’s plays
  • The actor-spectator dynamic

A Commedia dell’Arte Play in a Day

Creating a traditional Commedia dell’Arte play in a day! The characters and their relationships are the starting point to create a plot that can then be expanded through improvisation, devising and physical storytelling. Participants develop skills in comedy, characterisation and stagecraft and use devices and techniques such as lazzi, grommelot and slapstick. The day is entirely practical and fast-paced requiring a good level of physical fitness and stamina and will culminate in the performance of a play to your invited audience.

  • Commedia character types and maschèmi (a repertoire of characteristics peculiar to particular characters)
  • Mask performance techniques
  • Spontaneous improvisation
  • Comic action and slapstick (lazzi)
  • Grommelot (gibberish used in Commedia, at times, in place of conversation)
  • Complicite and movement in the stage space
  • Devising from canovaccio (a simple plot outline for improvisation)

Slapstick Comedy large_safetylastclock

A full day of Slapstick Comedy uncovering the tricks and techniques of the comic greats (The Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, et al). This high energy one day workshop will teach participants how to create comic characters (with and without masks), drawing on the archetype of the fool.

Participants will learn a range of comic devices like the double take, the comic stop and spoof violence! We will look at the origins of slapstick in Commedia dell’Arte using actual slapsticks (battocchio) as used by the famous zanni characters, in particular Harlequin.

You’ll develop an understanding of stage craft and explore solo work, comic sequences and scenes. Whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned pro this is a chance to throw aside your inhibitions, brush up your skills and enjoy playing the fool.

Led by comedy teacher and director Cheryl Parmenter.

The Comedy Double Act

Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise, Rik and Ade, Reeves and Mortimer …

Learn how to make ’em laugh with the slapstick physical comedy routines of the comic greats. Tracing the roots of the double act through stage, silent screen and sitcom you’ll play in comic duos such as the Master and Servant, the Charlatan and Stooge and the Dumb and Dumber Clowns.

The only masks used will be the simple red nose. Silly hats and comic props will be in abundance. Feel free to bring random objects with comic potential (!)

The masterclass covers:

  • Comic performance techniques
  • Comic devices and timing
  • Grommelot communication
  • Physical slapstick sequences

cropped-mumconhead-1Mummers Workshop

A practical workshop for Mummer Performers focusing on physical comedy and timing. How to spice up a performance and get the most out of an existing script looking at the physicality of the characters and the buffoonery of the quack Doctor, who originates from the Commedia dell’Arte.  Run as part of the International Mummers Unconvention 2016.

132Acting with Masks

This 10 week course introduces you to performing in a mask, using comic character masks from the traditional form Commedia dell’Arte.

Teaching the key principles of mask work and comic physical theatre, the weekly two hour sessions focus on accessing characters from physical starting points and developing the essential stage craft to allow masks to play effectively in the space. Movement, mannerisms and repartee for comic archetypal characters will be explored, scenes will be devised and a final presentation will be worked towards. The history of Commedia dell Arte will be delved into as it is inextricably linked to the characters and performing them making this an ideal basis for an extended study/dissertation research.

storybook2Telling Tales

An Intro to Simple Acting Techniques for Parents & Carers.

Have you ever wished you were better at telling stories?
Would you like to join in your child’s imaginary games with enthusiasm?
I can teach you how to tell stories to make kids listen.
You will learn to love reading aloud, to feel confident releasing your imagination and to really bring characters to life.

zanni_sketch_invertCreating Characters

Have you ever wished you could tell a story and really make the characters come to life for an audience? Through connecting you with your body and voice, learn how to use them as expressive tools as a way into creating wonderful, fun characters.

  • Characterisation
  • How to use your body expressively
  • Physical storytelling

Techniques used:

  • Theatre games
  • Interaction
  • Movement
  • Gentle exploration of masks
  • Improvisation
  • And a bit of slapstick comedy!