Acting & Development Workshops & Masterclasses

“There are three masks: the one we think we are,
the one we really are, and the one we have in common”
Jacques Lecoq

If there are specific workshops you would be interested in us running, please do contact us here or by email to register your interest:

Masterclasses 2019

Commedia dell’Arte Play in a Day: 19th October 2019

in association with The Shoebox Theatre

When:  Saturday, 19th October 2019, 12:00 midday – 6:00pm

Where: Shoebox Theatre, Health Hydro, Milton Road, Swindon, SN1 1JA

How much: £35

Book now: via The Shoebox’s Box Office

Hone your acting skills and create a play, in just one day! This masterclass offers an opportunity to extend your commedia dell’arte performance ability as you explore how the characters interact and improvise to create a fast-paced, energised, comic show. You will work as a Renaissance troupe of commedia actors would have done: devising and rehearsing a performance from a the starting point of a simple scenario (an unscripted, outline of a play). During this intensive session, you will:

  • Sharpen and refine your mask performance skills
  • Devise and rehearse songs, routines and comic gags (lazzi)
  • Improvise scenes and script key speeches
  • Develop stagecraft, considering energy, pacing, timing and proxemics
  • Extend your understanding of the style

Can you juggle, perform acrobatics, walk a tight rope, dance en pointe, play an instrument or perhaps, stage fight? Many commedia actors were multi-skilled, so if you do have a special skill, please bring the performance tools you need. Whether or not you bear additional skills, everyone should be prepared to sing, dance and laugh – a lot!

You will need a good practical knowledge of the commedia dell’arte stock characters to benefit fully from this masterclass. This is the ideal follow on from the Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte.

The day is entirely practical and fast-paced requiring a good level of physical fitness and stamina and culminates in the performance of a play to which you are welcome to invite friends (from 5pm).

Le Bouffon: 2nd November 2019

in association with The Actors’ Workshop

When:  Saturday, 2nd November 2019, 10:00am – 3:30pm

Where: The Actors’ Workshop, Factory 8, First Floor, Upton Road, Southville, Bristol BS3 1QZ

How much: £35 / £25 (students/Equity members)

Book now: via The Actors’ Workshop

Do you … Want to push your practice forward?

Reach new limits in your artistic exploration?

Create funnier, more lovable, more hideous or more outrageous characters?

Create more meaningful connections with your audience and build a more open and free stage presence?

Bouffon is a satirical and dark style of comedy created from the perspective of the outcasts of society. It’s grotesque and ugly, yet beautiful and poignant. The bouffon is the inverse of the clown. Where the clown stands alone to invite the audience to laugh at his ridiculousness, the bouffon is part of a gang who laugh at the ridiculousness of the audience. Combining elements of burlesque, commedia dell’arte, satire, parody, farce, gallows humour, and slapstick, this is the blackest of comedy forms.

“In the Bouffon workshop we learn to be a big person who enjoys being small, with a special additional pleasure enjoyed by those people: the blasphemy.”  

Philippe Gaulier

This workshop helps you to:

  • find pleasure in mockery, wit, ridicule and parody;
  • create a bouffon body as a complete character mask;
  • develop acting techniques to shape-shift between characters that are comic, lovable, hideous and outrageously grotesque;
  • understand the mechanics of choral, movement-based improvisation;
  • create meaningful connections with an audience, building a more open and free stage presence.

This is a chance to liberate your creative thinking and practice facing life head on. Throw out the social rule book and join us for a day of outrageous playfulness! Suitable for performers, directors, teachers and anyone who feels brave, bold and a little bit brazen.

Participants should bring some old, baggy, garish clothes that can be stretched, stuffed, turned and twisted. Padding and make-up will be provided.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Proverbs 17:22

Past workshops & masterclasses

The Theatre of Steven Berkoff: Expressionism


Expressionism as a style of acting takes you to the polar opposite of Realism where vivid, dream-like worlds are created. Characters are distorted and stylised; language becomes heightened, rhapsodic and rhythmic; narrative becomes disjointed and episodic driven more by the internal struggles of the characters in relation to a central theme, than by logical narrative progression. In this workshop we will explore a range of techniques (from Lecoq, Meyerhold, Copeau, Decroux, Brecht, Grotowski and others) that have shaped the expressionist performance style epitomised by Steven Berkoff. The workshop covers the expressionist mask, exaggerated characterisation, the chorus of heightened expression, grotesque human-animal, corporeal mime, the physicalisation of language and the actor-spectator dynamic.

Movement Narratives

At the core of physical theatre is the ability to tell a story through the connection and communication of physical bodies in the space. This masterclass looks at how every day, pedestrian behaviours can become a language for theatre and how our bodies often speak louder than words.

This workshop looks at techniques drawn from contemporary dance, contact improv, as well as the work of Complicité,  Frantic Assembly, Punchdrunk, DV8 and Kneehigh with reference to practitioners such as Jacques Lecoq, Artaud, Berkoff and Grotowski.

The Comedy Double Act

Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise, Mayall and Edmondson, Reeves and Mortimer… Comic double acts have been appearing on our screens and stages for over a century, but what makes them so timelessly funny?  This workshop traces the roots of the double act back through sitcom, stage and the silent screen playing in comic duos such as the Master and Servant; the Charlatan and Stooge and the Dumb and Dumber Clowns.


Slapstick Comedy

large_safetylastclockA 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 teaches participants how to create comic characters (with and without masks), drawing on the archetype of the fool.

Participants learn a range of comic devices like the double take, the comic stop and spoof violence! We look at the origins of slapstick in Commedia dell’Arte using actual slapsticks (battocchio) as used by the famous zanni characters, in particular Harlequin. Develop an understanding of stage craft and explore solo work, comic sequences and scenes. Ideal for complete novices or seasoned pros. A chance to throw aside your inhibitions, brush up your skills and enjoy playing the fool.

Mummers Workshop

cropped-mumconhead-1A 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.

Acting with Masks

132This ran as a 10 week course that introduced skills for 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 focussed 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 were explored, scenes devised and a final presentation was worked towards. The history of Commedia dell Arte was delved into as it is inextricably linked to the characters and performing them making this an ideal basis for an extended study/dissertation research.

Simple Acting Techniques for parents and carers:

Telling Tales


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.

Creating 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. The workshop covers characterisation, how to use your body and voice expressively and physical storytelling and animation.  Techniques used: Theatre games, interaction, movement, gentle exploration of masks, improvisation and a bit of slapstick comedy!