Acting & Professional Development Training

Acting & Professional Development Training

“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 2018-19
Run in association with

A Commedia dell’Arte Play in a Day

Date:         Saturday 9th February 2019
Time:        10:00-15:30
Venue:     The Actors’ Workshop, FACTORY 8, First Floor, Upton Road, Southville, Bristol BS3 1QZ
Cost:           £35 (Students/Equity £25)
Booking:   via The Actors’ Workshop 

If you already have a grounding in commedia dell’arte and would like to stretch your commedia muscles then join us for a ‘play day’ with the characters. Just like the actors of this Renaissance form, the group will work from a simple scenarioto create a 20 minute performance by the end of the day. During this intensive session, you will:

  • Sharpen and refine your mask performance skills
  • Rehearse speeches, songs, routines and comic devices, such as lazzi, burle and concetti
  • Develop stagecraft, considering 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 have a special skill, please bring your instrument or tools! 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. 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.

Expressionist Theatre

Date:         Saturday 9th March 2019
Time:        10:00-15:30
Venue:     The Actors’ Workshop, FACTORY 8, First Floor, Upton Road, Southville, Bristol BS3 1QZ
Cost:           £35 (Students/Equity £25)
via The Actors’ Workshop 

This masterclass will transport you from reality to the dream-like – sometimes nightmarish – world of expressionist theatre, where characters are distorted and stylised; language becomes heightened, rhapsodic and rhythmic; narrative becomes disjointed and episodic reflecting the internal struggles of the characters.

This physical day will stretch and challenge you, covering all this and more:

  • A range of physical and vocal techniques (from Lecoq, Brecht, Grotowski, Berkoff);
  • The expressionist ‘mask’ – using body, face and voice to create exaggerated characterisation;
  • The chorus of heightened expression;
  • Grotesque human-animal work;
  • Soundscaping, vocal patterning and the physicalisation of language;
  • The actor-spectator dynamic.

Extracts from Sophie Treadwell’s expressionist drama, Machinal, as well as Berkoff’s plays, such as Metamorphosis will be examined practically. Handouts will be provided to accompany the masterclass. Ideal CPD for teachers and directors or intensive physical training for actors wishing to extend their expressive capacity. No pre-requisite training or knowledge required.

“Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?”
Marcel Marceau

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.

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 culminates in the performance of a play to an invited audience.

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 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.

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 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!