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An inspiring encounter

Updated: Jun 17, 2019

Actor Emma Thompson describes Complicite as the greatest trailblazers in our theatrical history.

It’s always fascinating to spend time exploring another artist’s creative process. This afternoon, a group of twenty two of Perth artists did just that, taking part in a workshop led by Richard Katz, the lone performer in Complicite’s work The Encounter, now showing at PIAF.

The workshop was hosted by Black Swan State Theatre Company as part of the PIAF Connectprogram. PIAF Connect is a series of events that allows artists and arts lovers to engage with some of the brilliant minds visiting our city. As one of the most isolated cities in the world this kind of artistic cross-fertilisation is crucial for our arts community.

It is a great pleasure to work with an artist from such a remarkable company. Founded in 1983, Complicite’s 34 year body of work includes breathtaking devised work and boldly reimagined classics. Over this time the London-based company has remained in both the technological and imaginative vanguard of the theatre world. The Encounter is no exception. The show features “3D sound” as a single storyteller takes his headphone-wearing audience on a journey deep into the remote amazon rainforest.

The Encounter, by a quantum leap, is the most effective and affecting use of the technology I’ve seen to date.
Sydney Morning Herald

In person Katz is warm, curious and funny. He begins with a framing that there is no one single “Complicite technique”, as each show requires its own approach, and each artist from the company has their unique perspective. But the company is built on some shared principles and some shared ways of working together. Part of that culture includes an endless refinement of work: each show is in a constant state of evolution, even to point of tweaking elements before the last performance in a ten year run (The Encounter, for instance, has been modified since its Sydney season).

Some of the key ideas that Katz shares in the session include cultivating a heightened awareness of stumbles, mistakes and rough edges when making work – the imperfections are often the most interesting parts of any exercise and can be an entry point into story. He encourages performers to find ease in the work as we improvise, to “watch sideways”, developing an awareness of the group as a whole. And he recommends always just making something, rather than sitting and talking: “until you have material, you have nothing to talk about”, so getting on the floor and making things is crucial.

Key questions:

  • · Is it good enough?

  • · What are we watching?

  • · What are we listening to?

  • · What is the story?

There is a limited amount of actual work you can do in a single workshop session, but in a way this is beside the point. The priceless thing this kind of event provides is a window into a theatre maker’s sensibility, their way of being in the room and their quality of attention. And it was a much needed chance for some of the Perth arts community to get together in a studio and play! Thanks PIAF Connect!

Richard Katz, left, with elevator full of Perth legends

You can catch The Encounter at His Majesty’s Theatre for PIAF until 25 Feb. The work sold out in Sydney, so be quick!

Want yet more Complicite? For a very limited time, you can stream their latest work here for free: a critically lauded production Beware of Pity, produced in partnership with Berlin’s Schaubühne theatre. The show promises to be a “devastating depiction of honour, love and betrayal, realised against the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire”. The filmed version will only be available live for another ten days (until 26 Feb).

But do go see the live one too. It will be pretty special…

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