ROY HART THEATRE
'THE BACCHAE' presented as 'THE FRONTAE' 1970
....at the 'Round House Theatre
Notes on the production..;;;.....................,
from an essay by Dorothy Hart
In Euripides time some discerning minds disbelieved in.. the existence of the gods as such, being dimly aware of man's multi-dimensional nature and the meaning of projecting his own passions outside himself, but many less-dis-cerning minds were questioning the existence of these unconscious forces altogether. It is obvious that Suripides himself was aware of the stark reality of psychological laws and how they worked, and though he may at times appear to cast his gods in a poor light, the danger of belittling the power of unconscious drives, is constantly and compellingly reiterated. The working of psychological laws are as real and ruthless today as ever they were.
The inclusiveness of the eight-octave approach to life is the foundation-of our whole philosophy. By being inclusive, a philosophy, is not necessarily permissive, A variety of sounds, ugly and beautiful are used by the chorus and by the main characters, both in speech and song, but these sounds are not used arbitrarily. They seek to be the handmaiden to-the meaning of each phrase of the play, the meaning of each phrase by each individual .concerned. Both male and female performers interchange with 'male' and 'female' sounds and this is our rebellion, as distinct from the rebellion of the hippies or homosexuals, against the previous generations over polarisation of the sexes. The long haired men, the male-voiced masculine women are outward expressions of what is fundamentally an inner problem - the search for the hermaphroditic personality in each one of us ... We aim at disciplined variety not licence. The play has on different occasions been enacted from beginning to end, or in large sections, in complete gibberish, yet anyone familiar with the original words of the play - as the cast themselves are - could still follow sentence by sentence the original sequence of the play......
.... The original script of Philip Veltacott's translation into English has been learned in its entirety by majority of the present cast, a discipline to which they were subjected over a year ago. “In the beginning was the Word". This was the backbone of the production. As the production grew and gave flesh to this backbone, the value of non-script became recognised. Different members of. the cast were encouraged to express their own meaningful associations with any part of the play... The play had taken on the dimensions of a dream, fusing Euripide time with our time and all time... The script still remains intact with only one or two vertebrae removed as the spine was a little, unwieldy to suit the speed .of modern life... The non-script consists of some 'addenda' originally spontaneous and now adapted and 'set', and also of spontaneous material, new to each performance. This keeps the production in a permanently growing state and ensures that each performance is a cathartic ritual relating specifically to the present situation...
.... the only way we have found it possible to do this through the continuity of our. experience of each other and the play.......
..... The performers do not wish to appear as illusion-builders, but as human beings exposing their humanity to other human beings, not for entertainment, but for the enlightenment of all. Newcomers to our group have been incorporated in the play on a second or third acquaintance with it, and this in front of an audience of strangers to thorn. We risk what little 'harm' this might do to the 'artistic' merits of the production, believing that the valid human experience is the basis of our art...
.... We do not take part in student riots or take an active role in politics in general, but we are forming policies that foretell the coming social structure. The Greeks put on masks: we are taking them off, and showing who we are ….
…. tonight's performance will be the first in which musical and other, instruments are used, as an extension of the body's ability to express itself. This came about in response to Roy Hart's recent contact with three well-known composers of our time, Henze, Maxwell-Davies, Stockhausen, and their starkly, different approaches to instruments and instrumentalists with whom they work. Being very aware of this moment in history as it reveals itself in our personal lives, modern music and art, politics, science and the whole spectrum of human projections, Roy Hart knew there was a general historical evolutionary reason why composers at opposite ends of the experimental musical pole such as Henze and Stockhausen had both made an immediate strong response to their first hearing of the sounds in his voice. We are surrounded by such a plenitude of our own projected extensions that we are in danger of losing a sense of our own bodily identity; and the artist knows ... he must constantly try to link his intuitive thoughts and feelings and this external plenitude. Maxwell-Davies has become known for linking his present with his musical inheritance, selecting from the plethora of -past musical idiom relevant links for himself. Henze has also kept a close tie with his musical roots and it is interesting that his artist's intuitive- knowledge of the need for revolution has shown itself in his alliance to political revolution - another aspect of the attempt towards meaningful bridges - Stockhausen who reached earlier fame with wholehearted allegiance to the then revolutionary techniques of machine- manipulated music has recently (to right an imbalance) been interested in trying to bridge zen mysticism and machine management. It was at a concert of his music in which Hart performed in France last July that the relationship of the musician to his instrument became an important and significant field of study in relationship to his own work and philosophy ....
….. symbolic of our wish to incorporate an almost lack of proficiency in any given sphere of life - in this case the musical instrument - and try to make friends with it through the 'expert' handling in another sphere and letting it, lie cradled in the arms of our faith in our own humanity. The instrument is to our voice what the stranger is to the householder: Shall we take him in or shall we reject him? Ingrained musicians have chosen an untrained artist to break the stranglehold of the status quo and what they heard on the tape which initially inspired them was a human being seeking to extend his boundaries to evolve... grounded in stability and seeking the 'other' fur further growth...
"…. we are not a schizophrenic land for nothing. Deep in the unconscious where each sound leaves first its murmur and then its roar at a combustion of hitherto unconnected meanings... "
"The Moonshot", Norman Mailer
The Observer, 51 August 1969
"... (Hart's) theatre is philosophy, not entertainment, not illusion, but the illumination of things through the creative synthesis of opposites..... “
Darmstadter Echo, 4.9.69
ROY HART is an exponent of a new form in vocal expression, one which frees the voice from strict categorisation and allows it to explore the eight-octave range - sometimes using four different strands of sound simultaneously. He left South Africa in 1946 first winning a scholarship to EADA then continuing his studies with the late Alfred Wolfsohn, one of the leading experts on the problems of the human voice. In 1956 Hart gave a demonstration of the 'extended' voice which aroused great interest, and he has lectured at several international congresses of psycho-therapy. The results of his work have been acclaimed in scientific circles. Hart is titular head of the ROY HART THEATRE, a group of some 20 actor/singers, most of whom have been engaged for a number of years in his work and its philosophical, psychological and biological implications. Their first public performance was at the World Theatre Festival at Nancy, France - other performances in France are being arranged for 1970.
This year Hart has performed works written specifically for his voice by fore-most European composers - Hans Verner Henze's ''Versuch uber Schweine" at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in February and in New York, 1970; Peter Maxwell-Davies' "Eight Songs for a Mad King" at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in April and at the York Festival. This work is being performed in Vienna and Hamburg in October and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in December. Recordings of both of these works by DGG will be available, early next year. Hart's most recent performances have been of works by Karlheinz Stockhausen: "Spirale" & “Illimite” at, St. Paul de Vence and Darmstadt.
For further information relating to tape recordings, etc. please contact:
The Abraxas Club & The Hampstead Squash Club
8l, Belsize Park Gardens, N. V. 3.
tel: 722 - 6404
Footnote by Paul Silber
Dorothy Hart was Roy's wife for 22 years before they both died in a car accident whilst on tour with "L'Economiste". Dorothy studied English Literature at Cambridge University. Her understanding of her husband's work was profound. Her abillity of expressing herself through the medium of writing was far in excess of anyone else in the theatre hence she was always happy to write the programme production notes for all the work we ever did in those days.
It must be said that the performance of "The Bacchae" was the first and the best performance the RHT ever did! There are several reasons for this; here they are. 1 Roy Hart was the principal director. 2 the rehearsals took place over a period of two years. 3 The entire cast was present at all the rehearsals; even though they took place only three times a week. 4 The discipline was so well enforced that the entire cast not only learnt the whole script; but could also deliver it BACKWARDS. Hence the later performances were called the "Frontae" (at the Round House Theatre). What was the result of all this work? We were able to move collectively as a single body and spontaneously in unison in a way that had only ever been done in the ancient times of Greek theatre.
You will see that at the top of the page there are the words "Roy Hart Speakers". This was the precursor to the current title "Roy Hart Theatre". That title occurred the following year 1969, the name was to last for the next fifty years. It was under the name of Speakers that the theatre performed in the Festival of Theatre in Nancy, France. The festival was under the direction of Jacques Lang who later became the French Minister of Culture. The "Speakers" had reserved a carriage for the train journey across France. Accordingly the SNCF had put a notice on the window of the carriage. The notice read "This carriage is reserved for the "Roy Hart Squeakers"" This marvellous error has remained a point of humour ever since.
Dorothy Hart's index