"Roy Hart Speaks"

 
In the early seventies, the Roy Hart Theatre had a lot of contact with Spain. As a result Roy gave a series of interviews conducted by Jose Monleon in March of 1971. Monleon was the organiser of the "Festival of Theatre" held in Bilbao, northern Spain. Here is a transcript of the first interview:-
 

Jose Monleon:

The first question I want to ask you is to summarise the process that you have followed to find yourself and to reach the point that you are at now.

Roy:

It does not matter how long story is, does it? Well, I was born in South Africa of Polish-Lithuanian parents. I had a perfectly orthodox education: I went to the best schools, to the University of Johannesburg where I studied English, the History of Music and Philosophy - and Psychology, but not directly; they always said that I had an innate talent for theatre and a beautiful voice.

But I was always considered an odd person: that is to say, I never made friends easily; because of my lack of understanding of why things were like that, I could not establish a bridge between this fact and those who found no difficulty. In essence, I literally did not have friends.

I stayed in South Africa until I was 19 years old, when the war was just about finished. All this time I knew there was something seriously wrong inside me, although no-one could figure it out, because I appeared to be completely and perfectly sane, not neurotic. I had a conflict between my innate desire to go onstage and my family of Rabbinical origin. My mother, for example - my grandfather forbade her to accept a scholarship for the conservatory, because that was considered as blasphemy. The same attitude was taken with me. Although unconsciously, I also had had this mental conflict, about the morality of the theatre, in relationship with the so-called morality of other activities. As a consequence, I started to study medicine, considered more in line with my racial origins; but in a determined moment I decided to leave South Africa. At that moment, I dropped what can be called a materialistic way of living. When I left South Africa I decided to renounce my body.

When I arrived in London - where a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts was granted to me - I met Alfred Wolfsohn almost immediately. The family who I lived with told me that since I had such a good voice why shouldn't I see a good friend of theirs who dealt with the voice? It was Wolfsohn. My first meeting with him was surprising because suddenly I realised that for the first time I was dealing with someone who could be called a human being. He did not tell me or ask me the conventional phrases we all know. Something that emanated from him made me feel comfortable. Later on, when I considered this phenomenon, I understood the reason: he accepted me just the way I was. I asked him if I could work with him. His answer was "we will see". The important thing is that his teachings were always in conflict with those that I received at RADA; the conflict grew during the next two years since at school I played the very best roles. I thought I had to forget everything I had learned up until that moment; I was forced to abandon - that is the way it appeared to me - the Word, for what could be called the Sound. All the attempts to incorporate what I was learning from Wolfson with what I was doing at RADA made them laugh. Although I was a good student everybody said that I was hypnotised by a lunatic. My parents felt the same way, of course, and even the friends I was living with felt deeply offended by the way I seemed to be sinking into some kind of stupidity.

Another crucial moment of my life was the time when I refused a major role so that I could carry on studying with Wolfsohn. At that time we had decided to dedicate ourselves to experimentation: we were going to study a play and divided it into parts from the point of view of sounds. It was then that he got sick and since I was already working with some students I had to start taking care of the rest of the people. In this way I gained much experience. Thus I was separated from the orthodox phase of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The Director considered me lost. My parents thought the same thing. I then began to work in various institutions with older women and adolescents.

Almost from the first moment in which we began the experiments we invited some of the so-called experts. My first experience with someone who was interested in our work was with Peter Ustinov. I remember my waiting at the stage door so as to attract his attention - finally I achieved it. He was very intrigued by my theories, which I threw out at him. He came to our studio: for three and a half hours we did various demonstrations for him which he simply listened to in silence, without making any comment. Although we all knew he also used his voice, in my opinion he abused it, he made a parody of it. For all the famous experts in relation to music or theatre we did demonstrations: Menuhin, Laurence Olivier and others. In the fields of psychoanalysis and psychology we were in close contact with Jung, who told us that although what we did profoundly interested him, he could no longer interest himself in us, because he was not a musician, which seemed to me to be a little..... strange. Aldous Huxley was also interested: he came to the studio and if he had not been sick then we would have done interesting experiments. His brother, the biologist Julian Huxley, was also interested in the biological aspect of what we were doing. The interest was not able to pass into a theatrical interest.

The musicians and the composers that came close to us found our work fascinating, but they were not capable of finding a vehicle with which to use it. At one time Peter Brook came: he listened to the demonstration of the extended vocal range and was interested, but he was not able to carry it further either - or so it seemed. They talked in London about our activities: a strange "subterranean" use of the voice. But nothing crystallised or was shown satisfactorily. Peter Brook, years later, once again came because he had begun to realise, in the interim period, the possibilities of what is called: "pure sound" for the theatre. Later he invited Grotowski to come and see us. Grotowski, in his inimitable way, listened to us for more than three hours and later he examined us, me and the rest of the company. Later he asked us, the Roy Hart Theatre, if we would be interested in appearing as background in a film he was making. I said no, because it seemed to me that his attitude towards certain vital situations was not the same as mine. As in the case of Peter Brook, years later he began to be interested again because he began to find our work important.

There were years of many contacts. If I talked with a musician he would say that he was not a psychologist; if to a psychologist, that he was not a musician; the man of the theatre asked us what he had do with therapy; and the therapist told us that he was not a man of theatre, and so on. But for all of them there was a growing knowledge about the fact that the artificial separation between the various disciplines is the making of schizophrenia and that it is necessary to find a bridge that unites these apparent opposites. Each time someone arose - for example, if we read an article about someone interested in a new path - right away I would write to him, candidly, to put him in contact with us. Although the theory invariably interested them in great measure, when they listened to the manifestation of our work they turned their backs and began to run the other way.

In Henze's case, about 10 years ago I sent him a tape. It seems this tape arrived in a moment of mental confusion and he immediately suffered a shock of enthusiasm. He wrote to me saying that if what he had heard was something I could do, it opened up a new world to him. He solicited a meeting with me. We met in Amsterdam and the first thing he asked me was if I knew Che Guevara. I assumed that he wanted to know what kind of revolutionary I was, from his point of view. I answered that I sympathised with the revolution in that it is something evident in man: if man is in organic harmony with himself, he will not have to fear the exteriorisation of his being, but if there is a breakage in his interior harmony, or a rebellion between his body and himself all the external manifestations or attempts at external manifestations would be explosive and terrible. This seemed reasonable enough for him.

I gave him a singing lesson that was very revealing, as much for him as it was for me. Right away he began to write for me - when I say "for me", I want to make it clear that I'm referring to my voice, to that which could be called the objective voice, the voice that reveals the "non-ego". I believe that this is a fact that can be calculated: the use of a voice according to that indicated by ideas, in harmony with oneself - he wrote for this, my voice, a composition with the theme being revolution. The title of his composition, translated, is "Essay on Pigs" - "pigs" is the name but was given to the students in Berlin. I inaugurated the piece in London and it was extraordinarily well received by the public and certain sensitive critics and attacked violently by other critics. The most important thing was that Henze wrote a composition for the objective voice about the revolution. My relationship with him, in actuality, does not exist. I don't know if it is necessary to expand on this point. The reasons emerged, as my voice and ability for singing are in harmony, from the fact that Henze used my voice.

What else can I say? I never basically intended it to create what is now called the Roy Hart Theatre. The Roy Hart Theatre was created because of a collective interest in that which we now call the Human Voice, in contrast to what is called the specialised voice - that is to say: bass, baritone, soprano, etc. In embodying these ideas, men and women of all ages, of all professions, have united - and have united for the pursuit of an idea that is much greater than me, myself or the self in each one of us. They have stayed with me because they want to continue in this idea - but I did not set out to form a group as such.

Jose Monleon:

The incursion into the theatre - the point at which you moved towards a musical performance - did it come about afterwards, as a result of the necessity for an expressive platform, or did it come about before the investigation of the voice?

Roy Hart:

I was born an actor and in school or in the university they always gave me the major roles: but, as I indicated before, soon I recognised that this histrionic gift, as it did not have a body, belonged to the realm of fantasy (I say fantasy instead of imagination because this is the corporalisation of the ideas - philosophical, psychological or vital - in theatrical terms). I had a histrionic ability, but I had to die for this idea so that I could investigate the nature of the voice, and from one theatrical point of view I followed a foreign path to the stage. All the performances I put on - and there were many - took place in one a room: our studio, and the audience was not more than one or two people. My idea of theatre is to have few spectators. For me, our theatre is now practised in a form superior to reality, whereas theatre according to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art was inferior to the imagination and to fantasy. In our private lives we attempt to expand all our gestures, all our verbal statements, so as to obtain a work of art: that is to say we act that which could be called the sterilised form of living. That which you have seen me do this morning, for example, in class - although not with the same intensity - is the way that we relate to each other: the singing lessons. Some observers judge us too "serious" because we do not let one intonation, one gesture pass unprepared. This could become irritating, but it leads us to a care-full-ness: to enunciation, to discrimination, to good models, to interest for the fellow-actor. And when we show this representation, especially in 1971, they accept us as if we were something that before was called theatre. We live theatre.

The question of "carefulness" initially referred to the question "who am I?" and has inevitably forced me to become knowledgeable about these people, these individuals that enter into my orbit, in such a way that it is absolutely impossible for me to think in abstract terms. If a person, whether he be black, yellow or green, comes into my orbit I behave in front of him with extra "carefulness", that is to say, I act in front of this person with the highest artistic integrity, with all my sensibility. That is what one supposes an actor to be. If I am Jewish, the Jewish problem like the black problem, interests me only in the role in which one behaves towards a Black or Jewish person, in his personal problem, which I should know so as to investigate the question: "who am I?" If he can resolve the question with success, I maintain that any other superior question, of Black Power for example, will answer itself. I take the Socratic point of view. If you see into that which you are society will benefit you: but if you hope that society will give you the answer, you will not have a solution. As I love Abraxas, I always think in terms whose ratios are 51-49.

Jose Monleon:

From our cultural or mental structure, what comparisons have you been able to make in the dialogues (including those with the people you favour)? When you introduce the concept of Abraxas it produces a disorder: there were persons who said that you are religious, spiritualistic and incapable of talking in abstractions - to which you have replied that this is not true. I would like to go into the terrain a little bit.

Roy Hart:

Obviously when I speak of Abraxas in this way I am myself, Roy Hart, who is talking. In this moment I am equivalent to the mother or the father of a child, and although the mother or the child can talk about trivia, the basic relationship they emanate from, will in my vital experience, be transmitted basically as well. If this fact is important, my concept of the idea of Abraxas could later be investigated as we are doing now for example. At this moment I'm only interested in presenting myself as the scene of 44 years of education. The impact that this has on any individual resides in his capacity to extract that which is inherent in that which I am: that is to say, I accept the responsibility that I am a reflection or a dynamic synthesis of the mind and the body - at least that the question about the abstraction of Abraxas be synthesised by such implications as "who am I?" and is projected over one's own breakage between the body and the soul. In this way, those who accuse me of being a mystic are clearly fantastics: they are without bodies and how can I talk to an abstraction?

I propose myself as an example of the synthesis between music, the word and psychology, in that these vital segments are capable of being creatively linked in a person. If people say that Roy Hart is an egomaniac, in an abstract sense they are right, but on a corporal level, I am a human being - that is to say, a synthesis between my masculinity and my femininity, between my mental possibilities and the materialistic ones - and I would like this possibility to be probed in all its possible private and public paths. This is my only reason for coming to Madrid. It is idiotic to think only about the nature of the work that I do in the morning as if I could separated it from the rest. I wish that all my critics were permitted to be exposed on all the levels to which I permit myself to be exposed. But, inside the scientific boundary as human beings we should look into all aspects of our lives. All this is implicit in the way I live. In as much as it is possible, our private and public lives should be meshed. If you are homosexual, we have to investigate it because this fact affects the musical composition, or your relationship with women or with political leaders, etc. It is useless to pretend that homosexuality does not affect political opinion. Einstein clearly demonstrated this. The theory of relativity establishes simply that the way in which you treated your wife last night affects the magnificence of your pure mathematical formula. In other words, it is as impure as the way you treated your women night before. I thought the pregnant mother could not affect the foetus, but it is known now that her emotional activities during the day or night penetrate through all the physiological fluids that protect the foetus.

Jose Monleon:

Accepting the relationship between these things there is something I would like to clarify from the visual theatre. And it is in that rule during the exercises where the actor begins doing a "defensive show", expressed by the modulations in his voice. Does the actor have mental images commiserate with these modulations - in other words, if he makes a loud sound does he think of doing a loud action - and are these sounds linked to some concrete memories? Or is this flow of the self-conscious that creates these sounds the re-encounter with images more or less dormant in the subconscious, but that are made evident in the voices?

Roy Hart:

Without doubt this work is a rediscovery. It is not something that I discovered or invented, it is a rediscovery of the oldest idea in human history: I am greater than myself.

Jose Monleon:

Does this actor that emits these voices incorporate into his lucidity, images and sensations that he had before, but did not know about?

Roy Hart:

51% is a dream in which I believe completely. But also as completely I believe that 49 per cent is life: routine, work, repetition, suffering etc.

Jose Monleon:

There is one thing - I do not know if this is the opportune time to bring it up - that is the relationship of this type of theatrical experience with the spectator. I believe there can be two types of relationship: one in which the spectator is really a spectator and can establish a certain level of comprehension and secondly where thespectator could participate inside the theatrical act, convert himself into an actor.

Roy Hart:

The spectator, in your first sense, is passive and active in a certain way. But we move in a situation where the spectator is not solely a "voyager": he is, or should be, receiving actively the revelation, the illumination so as not to participate in the scene in a sensationalist form next to those that have decided to dedicate their lives to a dynamic discipline. If they really want to participate they have the opportunity to do so after the performance or, in some circumstances, as I do, theatre inside the same performance, consciously entering and asking if they can participate. I do not believe in hypnotic participation. Instead, afterwards they can talk with me, with the aim of not merely participating in a "happening", but rather of wanting to enter into a long path of self studies that will finally take them to acting. Otherwise it would only be a sensationalist undressing of themselves, an unforeseen and undiscriminating activity. It is a problem - yes: but we leave the possibility open. The reason is simple: we talk of discipline and although all, in the last resort, have the possibilities of, let us say, using the voice in this way, it must be a careful collaboration.

Creative work interest me - which supposes relationship, time, honour, loyalty and dedication to life. That is theatre. It cannot be a momentary escape. It always demands and requires - it is like reading a book: either you read it to drop it in a few moments or you read it so that it can help you take a step forward.

(Editors Note: Readers of these interviews should know that the interview took place in English and was then translated into Spanish. The above version is therefore a translation of the Spanish back into English! This process has inevitably given rise to some imperfections.)

 

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