'a deepening of my understanding of the mantra: ‘trust the process’; the actors bore testament to its truthfulness' MDA Member Gerrard Martin reflects on his process movement directing ...cake by babirye bukilwa this summer.
I was brought in to work on playwright babirye bukilwa’s latest piece, ...cake, prior to its critically acclaimed run at the Theatre Peckham. Despite the actual process being relatively short, due to my having been brought in by director Malakai Sargent towards the end of the play’s creation period, the experience turned out to be extremely fulfilling.
I was tasked with assisting the actors to safely navigate the play’s increasingly tense intimacy, the team then identified specific areas to pinpoint, and we physically explored the trauma and fear experienced by their characters. I also choreographed the moments of violence and joy, (which jumped from the pages of the poetic script).
Working practice started with a ‘check in’, which allowed the whole company to focus on how they were each feeling. This initial focus on everyone’s individual’s emotional state helped both bind the company and imbue it with an understanding as to what each creative was experiencing that day, and how each one of us could help support the another.
I continued this process with the actors by facilitating a mindful meditation with visualisation; this included a physical warm up, a mobilisation series and a yoga asana practice.
I used movement and text-based tasks to explore and heighten the character’s motivations within the scene work, the tasks being based on expressions of ‘surrender’ and ‘resistance’; both themes which I found were important within bukilwa’s work.
As part of my role, I presented the actors with grounding and wellbeing exercises for use both before and after both rehearsals and performances. These were designed to provide the actors with tangible tools, allowing them safe return to the present moment, and to shift emotional states safely, if ever they felt triggered by any aspect of the play.
One discovery I made, while working with the ...cake production, was a deepening of my understanding of the mantra: ‘trust the process’; the actors bore testament to its truthfulness. They were so organic and intuitive with their choices in movement and how they delivered text, that it gave me permission to be even more open and curious in my facilitation practices.
In reflecting on ...cake and how I worked on the production, I don’t believe I would have done anything different, but I would have loved to have been a part of the process earlier on and had more preparation days, both in the rehearsal studio and on stage with the company. I do intend to speak with the actors, (now the run has finished) and ask them how they felt the movement and wellbeing tasks supported them through the rehearsal period and performances and help them to find a physical truth in their characters.
The three images that would encapsulate the feeling of my movement in ...cake would be ‘Cat & Mouse’, ‘Imposed Karaoke’ and ‘Nostalgic Faded Star’; some images are more literal than others!
...cake allowed me to develop as a movement director and reinforced a need to trust my myself and my skill set.
Photo by Kiraly Saint-Claire
Gerrard Martin trained at De Montfort University, gaining a BA Hons in English Literature and Performing Arts; he continued his studies at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and obtained a BTEC Diploma in Professional Dance Studies.
He has danced for Altered Skin, Akademi, Rosie Kay Dance Company, and has toured nationally with Tavaziva Dance, Union Dance Company, as well as dancing for the West End's production of the Lion King, Ballet Black, Aletta Collins Dance Company, State of Emergency, and Phoenix Dance Company.
Aside from modelling, commercial dance contracts, and film engagements, Gerrard has also danced for the National Theatre, toured internationally with the English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House.
Gerrard currently teaches on the Musical Theatre BA Hons at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, the CAT programme at Trinity Laban and has taught and mentored on the Children Youth Dance and Adult Classes & Courses programme at the Place. He is a guest Associate Lecturer at the University of Northampton, and a dance, yoga and movement teacher at RADA, (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art).
Gerrard has choreographed for Outbox Theatre, Longborough Opera, British Museum, Pegasus Opera, and the National Portrait gallery. The West Bengal Federation of Dance, India commissioned Gerrard’s choreography for World Dance Day.
He created his project-based company Gerrard Martin Dance in 2011 and has had work featured at the Place, the Curve Theatre, BHM, National Portrait Gallery, RichMix and the Emerge, Between the Lines, South Bank Urban, Let’s Dance International, and Cloud Dance Festivals. Gerrard's work has also been selected for Ident festival, The Field Film festival, UK and the Athens Video Dance Project, Greece.
Gerrard aims to produce works of emotive and socially relevant dance-theatre; to teach and facilitate creativity through movement, yoga, and dance, and wishes to collaborate and engage with artists across different mediums.
He was an assistant choreographer on the English National Opera’s (Olivier Award winning) Porgy and Bess, One Love Musical, (Bob Marley), and the 40th UAE Royal Anniversary Performance, Abu Dhabi. He has been a movement director on productions such as ‘GHB Boy’, ‘BEAM’ & ...cake
Gerrard is the co-founder of Black Artists in Dance, (BAiD) and the associate founder of The Healthy Young Dancer Project (THYDP). He is part of the first cohort of The Kerry Nicholls Dance Mentoring Programme and is a trained Yoga teacher.
Production Details …cake was written by award winning playwright babirye bukilwa and premiered at the Theatre Peckham. …cake forms part of a trilogy of plays and is a prequel to the critically acclaimed blackbird hour. Performed by Danielle Kassarate and Donna Banya directed by Theatre Peckham’s associate director malakaï sargeant.