By David Mamet (tour February-March 2013)

Sexual Perversity in ChicagoLiving Pictures' sixth production marked the next stage of our exploration into process. With David Mamet’s play we focused on the techniques of Sandford Meisner.

Having been trained in the techniques of Sanford Meisner by Scott Williams (Impulse Theatre Company) and Kate Maravan (a pupil of Scott’s) we were excited to try out his techniques with text and see what we discovered and, as with Diary of a Madman, we wanted to try it out in front of an audience. David Mamet felt a perfect playwright to start with because he had trained with Meisner and William Epser whilst training to be an actor.

We had some changes in personnel over the course of organising the project. Nora Wardell (Directors Acting Project Manager) joined first as an Associate Director on the project and was then asked to be ‘the Director’ after the second week of rehearsals. We had some very good and insightful input from Scott Williams regarding the Meisner technique, the use of ‘Needs’ and his very knowledgeable understanding of Mamet. Morwenna Rowe, our dialect coach, added more than just ‘how it sounds’ to the work and did some really great work with the body. We decided to perform the play in the round because we wanted to create an intimate space that almost felt voyeuristic as the actors changed into their clothes and had a ‘wank’ right next to audience members.

By focusing on the techniques of Sanford Meisner (by no means exhaustive) we felt that the techniques were really useful in getting the actors to listen, respond truthfully and be in the moment with their acting partners. The attention on your partner that Meisner stresses is useful for any actor and in any genre we would suggest. There are still certain aspects of Meisner’s work we would challenge, but genuinely feel there is more to gain from his work than there is to disagree with.

Some reviews of the piece:

“Almost four decades on, Mamet’s play is as fresh and relevant as ever – and, if you’re really honest, you will leave the theatre feeling some empathy.”
   **** – Karen Price, Wales Online

“Living Pictures delivers an enclosed, scabrous, scintillating revisit to the Chicago and Lake Michigan Shore of 1976. Living Pictures provides an opportunity to see how a master of theatre craft makes it work.”
   – Adam Somerset, Theatre in Wales

“The speed and intensity of the action on stage enthrals the audience to the end of the performance. Mamet’s take on the human mating game could have been a dated period piece. But it’s not. Instead it shows that despite changes in fashion and music, socially, cultural attitudes towards dating and mating haven’t changed since the 70’s.”
   – Julie Bainbridge, Wales Arts Review

“A Funny and painful dig at the fantasies and disdain of the contemporary sexual game.”.
   – The New York Times

Danny meets Deborah, they like each other, they move in together… Danny and Deborah separate… Set in 70s Chicago, Mamet’s highly acclaimed dark comedy looks at relationships between friends and their failing attempts when searching for a mate. “You’re trying to understand women and I’m confusing you with information…what are you feeling? Tell me what you’re feeling. Jerk.”
   – Deborah from Sexual Perversity in Chicago

Sexual Perversity in Chicago was part of a series of ‘Process Plays’ in which we explore the techniques of leading acting and directing tutors.

Directors: Nora Wardell and Robert Bowman
Consultant Director: Elen Bowman
Designer: Jacob Hughes
Lighting Designer: Katy Morrison
Voice Coach: Morwenna Rowe
Meisner Expert: Scott Williams

CAST: Ioannis Sholto, Robert Bowman, Lizzie Rogan, Claire Cage

Tour: Sherman Cymru (Cardiff),Torch Theatre (Milford Haven) Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Pontardawe Arts Centre, Galeri (Caernarfon) Y Ffwrnes (Llanelli)

“The Finest American Playwright of his generation.”
   – Sunday Times


Arts Council of Wales