In response to a call for background material related to rehearsal, we were kindly sent an unpublished text by Tim Etchells from Forced Entertainment, the longstanding Sheffield-based theatre group. 1 Alongside pleasurable meandering over the company’s history, it is an attempt at capturing something of the ‘mutable logics of play - with its transformations, its power reversals, its illogics, its joys, its potential escapes’: a writer/director trying to catch a whisper of the secret of his own methodology. 2
The text left us wondering if PUR, the company we have co-directed for the last seven years, ever learnt these joys: learnt to ‘play’ that is. The work of the British psychoanalytic clinician and theorist D. W. Winnicott came to mind, with his assertion that psychoanalysis developed as a ‘highly specialized form of playing in the service of communication with oneself and others’. 3 We also wondered what exactly Winnicott was referring to - what that ‘highly specialized form’ might look or sound like.
Somehow the terms are already becoming overlapped and unclear - psychotherapy/rehearsal, process/play. What is the difference between rehearsal and play, between rehearsal process and psychotherapeutic process, between what we do with PUR and with other groups, therapeutic and otherwise, which we facilitate on a regular basis? Given that our own working lives are an amalgamation of these two practices, the overlap between the practice of psychotherapy and rehearsal has become an everyday, and so largely unquestioned, experience.
Psychotherapy and rehearsal: already there is something slightly unpleasant, even depressing, in this conjugation. Somehow it heralds the potential co-opting of radical cultural activity under the dreary aegis of encounter group process or paratheatrical pseudo-ritual. Were it psychoanalysis and rehearsal, it might have a different feel, might offer us the hope of something of import arising from the deployment of the complexities of analytic theory in relation to that curiously secretive, relatively unarticulated domain that is rehearsal. Psychoanalysis as a term connotes