How did you start off in theatre?
As a teenager, I attended Expressive Arts in Limerick, Ireland, on Saturday mornings, which led to playing a variety of roles in pantomime. In my late 20s, I took an MA in drama and theatre studies at University College Cork and discovered documentary theatre, which led me to do a doctorate at the University of Exeter.
What is your best advice for students?
Be curious about life and don’t just accept the status quo: use theatre to challenge it.
What would you change about training?
I would like there to be more emphasis on somatic and embodied approaches in education. I would also like to see drama combined with the study of other subjects as there is so much potential to educate people about life through performance.
What is the best part of your job?
Working in the rehearsal room with the students and watching them gain more confidence to play and take risks.
And your least favourite?
Marking, and the paperwork that goes with it.
Which practitioners do you admire most?
Augusto Boal and Brecht changed my whole approach to theatre and influenced my own practice in documentary theatre. My practice is also inspired by the testimony work of Emily Mann in the US. Theatre can be a powerful platform to bear witness to the world we are living in and as Boal said provide us with an opportunity to rehearse for the revolution. In more recent times, the late Brian Astbury has been an inspiration. Every student should read Trusting the Actor.
What skill should every successful theatre professional have?
The ability to actively listen with a sense of openness and enquiry.
What sentence do you least like hearing from your students?
‘I wasn’t good at anything in school except drama.’
Helena Enright is senior lecturer in drama at Bath Spa University. She was talking to John Byrne