Lecoq’s influence on UK drama schools

Authored by: Vladimir Mirodan

The Routledge Companion to Jacques Lecoq

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138818422
eBook ISBN: 9781315745251
Adobe ISBN: 9781317594635


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Jacques Lecoq’s influence on British performance training was shaped by its need to coexist with traditions already in place by the time of its arrival. The most potent amongst these was the emphasis on speech and text, which had dominated much of actor training in Britain for the first half of the 20th century. At the two oldest conservatoires, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the Central School of Speech and Drama (Central), voice teachers taught acting; acting could not – should not – be parted from the voice. As late as 1961, Sir Laurence Olivier – the nearest the modern age had to a Leader of the British Theatre – confidently endorsed this approach and extolled its Englishness:

For more than half-a-century, the Central School of Speech and Drama has gone quietly about its valuable work of training a nucleus of actors, actresses and teachers of drama whose work is based on sound principles of speech production… . I commend to you this work which helps to maintain the high tradition of English speech – which brings new appreciation of the riches we have inherited in the English language.

(CSSD Prospectus and Brochure 1961–2, An Introduction, p. 1) Since the Second World War, a growing interest in body-based 1 acting teaching had, however, begun to challenge the domination of the spoken word. Two approaches imported from the Continent offered themselves as key alternatives: expressionist dance, which considered external movement to be in a mutually dependent relationship with inner motivation; and the tradition of playful theatricality regenerated in France by Jacques Copeau and brought to Britain by his nephew, the great reformer of theatre education, Michel Saint-Denis.

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