GEORGE Coulouris, himself an actor of distinction, whose Tartuffe at the Lyric Hammersmith, and his Stockman in Arthur Miller's version of "An Enemy of the People" were performances it) be remembered, has been testing reaction to the idea of a company that would "force the actor to use his emotions to the very essence of theatrical performance". He visualises, indeed has begun to plan a company consisting of "a devoted fanatical band of actors, rehearsed to the hilt, which could invest a]most any spot, any building, with the power and sincerity of their work, with no other appurtenance than their naked talent".
He believes that we have never had here in England a really permanent company for actors. There are only producers' companies with players under contract hut not necessarily working all the time and really only semi-permanent.
"Why has no determined effort been made to start an actors' company?" Mr. Coulouris asks "Week after week there appear in all languages articles praising British acting. If it is as good as all that surely we should have been watching a permanent company for so long that its great lights should by now be tottering to the grave . . . . But there is no such company."
What he describes as ''the present. superficially healthy state of the theatre with regard !o semi-permanent companies is he considers illusionary, as it is not founded on "deep respect and admiration for a great acting company as a whole". He asks if there is a way out, a way in which -a truly permanent company", can be started'?
He believes there is. "It is to retreat in order to advance," be said. "To strip down to the very essence of theatrical performance. To force the actor to use his emotions and imagination degree by depriving him of scenery and costume. Props I believe are a different matter, the lack of them in duels, for example, can amuse an audience greatly. They should be used even if by suggestive imitation.
One of the prime advantages of such a method, Mr. Coulouris explained, is the financial one. "This method of production is of course the cheapest possible, both for the performance and the transport of performance. This frees the company from a great part of the stress of modern theatre production, and leaves them able to concentrate their attention where it belongs, on their performances.
Does not everyone of us remember a final run through, chairs for entrances, battens lying flat to denote the set limit, , a work light glaring overhead, that left the few watchers stunned -with excitement? In many cases this was an excitement never recapture subsequently, despite the thousands of pounds spent on costumes, scenery and lighting".
"Make no mistake, such a method of production stands or falls on better acting. To copy Stanislavsky's reply when asked how to act for children, we should say, when asked, 'How should the actor adjust to no scenery and costume?' . . 'Just act better, that's all'. That there is much need for 'better acting' there can be no doubt. What is the nature of this better acting to be? Acting that involves the audience completely. I am not interested in such phrases as 'alienation effect'. I am interested in a return to the complete involvement produced by genius on the stage for hundreds of years. The sort of involvement produced by lines like, '0 the pity of it, lago, the pity of it'. That caused Byron, Coleridge and Hazlitt, to trumpet forth the praises of Kean. That caused Kean to be able to raise Drury Lane from bankruptcy to affluence in one season. That caused Duse to work until she could blush to the roots of her hair when her seducer of 40 years came on the stage".
So, on a bare stage, Mr. Coulouris believes passionately, the moment of truth comes "the chips are down, all power has to come from the play and the sincerity of he acting, the masterpiece must be pointed like a spear at the audience and rammed home".
As to the prospects of such a company, which Mr. Coulouris hopes to establish and for which he is already gaining official and private support, he said: "Whenever and wherever I have broached this idea, to people, to institutions of various kinds, it has been received enthusiastically, and in one case with promise of financial backing. There is a more specific aspect of the scheme, in which the company would take possession of a large, even long disused theatre and announce a revolutionary low price for ALL seats, first come, first served. We all know that the theatre needs such stimuli vow, if it is not to die in the minds of the great general public.
"I am willing to bet that with such a company in being its bookings would be practically continuous if it was not sited permanently. In the USA the reception for the idea was just as warm as here, and the booking agent I talked to immediately began working out details, financial and otherwise. Television has done its part in conditioning audiences to do without, and to use their imagination instead, by presenting shows with only a suggestion of costumes and settings.
"Remember, finally, the performances have to be better, otherwise nothingness yawns at the feet of the actors, and actors, -as we know, are always well aware of such negative possibilities. They are nearly always spurred on to do their best work in such cases; that is, if they are any good".
R. B. MARRIOTT