Silence is a part of Speech

(An edited translation of an article written by JUAN CRUZ in Spain’s main national newspaper El Pais on May 25th. The original article can be read here) 

These twenty people who are arguing and laughing as if they were on a stage are company executives not actors. They work for Arval, a French company, and among other things, they are here to learn and utilise the power of body language and the power of play.

They are not crazy. There is a reason why they are doing this. They are being directed by Tamzin Townsend, an English theatre director who has been in Spain since 1992 and is a whirlwind of energy. Her successful track record includes El Metodo Gronholm, The God of Carnage and Don Juan Tenorio. She also works for Dramatic Resources, a company which takes her around the world teaching how to use often unutilised treasures that are the body and the voice.

Arval has allowed us to attend a session in which Townsend teaches her students a truth that she explains as though it were written in verse:

"El silencio es parte de la boca

[Silence is a part of speech]". 

She teaches them how to stop leaning on the "err" sound that people often start their conversations with. This sign of indecision, she says "completely cancels out any kind of leadership. How can you be a leader when you sound indecisive?!" During the session, Townsend shows the group how to enter a room with maximum impact and presence. She urges the participants to concentrate in order to be present, to truly listen rather than think about their emails. 

She shows how rehearsal can improve performance. "In everyday life, before a meeting, how much time do you have to rehearse?" She trains them with methods from her own approach to theatre. For example, Townsend tells her students: "The pause is power." And just as they must learn ‘silence’, they must learn to pause.  

Company executives tell stories, "We all tell stories. When I direct theatre, I tell stories. Theatre is story, so they must rehearse as if they were on stage. Playing.” They are; during this half day the participants have not stopped laughing and playing even though they are still in their office premises. Laughing is part of the plot.  And rehearsal is a serious business.      

Next comes a piece of advice Tamzin delivers like a proclamation: "We must kill the parrot that criticizes us while we speak. It is our worst enemy. That parrot we all have perched on our shoulder. What can we do to silence that parrot? It is simple - breathe, think, pause. Nobody can tell you: 'Go faster'. You say that to yourself or that parrot that sits on your shoulder says it. But you can take your time. You are dead if you listen to that parrot that criticises you so harshly." 

To kill the parrot - that is the challenge. To utilise the power of silence. To play and rehearse as if play were as serious as business – which it is.