In it’s simplest form Brecht used the term Gestus to refer to a strong image, a tableau vivant, that could ecapsulate a scene without words. He also used a similar term, Geste, to refer to the simple strong physical gestures that could be used by an actor to convey or embody a character without having to inhabit the internal reality of a character as an actor following, for example, Stanislavsky’s teachings. Both of these ideas can be discussed under the banner “The Gestus”
So what does this mean for our production of Outbreak? Theory’s all very well but without practical applications it becomes, by turns, the terrifying and tedious contents of textbooks. Well, one way that the Gestus has proved invaluable for us has been as a way of displaying the power relationships between without having to tell the audience everything. Our set is very simple; black, plywood platforms set together at different heights. The actors use these height differences throughout the play. From the Greek Chorus at the beginning who are constantly trying to one-up each other, to the countries of Europe bickering amongst each other like school children, to the beautiful people in the nightclub. It’s all a status game.
In my next post, I’ll say a little about how using the Geste part of the Gestus allows an actor to present different characters.