This article considers potential meanings for Mike Alfreds's description of theatre as 'disciplined improvisation' in the light of two plays directed by him at Shakespeare's Globe: Cymbeline (2001) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002). Rather than using the term 'improvisation' to connote entirely spontaneous performance, Alfreds sees his "improvisation" as being held within the boundaries set by a text, enabling the actor's performance to be both true to the script and also, as the title of his 2007 book puts it, Different Every Night. The article posits that this position locates Alfreds within the realm of alternative approaches to contemporary Shakespearean performance which, simultaneously, remains in keeping with the culturally dominant area of psychological realism while also locating itself within the oral tradition of theatre praxis. In focusing on his approach to the rehearsal process (and, by extension, the acting process) of the two Globe plays, the essay finds evidence of Stanislavsky's method of Active Analysis, along with the work of practitioners ranging from Littlewood to Chekhov, in Alfreds's stagecraft, firmly locating him in an eclectic, experimental and alternative British tradition. This, the article argues, markedly distinguishes Alfreds's approach to the rehearsal process from that of other Globe directors, in which the diligent blocking of actors' movements takes precedence over the spontaneity and uniqueness of each performance. Alfreds's preference for the latter, the essay suggests, facilitates an approach to Shakespearean performance which has the process of the actor at its centre, with the resultant performance left open to infinite possibilities.
Mike Alfreds,Shakespeare's Globe,Acting,Improvisation,Stanislavsky,Active Analysis,Cymbeline,A Midsummer Night's Dream,Live performance