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Gordon Vallins

Gordon Vallins is an Associate Fellow of the CAPITAL Centre, and in 2007/08 is running a number of workshops for students of Drama & Democracy and British Theatre since 1939 .

"It really began when I first taught Geography in a secondary school in Hertfordshire and, being young, naive and inexperienced, I was asked to produce the school's Christmas play. Pinnochio was chosen and I was immediately sold, it was a 'Road to Damascus' moment. The young people who had experienced the show seemed, to me, to be more confident, happier and had a greater sense of well being than their counterparts. A year's specialist training followed and ideas and opportunities opened up. After a period at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry where I had the opportunity not only to direct but also to develop work with schools and to design and implement the very first Theatre in Education scheme.

"I taught actors in training at LAMDA and teachers in training in Buckinghamshire and for 25 years was Director of Studies for the Performing Arts programmes at Stratford-upon-Avon College where, with colleagues, we set up the original A Level in Theatre Studies; and in collaboration with the University of Coventry an HE programme in Theatre Practice followed. Teaching has taken me to the USA, to the University of Birmingham, and working with the RSC Education Department and in various parts of the world with the International Schools Theatre Association. I have directed more plays and projects with young people than I care to remember. I was a drama adviser for the Arts Council from 1991-2002 and at present am a member of the Theatrical Management Association Awards Judging Panel. Although retired, I'm enjoying nodding in and out of the CAPITAL Centre as an Associate Fellow".

Off-the-wall about theatre - a personal note

I've been involved with theatre most of my adult life. Why? It's because I find life extraordinarily complex. I have a belief that it is in the nature of theatre to offer us a window of understanding, a moment possibly of clarity when we begin to understand something of life's complexities - not neccesarily a full understanding, but as an aid to that understanding of ourselves and others and maybe to gain a degree of perception, just a glimmer perhaps of what is true. The challenge of a play is to strive to unearth the truth within a text and bring it to life. The only way to understand a play is to stand it on its feet.

I believe that our greatest playwrights are our greatest teachers. They have discovered and practised the incredibly subtle nuanced art of combining experience, observation, understanding, of questioning humankind's behaviour in a multiplicity of styles, in language that echoes life's reverberations and sometimes presents us with startling revelations. Discovering ways of bringing that language to life and the ideas and emotions that are embedded there in that language is a challenge I respond to.

I have directed all manner of theatrical events, mini-carnivals, documentaries, devised pieces, historical chronicles, pantomimes, but I am happiest working on Shakespeare and the privilege of grappling with minds greater than my own: Chekov, Beckett, Buchner, Brecht, Williams, Miller, Arden, translations of Sophocles and Aeschylus. And the playwrights I have read and taught; Marlowe, Tourneur, Lope de Vega, Friel, O'Casey, Stoppard, Churchill, McDonagh etc., minds that fizz, that provide an opening into a universe that belongs, yet does not belong, to me. And to struggle to bring life to that play can be so exciting.

And that's how I'd like to spend some of my retirement, but most of it with my wife and grandchildren and a little teaching. So, I might be a bit of a dinosaur, but I shall go on reading plays, going to the theatre, and as long as I can stand up, directing plays that are struggling to say something about the human condition. Over the last ten years, since I've retired I've done an annual production at the Loft Theatre in Leamington Spa; out of the ten there have been only two that have given me the greatest and deepest sense of pleasure and satisfaction: The Cherry Orchard and King Lear.