Day 4 – The Journey of Renewal in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ with Richard Olivier

Richard Olivier took centre stage today to begin the journey of renewal in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It.’ Richard is Artistic Director of Olivier Mythodrama Associates (OMA), a unique leadership development consultancy. He was a leading theatre director for 10 years. His work is at the leading edge of bringing theatre into the development of authentic leadership. Richard is the founder of Mythodrama — a new form of experiential learning which combines great stories with psychological insights, creative exercises and organisational development techniques.

This report comes to you from Findhorn resident, Jane Rasbash.

‘The purpose of acting is to hold the mirror up to nature’ – Shakespeare

Mythodrama is an unusual and effective method of experiential learning taking themes from great plays and myths and facilitating participants to gain new perspectives on a variety of situations. I was excited to attend this one-day workshop as part of the Positive Energy Conference. I entered the auditorium with curiosity. How could a group of almost 200, from many nationalities, learn about Positive Energy from Shakespearian English that native speakers find challenging?

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The day was based on the comedy ‘As You Like It’. It was led by the charismatic and wizard-like theatre director Richard Olivier of OMA, assisted by a team of multi talented facilitators from the Findhorn Community. Headed by the captivating Olivier the team dipped into a compelling toolbox including performance and theatre skills, dialogue, poetry and guided visualisation that took participants both individually and collectively on a journey of renewal and regeneration.

As we entered the Universal Hall we were invited into a theatre and informed we were a player. Welcome to the rehearsal room! The day began with Richard taking us through the scenes of the play and introducing us to the main characters. We were invited to form small groups that we resonated with, either a significant step of the play (as can be seen in the illustration below) or one of the characters. In our groups we shapeshifted into this perspective and shared our wisdom about the character or situation.

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The steps started with the ‘Unendurable Present’ that we can easily relate in the context of the terrible realities the planet is in due to climate change. Then we were taken on a transformational journey through a forest, a metaphor for a magical land, enabling us to shed old habits and rehearse better roles for the future ending with the ‘Promise of Fulfilment’ and the symbolic ‘Four Marriages’ that can represent renewal for a healthy and sustainable planet.

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The story begins in the Old Court ruled by a wicked Duke, with a lust for power and greed. First the popular brother of the Duke is banished then others including his daughter Rosalind, her cousin Celia and the hero Orlando flee away from the oppression to the forest. Here they learn to live in a less hierarchical way, meet and interact with a diverse range of people and new relationships blossom. By the end of the play harmony is restored between all, even the wicked Duke is transformed, and there is a new vision for sustainability and regeneration of the Court.

Through a series of processes we were guided through the steps that mirrored Orlando’s journey. He had a series of adventures where he wrestles with an expert and comes out as the underdog winner, gains a glimpse of the soul as the sweet Rosalind connects with him and offers a golden chain. He enters the forest, hungry and tired he asks for food first raising his sword then dropping it as he goes through the first phase of transformation. Gradually he releases the inner structures that underpinned the Old Court. He learns how to connect with nature, the process taking him from alignment to attunement. His journey, aided and abetted by the other characters, takes in philosophical thinking and creative expression. New roles are created as internal structures break down and our hearts are educated as we rehearse new ways of being.

“All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players.”

part-j.jpgAt each stage of the journey Richard would call upon representatives from that scene or character to take the stage and share insights from their perspective and adding enormous depth and wisdom to understanding the multi levels of the play. This skilful and truly participatory process led participants to recognise and shed limiting old patterns and commit to new ways of being.

A significant step in the journey was when Orlando realised that:

‘I can live no longer by thinking’

This was the point at which Rosalind accepted him as a worthy suitor. And I see it as a reminder that to solve the complexities of climate change we need to approach it from the heart as well as the head.

anarch-b.jpgFor many it was a bumpy ride experiencing the myths and archetypes in ‘As You Like It’ physically and emotionally. Yet along with deep insights there was fun, laughter and positive energy. Sometimes it seemed chaotic and I applaud Richard as a master of emerging design. He was truly in the moment yet well rehearsed and this seemed to generate a channel where inspiration poured in to allow co-creation of order and chaos to facilitate transformation. Late afternoon, Roger Doudna, the resident philosopher of Findhorn, questioned Richard as to whether all the threads would pull together — Richard answered that this may or may not happen as everyone’s journey is different and this work keeps on going with insights and revelations into the depths of myth. (Writing this blog two days later I can resonate as many insights are pouring in as I review the day! I hope that this short account gives at least a flavour of the breadth and depth of the day.)

part-k.jpgI chose the step ‘Glimpsing the Soul’ as I yearn for the need of symbols and inspiration to sustain me on my journey to reduce suffering. In reflection I was called back to Richard’s introduction where he had described OMA being rooted in the heady mix of the shamanic origin of theatre, evolutionary philosophy and archetypal psychology. Sacred theatre where the original actors were priests, priestesses and shamans holding a mirror to nature to see the direction for the tribe to move forward.

I am left wondering if Shakespeare was taught this way in schools and our society allowed for shamans, priests and priestesses to take the roles to facilitate change how differently our lives and that of our planet may turn out.

Returning to my original question — yes the English was challenging yet the wisdom of the small groups was a structure to share and overcome this. Richard’s masterly oration of selected words at opportune moments was another tool to shine the illuminating wisdom of Shakespeare. Who could not relate to the Bards words as we learned to attune with nature in the forest:

“Are not these woods more free of peril than the envious court…
(These rough elements) are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

I believe this quote sums up how we can relate this inspirational day to climate change (and follow on sychronistically from Dorothy Maclean and Joanna Macy). Look to nature for wisdom, listen to ‘tongues in trees’ and ‘sermons in stone’ learn the lessons from nature so we can renew and regenerate old ways.

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In addition we can learn from the metaphor of the symbolic journey, an opportunity to break from ingrained, static habits and vision and rehearse new innovative ways for sustainable change. We can do this in several ways. Some will stay in the forest as pioneers holding an ideal space and inspiring example of other ways. Some may interact between the attuning ‘forest’ and the aligning ‘court’ sharing new information and ways of being. Yet others will bravely return to the current world ‘Court’ and influence directly the main structures of society, the corridors of power, multi-nationals and governments, influencing authority towards positive change. Whichever path we choose may we be rejuvenated, wiser and inspirational with new energy – it is my hope that many of us here can draw upon this experience and have creative input into a more sustainable planet.

– Jane Rasbash –

To find out more about Richard Olivier and his work, visit: http://www.oliviermythodrama.com

Coming soon – presentations by Megan Quinn and Jonathan Dawson.

Photographer: Sverre Koxvold

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