Third Theatre – Immediate Theatre

A brief description of the ‘Third Theatre’ process.

Basic Training

The process of creating a Third Theatre production is inseparable from the training programme, which prepares the actor for that process. This mixture of training and creating works to build intuitive bonds between the actors is essential for them to be able to fully engage with the demands of Third Theatre’s devising method.

The actors will work to discover their basic level, the level of their existence which is totally honest. From here they build the drama using themselves as material. They are no longer ‘acting’ a part but creating theatre using themselves, or at least the relevant part of themselves, as the principal character.

Simultaneously, the actor explores what we call their ‘will energy’. What do we mean by this? An everyday example would be the feeling which makes a person turn round if someone is staring at them from behind. The person staring is directing their ‘will energy’. We believe an effective actor when performing naturally exudes this energy and this makes them an object of fascination. Third Theatre’s on-going training process of vocal and physical exercises attempts to explore the nature of this energy, asking the questions:

  • Is it possible to control it consciously?
  • Is it possible to increase its effectiveness?
  • Is it possible to direct it for dramatic effect?

Further, we believe that an actor whilst performing in front of an audience is able to reach a state where the will energy of the actor fuses with that of the audience, creating a common and heightened communication. Within this state the actor is able to create an imaginary reality which the audience are able implicitly to believe in. Indeed, through this common state of connected belief the actor’s creative abilities are enhanced, even to the point of going beyond their own awareness of their capabilities.


The productions might be devised from stories, myths, historic events, issues, questions, and in rare occasions dramatic scripts.

The subject matter is presented to the company and each actor conducts their own research, continuous for the whole length of the devising period, with actors potentially (but not necessarily) supplying themselves with new material right up until the production is presented.

The Director guides this process but everything the actors present is considered and worked through.

Third Theatre rehearsals are not periods of fitting movements and emotions to remembered lines. Rather they are periods of equipping the actor with a sound knowledge of the material to be portrayed, and the skills to be able to effectively dramatize that material. Within a structure ultimately decided by the director, the actual words and movements are down to the actors themselves and are never fixed, either in a rehearsal or during a production. So even in a performance the actors are recreating a scene for the first time pushing it to its limit, this creates a tension between the actors who now must listen and understand what is happening.

This tension is communicated to the audience who become complicit with the unfolding drama.

During the devising process all the actors involved will understand the role within the overall production of a particular scene. They will also understand their role within that scene, and will never stop trying to improve the effectiveness of both their performance and the scenes.

The Director

The director’s role in this process is to hold the flow and dynamic of the final production in mind (so the actors don’t have to) and watch. Each rehearsal is a piece of theatre in itself as the actors enter the space with their role to be played out. The director watches as an audience and reacts, waiting for the moments which will remain to be reworked into the production. As in film editing, more ends on the editing floor than in the film, but what remains the actors own totally.

This ownership, which is physical, vocal, and emotional means there is a seamless connection of the actor to the action in real time. The actor will react only as the character, so the scene playing out always for the first time, must play out with very  similar results despite infinite changes along the way. If it does not then the Director becomes involved and the needs of the dynamic and flow of the production become part of the discussion. It is conceivable that a scene presented by actors changes the final outcome of the whole production if that discovered scene seems closer to the dramas truth.

Truth, in this context is the truth of the universe created for and by the production the actors are trying to present. The director is watching for it, or perhaps the absence of it. If the actors stray too far the director might intervene with a new starting point for an improvisation or an exercise which will attempt to help the actors rediscover the truth of the scene being created.

Less is more

To create the universe of a production, certain rules or disciplines are set in place. Third Theatre makes the performer the centre of the action, the actor’s connection with the audience being its first priority. We have found there is no need for scenery or elaborate costumes. The costumes are usually designed and are generic to the universe of the production and soon become invisible to the audience.

The actors use their bodies to suggest costume and scenery, the audience paint in the necessary details in their imagination. This makes it possible for an actor to change character in front of an audience in the time it takes to shift their bodies shape, and the action to move instantly to a new location by the actors providing the clues be their behaviour. Actors not involved in the scene as characters are often providing scenery either physically with their bodies or as non-player characters providing context or sounds. This has the benefit of the audience’s attention not being broken by pauses to change scenery. Props are also minimal and often generic, for instance sticks, and, like the actors, representing many different items. It is important each production sticks to the rules of its created universe which the audience will then accept.

This means the technical requirements of a Third Theatre production are minimal, usually consisting of a flat empty space lit by white light, with all other effects being produced by the actors themselves.