And that’s why they call it a Play...

It’s been 11 years since I hung up my spurs as a professional theatre director, and refocused my working life as a trainer/facilitator/consultant.   Since then I have been asked many times whether I missed the theatrical life, and had any plans to stage a return. My answer has always been a steadfast and happy “Nope!”   The multitude of things I do now fully engage and challenge me, and life had no noticeable gaps.   Which is why it was such a surprise last month to suddenly find myself coming out of retirement and directing not one, but two different pieces of theatre.

The first was a result of being commissioned by my own life-partner, the extraordinary Wanjiku Nyachae.  It’s almost impossible to categorise the work Wanjiku does – she is trained as a psychotherapist, economist, arts consultant, coaching and mentoring guru, and all-round relational leadership champion.   She had hired me to create a piece of storytelling theatre to help launch an event she had been commissioned to produce for the prestigious Ashridge Business School, as part of their week-long Director’s Potential Programme for senior Daimler executives.   The good news is that any fears I might have had about working for the first time ever with (or, even more accurately and worryingly, for) my other half were completely unfounded – in fact it was a great joy.   The even better news is that the evening was a fantastic success.   I fulfilled my brief by creating and directing a retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes with three actors and a musician, and it was wonderfully received by the ladies and gents of Daimler from all around the world.

I’d nearly forgotten what liberating fun the rehearsal room could be – the five of us spent our three rehearsal days laughing, playing, inventing and working joyfully together, while effortlessly managing to create a slick, tight, funny modern take on the classic fairytale, relevant to today’s business leaders.  We even set ourselves the challenge of leaving the ending open so our audience could choose how the story should unfold, and we could then improvise it for them.

I have blogged before on my conviction that the best training and learning takes place in a state of playfulness.   Here was a reminder that it is not only learning that thrives in this environment.   I state here without fear of contradiction that all teams, all work, all projects, all creativity and innovation, all improvement, all development, all change – in fact more or less any activity you can think of – unfolds more easily, more collaboratively, more pleasurably, and more effortlessly, in a state of open playfulness.  If you need further proof of this, I have added the inspirational book PLAY by Dr Stuart Brown, to my recommended reading list. It’s packed with research and evidence supporting this assertion.

Oh, yes, I said I was directing two theatre pieces.   You’ll have to wait for my next blog to find out about the second one.

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