Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Book Review • DIFFERENT EVERY NIGHT • Mike Alfreds • 2007

differenteverynightDifferent Every Night: Freeing the Actor by Mike Alfreds

With over fifty years of directing experience, Mike Alfreds has developed a specific way of working in the rehearsal room. In this illuminating and inspiring book for actors and directors alike, Alfreds shares his methodology and process, based in rich experience and acute observation of actors at work (and play).

First and foremost, Alfreds believes in the primacy of actors, who are “the vital force of theatre”. Indeed, he founded Shared Experience in the 1970s under the guiding principle that you need nothing but actors to create good theatre. Theatre, at root, is bare storytelling, a communication between actor and audience.

Despite recent endeavours to modernise theatre with technical wizardry, Alfreds is frank about the deadliness of much contemporary theatre. A rigid rehearsal process, which blocks and fixes every action and line, squeezes the life out of a text and quickly dissolves into stale performances on stage. However, “theatre that embraces the spontaneity, immediacy, unexpectedness of life together with our ability to change, grow and develop, will create the truest and purest form of itself. This depends totally on the creativity – the humanity – of the actors”.

Theatre is the most human of the art forms, closest to our experience of life and “actors are our representatives of humanity”. Unlike every other art form, the actor’s instrument is him/herself. So, Alfreds encourages the actor to “find [characters] in yourself, rather than impose yourself on them.”

If the actor is the most essential element of theatre, the director’s relationship to the actor “has to be treated as the most critical in the creation of a production”. In Alfreds’ vast experience, “Directing is as much about dealing with people as texts.” Towards the end of his book, Alfreds offers endearingly honest but sensitive and totally pragmatic advice to directors about dealing with actors – and vice versa.

Alfreds sees the director’s role as that of a guide, rather than instructor, challenging actors and exploring with them the possibilities and “multi-dimensional richness” of text or devised work. Therefore, in rehearsal, “Ideally, the world of the play evolves.”

The rehearsal room is a laboratory of experiment and choice. The process involves both structure and freedom; in fact, the two are inter-dependent. “Creativity can only come through process, process that enables that creative imagination to evolve”. The director enforces the rigour of a method to release the actors’ creative freedom.

Alfreds guides the reader through his specific discipline, crafted and honed over years of directing experience, but based in the Stanislavskian system of objectives and actions. “Playing actions is the actor’s main task” because “we are what we do.” “An actor cannot play an emotion”; instead, emotional responses are automatically aroused when actors execute their actions truthfully. Thus, “character, mood, atmosphere and style will quite naturally be created if actors play their actions and objectives within the context of their given circumstances”.

Of particular use to aspiring directors, Alfreds sets out in detail his rehearsal structure. For him, the rehearsal process can be neatly divided into three strands – work on text, character and the world of the play – but within that, it explores: actions, scene objectives, beats, given circumstances, the world of the play, logic text (focusing on the language and structure of the text), character and Laban techniques. Everything stems from the content and form of the text itself. Alfreds’ exercises are also designed to unite the ensemble company of actors, so that the production is developed as an integrated whole.

The director provides the conditions for the actors to immerse themselves in the world of the play and their characters to the point at which the actors become inherently comfortable with them. This ease and familiarity will ensure that creative freedom extends beyond the rehearsal room and into production. “Each performance should be a disciplined improvisation in which the ‘what’ (text and, to a certain degree, actions and objectives) remains unchanged, but the ‘how’ (the execution of these) can vary.” Theatre should always be a discovery, “a unique event, open to permanent change” – different every night.

Like his approach to actors, Alfreds’ book is both supportive and challenging. What impresses most of all is his vital enthusiasm for theatre and actors, which shines through his rigorous rehearsal process and uncompromising demand for long rehearsal periods. His directorial techniques are described in such generous detail as to make them accessible and practical learning tools for all readers. Different Every Night is essential reading for actors and directors.

Rhona Foulis © 2007

Originally published n R&V 31-12-07


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day


Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...


theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College


Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....


Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork


by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

The poor side of life

Exposing the unfair treatment of jobseekers, the horrors of Universal Credit, unfair sanctions and heinous treatment of claimants at Ashton under Lyne Jobcentre.

Art by Vicky Paton

Canadian Abstract Artist

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science and analysis


Supporting the rich amateur theatre scene on the Isle of Wight

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

Sarah Ditum

Writing, etc.

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

%d bloggers like this: