Interview with Benji Reid

Who is Benji Reid? Well, Benji Reid will be conducting a 3-day Physical Storytelling Masterclass this February. We got to know a little bit about this award-winning visual theatre director and artist in a 10 Questions feature… but let’s get to know Benji Reid on a deeper level in this interview.

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello everybody. My name is Benji Reid I am a theatre maker and choreo-photolist. I am an image originated dramatist I try my best to deliver highly visual drama utilizing poetry, dance and mime.my work can be provocative energized and deeply emotive.  My back ground is in popping, ballet and contemporary dance. My work explores issues about the black British experience, mental heath and substance abuse. Working with a cross section of contemporary music and classical music.

What is one thing that we don’t know just by looking at you?

That I had a heart operation when I was eight. I was introduced to mortality at a very early age. So this educed an existential crisis at an early stage asking why we exist and what is our purpose here on earth, This I believe was the start to my introverted journey. I knew form an early age that I was going to be an artist dance was my first love but as time evolved I became more interested to drama and story telling.

How old were you when you first started getting involved with theatre?

I was introduced to hip hop around thirteen years old via Malcolm McLaren music videos “Buffalo Gals”, one thing that stood out in the culture was how essential character was in your performance, this was how one could stand out in a crowed it wasn’t good enough to be a good dancer one had to have personality one had to able to improvise playing close attention to the feel and sound of the music , one way you express your personality is the way you dressed but how you carried yourself on and off the dance floor. So I came to theatre via dance and my interest in how I could pull the audience into my world via my physical comedy on the dance floor. This all made sense when I studied with Denise Wong of back mime theatre and David Glass of David Glass mime ensemble.

Tell us your favorite memory as a performer.

One of my favorite performances was the last performances of The Devil has Quintin’s Heart in Amsterdam. In short, the show follows Quintin on his last night on earth as the devil is coming to take his soul. The play is a series of rituals, eating, dancing, crying, remembering, masturbating, all in the attempt to have his final pleasures before his demise.

This night in Amsterdam I remember sitting central stage as the show starts, and there was this silence in a sold out auditorium, it was one of pure concentration and anticipation, I remember just being in the moment all the ideas for the play just connected there was no effort on my part to please the audience just be and tell the story. It felt magical simple and very real and connected. It was one night where there was magic in the air.

Who is your favorite theatre practitioner?

I don’t have one. I just have many influences Simon McBurney, David Glass, Robert Hylton.

What do you teach?

I teach physical and emotional connection, how one can move with real intention to explore personal narrative. I teach that every word has a physical connection to the body mind and soul. My aim is that every student understands how to communicate ideas via the body working with the breath and rhythm.

What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching philosophy is: one must be present in everything on stage. That one must learn to rediscover real moments every night on stage, one must not fake a performance. My work is naked and truthful I look for this in my students.

What skills, values or mindset do you most want to impart to your students?

The mind set is, one must let go of ego to be honest and vulnerable in the working space. The skill set is the body must correspond to he emotional landscape of the performer. To be fully present in every moment. That one must always seek questions of oneself to find deeper purpose as a performer.

Tell us your favorite memory as a teacher.

Watching my daughter learn to walk every moment was full of a real intention and focus. She had her super objective to stand on her own two feet, but within this there was adventure and a real playfulness that only children can bring. This for me was the simplest example of physical storytelling mixed with physical comedy.

What do you wish you’d known before you started your journey as a theatre maker?

That there is no end point as a performer there is just an deeper learning. That one should not seek to be comfortable as an artist one should seek the unknown. That one must become a master of failure and welcome adversity in your journey as we can learn if we don’t fail never be afraid to fail.

What do you hope for the future of theatre to be like?

My hope is that theatre continues to challenge, to disrupt and question our world, that it remains unique as live genre to be both beautiful and grotesque.