Founder of CRAFT Theatre, Rocky Rodriguez speaks to Theatrefullstop about the company’s unique adaptation of Dante’s Inferno!

Rocky Rodriguez

Having trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Rocky Rodriguez Jr is no stranger to the stage or big screen, having worked on Hollywood Blockbusters such as Kick Ass 2 to Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. However, it is his innovative work as artistic director and founder of C.R.A.F.T Theatre that has really seen the performer turned director stand out from the crowd. Placing an emphasis on cognitive neuroscience, which combines both neuroscience and cognitive science to examine the intricacies of how the brain functions, C.R.A.F.T Theatre look to push the boundaries of theatre making by creating thrilling, original and emotionally charged theatre. Ahead of their production of Dante’s Inferno, which will show at the Rag Factory from Thursday 8th January, Theatrefullstop were able to talk to Rocky about his unique adaptation of the classic, using exhaustion as a means to create theatre and his advice to aspiring directors.

Hi Rocky, Your adaptation of Dante’s Inferno will make its debut at the Rag Factory in January, how are you feeling ahead of the production?

I’m nervous, but for the wrong reasons. This is a big show for us, we’ve put our hearts and souls into it. I hope it goes down well. I think about all that too much. I know I am just giving myself stress and it’s an illusion. Nevertheless, I’m nervous. The piece is in a good place, we are ahead of schedule.
What is unique about your adaptation of the classic?

I think it’s important to say that it’s not just my adaptation. My techniques created the piece, but so did the ensemble. Even with one different member in attendance, we would have had an entirely different outcome. We don’t use props, or crazy costumes, mad light displays, mechanistic sets- we create space with ourselves. We focus on tempo, authenticity, emotional intensity, the power a story with a simple structure has in an audience members imagination. We will give you our very will when you see it.

What drew you to adapt Dante’s Inferno?
The idea of a person traveling through internal hell from societies stresses, fits the structure of Dante’s Inferno very well. That, and the Inferno has so much potential as a devised piece of theatre.

It’s clear that your methodology of using exhaustion and cognitive neuroscience is integral to creating the end result. Could you describe the rehearsal process for the production?
During our intensives, in which we build the piece (We call it composition rehearsals) The company will do small to moderate to intense ‘movement’ (including leaps, and rolls, Grotowski exercises, ‘spacing’ exercises) from anywhere between 2 to 8 hours depending on the training for the day. We will spend time deconstructing our identities, manipulating our imaginations, and to practically experience our emotions. The other parts of rehearsal we either debate ideas that are integral to whatever we are building in that moment. We flow through on our passion and rigour. Sometimes we meditate. Food breaks get in the way.

Craft Theatre was founded in 2010 with its first work, ‘A Question of Consent’ making its debut this year. What inspired the creation of the company?
Originally I developed C.R.A.F.T to be more of a practice based research lab and ‘actor as artist’ training centre, it was going to be called ‘Conservatoire of Research And Fundamental Theatre’; it evolved to become a theatre company in 2011. Eventually I had a core team come together and we developed Consent. Now we’ve grown in numbers and spent some time training. I suppose I wanted ‘more’ from acting. I wanted to see where someone could take it if fear wasn’t a problem, but a tool. I kept seeing theatre that was just lacking in commitment, poor robot techniques. I wanted to develop a technique that can be taught very simply, clean up our acting methods to make them simpler so they can be taught with less enigma.

Who, or what has inspired your practice as a director?
Grotowski, Brook, Boal, Stanievski, Mamet, Lapage, Yoga, Film, loads of books, experience, failures, educational institutions.

What advice would you give to aspiring theatre directors?

Create with what you have and what you have will grow. Do not let money or fear hinder you. Break through the walls you face. Be yourself, share your thoughts. Don’t copy practices or styles, learn and then develop your own practice. There will be so many difficult times in the beginning, remember that to make original work takes courage- anyone can put on Macbeth again, anyone can rent space on the West End. Create something new, something from you. Help develop the medium of theatre. Do it for more than money or fame.

Interview by Lucy Basaba.

Dante’s Inferno will be showing at the Rag Factory from Thursday 8th January until Sunday 1st February. For more information on the production, visit here…

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