MA Practice as Research:

The Efficacy of Symbolic Action Investigating the Creation and Effect of Symbolic Action on Performers and Audiences in the Performance, The Passion of Lady Vendredi Grieve, Jonathan (2017) Download Full Transcript

The idea for The Passion began in 2012 when I formed MAS productions with lead performer and composer, Nwando Ebizie. The performance centres on her persona as cultmusic icon Lady Vendredi a mythopoetic super heroine and vodou priestess pop star from another dimension.

The Passion is a love and sexual healing ritual with the overarching poetic theme of the transformation of pain into beauty. It is set in an all female cult called The Daughters of Manifestation and uses the experimental style of performance art possessions climaxing with the ritual sacrifice of a male figure Papa Ito, played by Ignacio Jarquin, who symbolises Lady Vendredis rapists and abusers. The performance featured a four piece live band playing compositions mostly written by Ebizie set to traditional Haitian rhythms.

The focus of my research was the creation of Symbolic Action and its application and efficacy in both the studio research environment and in performance. My working definition for Symbolic Action is an action that causes a physical or emotional change in the participants (performers or audience), or more evocatively, a change in energy and consciousness. The Symbolic Action is coded and contains information necessary for a transaction or exchange between participants that creates an intimate, spontaneous and self-aware connection taking place in the here and now of the performance.

The fields of practical and theoretical research included:Jerzy Grotowskis physical training, especially the exercises plastiques and more broadly verticality. Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s performance art methodology or Radical Performance Pedagogy. The training of Haitian vodou ritual dance and rhythm with dancer and choreographer Zsuzsa Parrag a German/Hungarian teacher who studied in Port-au-Prince with Florencia Pierre, a vodou mambo. The reading and application of Transactional Analysis, a system of social psychiatry created by Eric Berne, provided the theoretical framework for the research.

Image: Nwando Ebizie performing in Lady Vendredi Baadass Blood Quest at Lime Wharf 2013


Jonathan Grieve has taught and directed Collaborative and Devised theatre at Drama Schools, Universities and FE Colleges since 1997. He has directed 16 full productions including 11 at Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and 5 at East 15, Barnet College and APT. He has also taught at University of Kent, Goldsmiths, Brunel, Dagenham College, Newham Vi Form College, Cooper’s Colburn and others.

Training and rehearsal with 3rd Year European Theatre Arts students on their final public production Point Zero, Rose Bruford College 2016, directed by Jonathan Grieve.

Photo’s by Michael O’Reilly

Performance and rehearsal with 3rd Year European Theatre Arts students on their final public production The Panopticon Illusion, Rose Bruford College 2014, directed by Jonathan Grieve.

Photo’s by Micheal O’Reilly