Preview: Tamburlaine, Old Vic, Bristol

Yoga brings new depth to acting
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The Independent Culture

Three decades on, the lean, intense Hicks, known for his beautiful delivery of verse and his burning gaze in such RSC triumphs as Tantalus and Coriolanus, has, he says, transformed his mind and body through the practice of yoga. The process has been helped by the teaching of Jonathan Monks, a trim teacher 20 years his junior, who also worked with the rest of the cast of Coriolanus. Monks has brought his techniques to the rehearsals of Hicks' forthcoming play, Tamburlaine, also directed by David Farr.

The character may seem an unlikely candidate for truth-through-yoga - it's hard to picture the 14th-century Mongol emperor, conqueror of Persia, India and the Golden Horde, "the scourge and wrath of God", sitting cross-legged with a blissful smile. But as Monks' book Yoga-Pilates shows, he teaches a vigorous type of yoga.

Monks encountered a fair bit of resistance when he first tried to get the cast of Tamburlaine (14, besides Hicks) interested in yoga. Half of them called it "tedious". He told them that, on stage beside Hicks, omnipotent and terrifying, they would be invisible unless they could also project a sense of strength, which yoga would help them achieve. "When I last looked in, they were all doing the exercises, squatting until their thighs burned, then gradually rising higher and higher."

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