Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Acting is more about being than doing

Some of you haven’t been yet; some of you have just begun; some of you are occasionals; some of you are regulars; some of you will be returners; I hope none of you are never come again-ers. Whichever you are it would be good to see you soon.

And do remember that I am always glad to promote any productions in which people are involved, so that you can have the chance of supporting them. This week Szilvia Kopeczi, our resident soprano, will be appearing in an opera showcase at the Cochrane Theatre on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday afternoon, so I hope some of you will be inspired to go along, The box office no is 020 7269 1606.

And the Words of Wisdom this week apply particularly to screen acting, The Words are: Acting is more about being than doing. If you produce a thought or a feeling inside you, the camera will see it and the audience will see it through the medium of the camera. If you consciously do something externally to illustrate the thought or the feeling, you will almost certainly do too much and the effect will be unrealistic. As James Dean is reputed to have said ‘If the script tells me to smoke a cigarette, I smoke a cigarette, I don’t act smoking a cigarette.’ Or as Jean-Luc Godard put it: ‘Cinema is the truth twenty-four times a second.’

It takes confidence to do little enough, to just ‘be’ and not hide behind a smokescreen of ‘do.’ You have to bet the house on the camera liking what it sees, but no-one ever said life isn’t a gamble, did they? Acting is more about being than doing.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Use your eyes

Let’s hope the unseasonably sunny weather continues, though perhaps it might relent a little on Sunday, when the London Marathon looks like being run in conditions warm enough to be difficult to cope with. However, our classes continue as normal and I hope the fine weather will encourage a few more people to turn out, both on Thursday and on Saturday. If you haven’t been for a while, they are drop-in classes and one of their delights is that we never know who is going to surprise us and reappear, so don’t be shy about coming along.

And the Words of Wisdom this week: Use your eyes! When we look at people we look at their eyes. When they look at us they look at our eyes. We read people’s eyes and we signal with our eyes and we are wonderfully skilful at interpreting people’s character and mood from a momentary scanning of those few square centimetres in the upper part of their face. Gaze is a more fundamental channel of communication than spoken language: we can communicate with people who do not speak a word of our language by using the expression of our eyes. We can even communicate with some species of our animal cousins in the same way: the language of gaze is pre-human. So, especially on screen or in small scale theatre, actors should use their eyes and lead with their eyes. When you watch a film, note how often the most powerful shots are the reaction shots, where a character is not speaking at all. One look can be worth a thousand words so … use your eyes!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007


Looking through the sessions we’ve had so far this year, the titles include:

Ice & Fire: Giving and Receiving Extreme Emotions
Cutting Your Fears Down to Size
Eccentrics, Freaks & Weirdos
Heart & Head
Some Basics of Acting

So, sometimes it’s centred on acting technique, sometimes we use a theme for the content and sometimes it’s based on life skills. What I do want to emphasise for new people is that if you are shy or nervous you need have nothing to fear. You won’t be asked to do anything difficult until you show you’re ready.

And for those who are already members: remember every session is new so, if you missed any of the ones I’ve mentioned, they won’t come round again: we’ll be on to something else.

There is just one word of wisdom this week: Listen! When you are acting, the listening is all important. When you are improvising, the reacting is at least as important as the acting. If you listen you will react authentically to what is said. If you are focusing solely on the clever thing you are going to say next the dialogue will fracture and fall apart. If you are working from a script it’s easy to fall into the trap of mentally rehearsing what you are due to say next, rather than listening to what the other characters are saying. No-one can ever deliver a line exactly identically twice over, so if you don’t listen your line may not marry properly to the line before and the flow of the dialogue will tend to become disjointed. So, listen!

Hope to see you all soon.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Live dangerously

Happy Easter everyone!

We'll have a week off from the classes, so there will be nothing thisThursday or Saturday.Then we'll start again on 12th April and continue through to 28th July. Our numbers have been picking up again and since January 56 people have come along at one time or another. I'd like a few more sometimes so why not bring a friend next time!

Recommendations: Lynne Malkin, who has recently returned to the class after several years, sings as 50ft Woman. She is about to release a new singleand you can see her and hear some of her music at She may also be found at and will be performing inthe London area soon. Lynne is also designing our soon to be unveiled website so ... get her to number one!

Going back further in time, Celia Quartermain used to work for me at AnnaScher Theatre. She is now a producer and has an interesting radio programme coming up. It's called 'Falklands 25: Building the Fortress' and will airat 8:00pm on Monday 9th April on Radio 4 FM. Celia's late uncle was an officer commanding the Falklands immediately after the war and the programme is made from his audio diaries recorded at the time. This promises to be a very unusual piece of living history.

And the Words of Wisdom this week: Live dangerously! I don't mean you should live dangerously in real life, in real life it's usually best to be cautious and careful. But when you're acting different rules apply.

Audiences like to be excited and stimulated and you don't do that by playing it safe. So keep the emotional temperature high, use unexpectedness, vary the dynamics of your performance (pace, volume, movement.) Don't be dull!

When improvising, don't fall into thinking that everything you do has to have a rational explanation: trust your unconscious mind. Go for it! Make your characters and performances bold, though believable. Live dangerously!

And finally, a mission statement: my mission in life is to make people(including myself) happy and interested. So, be happy and interested!