Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Less is more: sometimes the words will do all the work

The Words of Wisdom this week are: ‘Less is more: sometimes the words will do all the work.’ That comes in two parts and both depend on the interaction between the actor and the minds of the audience. Less is more because if inner emotion is expressed in a subtle way the audience will read the inner emotion that the actor is generating and find it convincing, but if the emotion is over-expressed the audience will find it exaggerated and unbelievable. Sometimes the words will do all the work because a large part of what an involved audience is doing is decoding the meaning of the words it is hearing. Lines with a highly emotional content don’t need to be decorated with artificial histrionics, just say the words and the audience will do the rest. Less is more: sometimes the words will do all the work.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

99% (effort) isn't good enough

And the Words of Wisdom this week are: ‘99% (effort) isn’t good enough.’ Most things worth doing in life are difficult and hard work. This particularly applies in the arts and sport, two areas where I’ve spent most of my life. It means training and practising harder, even when you don’t feel like it; it means challenging yourself by taking on the things you’re least good at; it means starting all over again when you have a setback. As the poet says ‘Say not the struggle naught availeth’: and as the Words of Wisdom say ‘99% (effort) isn’t good enough.’

And if anyone would like to read the entire poem, go to

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Acting is more like football than it is like chess

First the Words of Wisdom: Acting is more like football than it is like chess. Much is made of the complexity of the game of chess: how there are millions of possibilities for the first few moves, so that no game is ever likely to be exactly repeated. Chess is regarded as an intellectual pursuit, whilst football is often said to be a diversion for the less intelligent.

But look at the facts. There are twenty ways that white can play the first move in a chess game: sixteen for the pawns and four for the knights. There are twenty ways that black can reply and the game continues in a similar way.

Compare this with football. Think of the myriad ways a ball can be played: kicked or headed, in what direction, how hard, with what elevation and spin. Which, of the other 21 players on the pitch will play it next, and where? And what about the complications of fouls, corner kicks, the offside rule and all the rest of it? It immediately becomes obvious that football is a far more complex game than chess.

Unlike chess, where a position can be exhaustively analysed, acting, like football, defies precise analysis. Both involve mind, body and spirit and excite passion in both players – same word, you see - and spectators. Computer programs have been written that can play chess at grandmaster level, but a robot version of Lionel Messi is still awaited. As is a computerised Scarlett Johansson.

So, we conclude: Acting is more like football than it is like chess. Acting is not a science and can never be reduced to a formula. So may your favourite team win, or at least play well.