Wednesday, 27 May 2009

You are what you wear

The Words of Wisdom this week are You are what you wear. Often when you are going to appear in a production you will be called for a costume fitting, so that you may be kitted out with whatever you are going to wear in the performance. This call serves a dual purpose. Firstly, obviously, to make sure that the clothes fit you properly. But secondly, so that you have the experience of what it feels like to wear the costume. Our clothes give out strong signals about ourselves and what we are like and conversely, when we are acting, they tell us a lot about the character that is wearing them. The fitting gives us an opportunity to feel how the clothes hang and how we move in them. Once you consign that knowledge to your sense memory, you can draw in it again in rehearsal, even though you may not then be wearing the costume. Imagine the effect of wearing a variety of different clothing: a military uniform, a crinoline, surgeons' scrubs, white tie and tails, a peasant's smock, a wetsuit, a tight corset, high heeled shoes. I once had to wear the vestments of a Roman Catholic priest. I felt quite sanctified! You are what you wear.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Make it easy on yourself

The Words of Wisdom this week are 'Make it easy on yourself.' This comes from when I was in my twenties. As some of you will know I am a mathematically minded person and in that time in my life I used to coach people for their Maths exams. I found that, with a piece of Mathematics, once people understand it, it seems easy to them, but, when they don't understand it, it seems impossible. There is no middle ground. My task as a teacher was to find a way they could make the jump from not understanding to understanding. And I found that the way to do this was to break the jump down to a series of steps, each of which was simple. It is possible to apply a similar method to anything that can be learned, even artistic subjects which are not as factual and logical as Mathematics. If you have a task or technique to learn, break it down into the smallest possible steps, so that each step is easy. This is how good teachers make difficult things seem simple. Make it easy on yourself.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The delight is in the detail

Here are the Words of Wisdom for this week. When we are in the audience we want to engage with the characters being portrayed and to feel the emotional tides as they wash to and fro. That is the big picture. But we also need all the little pictures, the accuracy and definition that make us believe that what we are seeing is authentic. That is important too. The delight is in the detail.

So we, in the audience, need to see characters that are individual and not stereotypical, that have a way of speaking and a way of walking and a way of doing everything that they do that is distinct and differentiated. So actors need to make every word and every action particular to the character, so that every line of the script reveais more about the character or advances the plot - or both. Let your performances hold up a mirror to nature and show the physical and mental landscape of every profession and type of person.

How to achieve this? Through observation and imagination. Never cease from observing people in their lives and, not to be forgotten, draw on elements you observe in other actors' work. And remember: the delight is in the detail.