Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Be different

My mother, who was a teacher, had a saying 'I can be right or I can be wrong or I can be different.' Now, as she grew up with only one parent in an impoverished childhood and was widowed while still in her thirties, yet went on to lecture at Oxford University and travel round the world, her words are well worth taking heed of. What she taught me was to work hard, have a good head for figures and never give in. And, above all, not to be afraid of being different. You see, the subtext of 'I can be right or I can be wrong or I can be different' is that the best thing is to be different, to step outside orthodoxy and be distinguished by your qualities as an individual.

It's therefore not surprising, perhaps, that so many of my pupils both now and in the past have been people who some would consider to have the wrong accent, be the wrong colour, be the wrong age, be too eccentric, have the wrong orientation. I believe in inclusiveness and integration but not the politicians' idea of setting minorities up as competing 'victim groups.' Very destructive, that is, and ultimately guilty of the very prejudices it purports to seek to eradicate.

So how does this apply to the life of an actor? Firat, consider what there is in yourself and your experience that makes you stand out from other people. Enhance those things. Always be looking to add to your experience and knowledge, particularly in unusual ways. Don't limit your friendships to people in similar lines of work. In a highly competitive field littered with disappointments beware of adopting negative attitudes: such attitudse are infectious and dangerous. Don't wear the uniform: avoid being instantly recognisable as an actor or actress. After all, there aren't that many parts as actors, are there?

And remember the Words of Wisdom: 'I can be right or I can be wrong or I can be different' so be different.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Respect the Writer

This week's Words of Wisdom are Respect the Writer. Every play, film, book or musical has its writer and the writer or writers are its prime creators. Every word of dialogue, every twist of the plot and every note of the music has been created by them and they should be respected. So, for example, take care to deliver every line exactly as written: an approximate paraphrase is simply not good enough.

Despite their pre-eminence in the creative process, writers are curiously unappreciated. In the New Year honours list far more actors are decorated than authors. Hit songs are routinely ascribed to the singers that first performed them rather than the songwriters that wrote them. In books of quotations classic comedy lines are listed under the actors that delivered them rather than the writers that thought them up. (So, just for the record, Morecambe and Wise's material was written by Eddie Braben; Tony Hancock's by Galton and Simpson.)

In the land of the world's greatest playwright, Shakespeare, and the world's greatest novelist, Dickens, we should appreciate writers more. Actors should learn about the writer's craft: the use of words, the structure of stories, the insight into human nature. Try writing yourself and find out how difficult it is to create something original and interesting.

Respect the Writer.