Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A brief introduction to acting

A short four weeks ago I met a new group of 15 people in a room in central London. We closed our eyes and crawled over each other on the floor.

That was day one of acting school, which culminated on Sunday with a run of our one-act plays in front of a live studio audience. I loved the experience and hope to scribble some thoughts here.

A key thing for me was that as an actor one must be aware of one's body. It's easy to acknowledge this intellectually, but it takes a simple exercise and mere seconds to show most people that they have remarkably little idea what their body is doing at any given moment, myself included.

You stand up straight, assertive, looking straight at people's eyes. But you're fidgeting with your hands.

You attempt 'unsure' and move slowly, relax your body, look down - but you come across as cocky, confident, couldn't-care-less.

This is a problem for an actor, though the start of learning a skill that will pay royally in acting and otherwise.

In an exchange with someone, look at their eyes, look away, look back, look away and refuse to look back. You've lowered your status, marked yourself as submissive, if only for a moment. With two brief movements of your eyes.

Think how many muscles and moves the body is capable of. Each scratch, wiggle of an eyebrow, blink, intake of breath the audience searches through for meaning (so long as you've given them a reason to).

So in one interaction between two characters you have hundreds of these factors to deal with, bodily signals to align to your ends. In a scene, thousands. In an act, millions. In a play, multiply, multiply.

You can't script and control these individually, so you must trust 99% of them to your unconscious. So you try to really feel what's going on for your character. You are your character, you are your body, your body is your character.

When it stops, the scene over, more than once this has left me dazed and confused, emotional, delirious.

Who am I?

Friday, June 10, 2011


"We're here to deliver a petition", I said to the policeman at the top of Downing Street.
"What's it about?"
"Cuts to nurses" I replied, failing to consider that nurses are probably perfectly capable of taking care of cuts on their own.
"We have three signatures", I continued, "although one of them is you".

At this point I noticed a change in his demeanour. As if he wasn't taking us seriously. I probably imagined this, because it was five minutes to six in the morning and we were clearly three sheets to the wind. This may have already made his quick-witted policeman mind cautious about our authenticity. He giggled, grinned and playfully wiggled his semi-automatic gun. 

As we approached Big Ben, gleaming brilliant gold in bright dawn sunshine, he rang. Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong, bonggg. Hello Ben, it's been quite some time.

We went to visit Brian Haw, but he wasn't up, lazy bastard. We resigned ourselves to talking loudly about the fact he wasn't up just outside his canvas abode.

Because we'd been out with Derren Brown that night, you see. Drinking in the same pub at least. After his show, the first night of his run of 'Svengali' in London. I can't quite place where in the show he gave me the instruction to drink 4 pints and meet him there. 

On his way out, he gave me a kiss. 'Nice beard' he said. I think he was trying to manipulate me into choosing the number '4'. And I'll never know what for. Not until I wake up age 63 on a desert island with only the vaguest sense of once co-ordinating a worldwide hacking project and depositing £10 million in someone else's bank account.