Monday, 20 October 2014

Cicely Berry's being yourself


I started to understand what 'letting people come to you' means, and how it actually relates to voice and body technique.
In 'Voice and the Actor', Cicely Berry - voice director of the RSC - writes about the importance of working with one's own voice instead of trying to 'correct' it or 'make it better' (sic) 

"I think one of the greatest fears of the actor is that of not being interesting. This really need never be a fear because everyone is interesting in that he is himself. When you get to the point which says: 'This is me; it will change and perhaps improve, but this is me at this moment', then the voice will become open."


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Jazz and the fine balance of performing

Last night we went to a super cool jazz club in Dalston, where a jazz trio was performing (perfect Friday eve). At some point, the bass player went into a solo, and by went I mean "really went for it" - performing with close eyes, body moving with the music, and the very expressive face of someone transported by music.... The music was beautiful indeed, but the question on our lips was: is he faking it?
When I practice the flute, my body doesn't really move - I concentrate on my breathing, the technique, and my fingers' rapidity. However, when I perform for someone I always find myself moving my body much more with the melody. To be honest, it is a bit to show off... but it also helps me feel the melody much more and be more musical.
And then I always reach a point where I feel that the body movements overtake the technique and my sound gets weaker - then I need to tone the "performing" act down.

I was thinking last night that acting is similar - we feel the emotion, then we push it out for the audience to see, which makes us feel it even more and gives strength to our movements... until the point where we feel that we just overacting and losing the connection between performance and feelings. Then we need to find the fine balance between "feeling in" and "showing out".

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Tongue Twisters

I wish letting people come to me would mean entrancing the audience with my delightful French accent but let's face it. If you are to act in the UK, you need to sound like someone from the UK. It's bloody restrictive for an actor if you can't be somebody's mother, aunt, daughter... because you sound like a foreigner.
So I started classes in Received Pronunciation with a wonderful coach and fomer classmate of mine, Anna O'Hara.
We're working on the 'O' to start with - which apparently British people pronunce something like 'O-U' - and she's making me work with tongue-twisters:

Better Botter bought some butter
But she said this butter's bitter
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter
So she bought some better butter
Put it in her bitter batter
And it made her bitter batter better

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What makes a good actor?

I don't know but in the past three days I have seen amazing yet extremely different acting. Some looked effortless, some looked like acting but were so compelling.

Let's start with Harriet Walter's King Henry in Shakespeare's Henry IV, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. There is so much to say about the direction already (the play is set in a contemporary female prison...), but let's focus on the acting for now. How did she put off such a threatening and authoritative king, without never pushing her voice?

Pace
She spoke mainly slowly, as if she had all the time in the world - which she had in a way, because as the king everyone was bound to listen to her.

Calm
In a oestrogen-fuelled world (all-female cast), where all scenes were conveying an impressive dose of energy, she was always calm and collected -even in her orders, even when the play threatened to burst - which gave great inconsistency to the play in general and separated her from the rest of the actresses.

Fragility
Somehow she managed to make me fear for her loss of power. She was mainly alone on stage, and her loneliness made it even more impressive that she'd have achieved power. Throughout the play I was kept thinking that she'd probably earned her power over the others due to her intelligence more than by force

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ballet dancing



Today the director I am working with described to the cast how as a young boy he used to go to be sneaked into the Royal Opera House by his father who was working there - he got to see a lot of rehearsals.

One day, he was placed backstage for a ballet rehearsal: he saw the dancers perform beautifully, effortlessly pirouetting from one side of the stage to the other.... gracefully leaving the stage...then arrive in the wing breathless, swearing in their effort to catch their breath again.... they would then put a smile back on their face as the time came for them to 'effortlessly' jump and pirouette into the stage again...

He compared it with acting: like these dancers, you should give everything you have. You should give your mental and physical strength, and your soul to the audience - and come offstage exhausted without a single breath of air left in your body. Because it is too easy for the audience to drift off if we ourselves are not working our hardest to convey some emotion to them. 

Taking time on stage

I always rush my lines, my steps, and even my pauses. And I find that a lot of other actors do. Why is it that some of us actors, who strive to be on stage, want to 'just get it over with' as soon as we are given the chance to perform?

Maybe it's the combination of our desire to shine with our complete shy-ness, low-confidence level, shame at lack of technique.... or whatever it is that makes us want to go in and own that stage for once?
I wonder if there isn't a way of using those contradictory feelings while acting. Maybe it gives more depth to a character to approach it with both a desire to embrace everything she/he says, but also with a heightened awareness of who we are. Or it makes us more interesting to watch if we fully embrace all the contradictory emotions we are feeling on stage. Does it?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Accepting your posture

My voice coach told me that the thing with postures is that there's the ideal straight and balanced one, and the one we have - and that we just got to work with the latter.
It got me thinking, as I always try to straighten myself and pull my shoulders back. Maybe letting people come to you means using all our flaws on stage? Working with them, from them?

One of my former directors once told me: Alexanders technique students are boring because throughout their studies and for 5 years after that, all they do is with the alexanders technique principles in mind. they will sit on a stool thinking of their posture, and thus become very boring to watch.