Hiya! You may (not) recognise me as that time traveling maniac of a kangaroo from Children's Theatre 2012, among other things :D

An Exercise in Trust (19th February 2013)

If you think about it, there are actually many situations in our lives where we place trust in the hands of a complete strangers. More than we'd like to, or ever readily admit. Circumstances as complicated as hoping a chef hasn't accidentally mixed the white wine vinegar with the bleach whilst preparing a hearty risotto dinner, or as simple as praying that the bus driver cleans his mirrors well enough not to miss a car next to him while changing lanes, tipping the bus and sending all his passengers to heaven (or other spiritual equivalents).

Participating in an environment involving 'team playing' is also an exercise in trust. Something like theatre production propels you straight into the deep end, spending extensive time with people you hardly know, trying together to prepare something you hardly know, whilst trying to appear that you actually personally know something.

The first workshop reminded me about the two different aspects of trust that must be placed in theatre production. Trust in others, and trust in yourself.

Firstly, others. We were asked to find someone we had never met/spoken to before. Person B would lead a 'blinded' Person A around the Drama Workshop space. As pure luck would have it, I was A and thus visually impaired for this exercise. Now, as much as I wanted to believe I would be safe in the hands of my partner, I really had hard time, at first, trying to keep my eyes constantly closed. It wasn't be because I expected her to clobber me over the head and steal my wallet (she appeared just as nervous as I was), but purely because I needed that occasional blink of assurance that I wasn't in harm's way. I suppose it's just a natural human instinct, but it certainly refreshes the state of mind that in theatre production, you look out for one another and work together as a team - trusting, even with your eyes closed, that someone has always got your back.

Number two is trust in yourself. I'm not talking about own abilities or anything like that, but rather that you trust yourself to fail in front of others, and especially people you don't know. As an example, another exercise was for a Person on one side of the room to run across to a Person on the other side of the room and scream in their face, this was soon followed by a competing scream. Who would out scream who? As a boy, it's a biological fact that I must try and out do a girl in any arena (sorry, but its true) and I fought to my heart's content to scream my face off at my competition. Sure it's embarrassing but what the hey?! However, my feeling now is that I should've placed more trust in my opponent to know when I was truly beaten, on more than one occasion. Since the area of performance in this lesson was heavily focused on was improvisation, I should've really known better to 'accept' rather than to have 'blocked' another actor's suggestion. I should've trusted myself to fail.

As part of an ensemble, trust is paramount - both on stage and off stage. So I shall consider this first workshop, a refresher course in relying on others - an exercise of trust.

In ensemble work, trust is paramount...you are so correct [serge]


The Other Ultimate Question (26th February 2013)

There has been a discussion recently on the Wiki page about what exactly "Good Acting" is. The answer lies in direct conjunction to another question - What makes a person a good liar? If you think about it, being a good liar and being a good actor involve a very similar skill. Both rely on having a whole hearted belief in something which is untrue and conveying that untruth to another person. As an actor, you read somebody else's lie, rehearse it and then perform that lie convincingly for the entertainment of others.

Grotowski argued...he was a great actor, he told the truth...it easy to see when people a lying on stage...

The exercise in today's workshop progressed from simply walking up to random objects and saying their names out loud to walking up to random objects and addressing them as though they were something completely different. Some would assume that picking up a banana and calling it an apple is a fairly petty skill to master but it translates into the craft of acting on a massive scale, affecting everything that is done.

Because "good acting" is all about believing in what you are portraying. It's about having faith in a journey which is blatantly unreal and presenting it as reality to others. To find truth and maintain focus in the world of another's imagination. To pick up a banana and, despite all natural instinct, confirm to yourself, and to an audience, that it is in fact an apple.


Through The Looking Glass... (5th March 2013)

One of the most interesting aspects of drama is its reliance on interpretation.

As an example, in the workshop we were give a brief scene from "Kiss My Hands" by Howard Barker to perform in front of the class. Our reading followed a more absurdist style with varying performances - both subdued and overdramatic - and nuances of dialogue interpreted as cheekily comedic to soulfully poetic.

Now to be perfectly honest, even when we were performing the scene I did not fully appreciate the nature of such variations. It seemed to be a bit of fun and 'for the sake of it' rather than carrying any real justification. Only when I had watched another performance, did I understand the impact of how our scene was played.

To explain,
Anthony's group provided an interpretation very different to what ours brought about, rather interestingly, from the fact they had limited copies of the script. Their presentation of "Kiss My Hands" was very minimalistic. The actors all stood in a line across the stage and each simply served the purpose of a voice in the story, including a narrator to convey the stage directions. The nature of the chorus-like performance completely alienated me from the piece. I did not feel emotion from or sympathy for any of the characters. My focus was totally drawn towards the spoken words, which in the case of "Kiss My Hands" worked very well because it investigates power of language. If people play on human motivation for sympathy and good in order to inflict pain upon them, how do we trust that language every again?

I thought it worked - but upon researching Barker's "Theatre of Catastrophe", I believe he would probably disagree. WELL OBSERVED It was Barker's belief that each audience member would forge their own response to a performance. He was furious with the idea of 'doing things in unison' and collectivism which resulted in many of his worked being unhinged and rather ambiguous in nature.

The presentation of the same scene from a different perspective ended up enhancing the understanding of my own because it gave justification to my performances choices towards, not only the use of language in the play, but the theme of the use of language that the Barker was trying to convey - individual human motivation.

With this realisation in mind, I think it is so important to take the time to try a variety of interpretations when it comes to performance. The inflection of one word can make all the different in an audiences' understanding of a scene.

Yes - or How So Little Can Say So Much (12th March 2013)

We don't realise just how fortunate we are until the things we rely on are taken away from us...

The exercise: two people, one confronting the other about an affair. The catch: one person's responses must be "yes" while the other's is "no". This exercise collimated the previous week's workshop activities, as the directive was achieved by trusting your partner, by finding your "truth" and by creating a varied interpretation.

After observing many other powerful interactions, I did notice that the accuser would always storm in and storm out angry or enraged. For my own performance, I behaved as if I was collecting the strength to confront my partner before I entered the room, working out what to do and how to bring up the accusation. I walked directly to the 'kitchen sink' avoiding eye contact with my partner, still finding the right way to bring it up. A mournful "Yes" was first move. As my partner remained in a consistent tone of negative responsive, I moved closer and closer towards her, getting angrier and angrier until furious enough to belt her, clenching fits at my side. But then backed away in a kind of "no, I'm better than that" reaction. My exit was defeated. Completely defeated. "I give up. You're not worth it". The moral high ground remained with me the whole time.

Surprisingly enough, the activity was a lot easier for me than I first imagined. I find myself an actor who enjoys creating little physical nuances and tries utilising all the space given so I hardly 'thought' the whole way through and did what "felt" natural. I'm glad people enjoyed our performance, and someone said it was the first time they wholeheartedly believed the accuser, I behaved as if I had found incriminating evidence to prove my claims.

Outside the Comfort Zone (26th April 2013)

As actors, we have the tendency (either by personal choice or external influence) to remain "safe" in relation to the types of roles we play. No matter how "versatile" we credit ourselves to be, there are always themes and circumstances that we feel so much more comfortable to play.

Today's exercise could be summarised in a nutshell as "The Kissing Workshop", but explored the building of relationships between actors in emotional scenarios. It began with interactions between "friends" and escalated towards acting a small relationship between husband and wife from an Ancient Greek myth, titled: 'The Love of the Nightingale'.

This exchange was really the crux of the workshop and despite understanding the motivations for the character of Tereus, I personally felt very disconnected from the whole exercise partly because of the limited time were had as partners to go through what was happening. I understand that it was all about the use of emotional memory and the trust we're supposed to build between actors, but I felt (and this is a criticism on myself) I needed to go through the motions to make it seem more real and engaging. Just like any rehearsals for a performance - experiencing and building.

The Real Inspector Hound? (2nd April 2013)

The dialogue we've chosen to perform is taken from the absurdist one-act play by Tom Stoppard called "The Real Inspector Hound". The story is essentially a play within a play, revolving around a 'whodunit' at a manor house which ends up including two theatre critics watching.

The section we are exploring takes place at the very end of the play where the theatre critics become absorbed into the onstage world and the great murder mystery is solved. Since there were a number of characters in this final part, we decided to combine all the female roles into one 'Mrs Drudge', effectively giving us three definitive characters - 'Drudge', 'Magnus' and 'Moon'.

The character I am portraying is 'Moon', one of the theatre critics who has become lost in the world of the play within a play. I'm approaching the role as a sort of insane Sherlock Holmes with a dash of William Shatner, especially for the great "debunk" monologue which I believe needs an over extenuated emotion behind every dramatic reveal.

Today's first rehearsal went very well. We quickly proceeded into working out the blocking and collaborated on the additions of beats to heighten the melodramatic, slightly absurd style we are going for, almost 'soap-opera-eske'. This involved inserting various 'gasps' and 'double gasps', an elongated death scene and the pitching of the Mrs Drudge character who is now representing the metafictional aspect of the original piece.

An excellent reflective journal so far - I like the way you connect theory with your personal practical work.
There is a fine perceptive mind at work...

"Did I leave the gas on?" (9th April 2013)

With a week or so to go until the assessment, our group has nailed down our characterisation and overall tone of the piece. In our one on one consultation with Serge, he made a point that we should strive to play the comedy as straight as possible, and that was what we worked on in today's tutorial. I think it's because at that stage, we went our separate ways to rehearse over the Easter break period and perhaps tried to play around with, and overemphasis the delivery of the lines, without much thought into our character's non verbals.

I think it was important that despite the fact it is a comedy, and we're adopting conventions used in melodrama and, to some extent, absurdism, we shouldn't play it for laughs. It's really a very shocking scenario - being trapped in a play with plot twists around every corner. Everyone has something to hid, and will go to extreme lengths to keep their secrets.

One of the things to do with non-verbal communication we researched into, with the help of Kate, was soap-opera performance styles, and specifically in dramatic stares and glances. For those long, tight, dramatic shots before a commercial break, soap actors apparently wonder to themselves "Did I leave the gas on?" creating a deep look of concern upon their face, lifting to a sudden realisation "I did leave the gas on!" but not before bringing it back to a gentle sigh of relief as they think "Hold on, no I turned it off". It sounds like such a ridiculous thing but it creates the expressions and the glances needed, and that is a technique we are adopting in our piece.

Similarly, Serge suggested rather than pacing across the front of the stage when a hypothesis is being formulated, we should instead walk in an indirect manner around the room, deep in thought and instantly changing direction when a new scenario pops into our heads. It's a great idea not only because it allows us to utilise the space more, but also it allows me to break up my monologue section into something more interesting to watch.

We've also attempted to place a context to bookend our piece - the set of a soap-opera. The Mrs. Drudge actress won't come out of her trailer so we've had to puck a random member of the studio audience (who is a man) to play Mrs. Drudge, along with a handful of extras to play the corpses that litter the scene. This was important to do because the character's a quite complex in terms of, for example; Jordan is playing Puckerage, who is playing Albert, who is the real Inspector Hound, who is Major Magnus, and there's no time to properly establish all that background in our extract.

A Dialogue Reflection (16th April 2013)

A bad habit of mine is to "over think" before a performance. I think I would not be doing myself a disservice to say I am a perfectionist. So when it comes to right before a performance, I am determined to make sure everything is set and understood, and usually a simple lines run puts me back at ease (or very nearly). With the fairly limited time we had between rehearsals and the final assessment, I was still feeling uncertain as to whether or not our scene from "The Real Inspector Hound" would come together or not. Given the reception we received, I think it did. So thank you to everyone who watched and laughed.

Personally, I find the success of any performance I do comes down to the simple factor of whether I "think" during it. What I mean by that is whether I am consciously aware of my surroundings as a play and of what lines of dialogue I have to throw out next. I did not "think" at all. I just "did", and I had fun doing it. Serge said beforehand to "go out there and have fun". Something clicked in me and I did. I felt so in the moment, in the character, that its almost as if the whole scene happened to someone else. I truthfully retain no recollection of what went on, on stage. Getting into that rhythm, the flow of the conversation and accusations, tightening the gaps between lines as well as working on our "walk and talk" pacing about the place and getting full use out of the performance space. It all came together in the end.

Excellent reflective work...
All in the Mind (6th May 2013)

The standout activity form this week's class involved a series of scenarios/experiences which we were asked to play out in sequence. Things such as "your legs giving way", "a train suddenly passing you buy" or "balancing a bowl of hot liquid in your hand". This of course involved having to draw upon physical and emotional memories of when such events happened. Seemed straight forward enough. What was a challenge was the level of focus which needed to be maintained whilst conducting the exercise. You have a class full of people surroundings you, all requiring the same amount of space you do, all with different ideas about how they will act out such an action and how much space they will take up, and all trying to keep out of each other's way whilst not drawing attention to each other, and attempting to replicate the action and level of engagement that each other makes. Yes. Very straight forward.

The result, however, was enlightening and fairly remarkable. To maintain such focus and attention to yourself whilst being subconsciously aware of what others are doing around you. Being about to stay in your own world yet modify that world at the last minute should something find itself in your way. It relates itself well to an onstage environment during a performance - maintaining your focus but being able to react appropriately, with the same level of focus, should a problem present itself.

I was amazed.
I was also trying to get people to focus on the physical presence...embodying emotional registers...which I thought people did extremely well...

Comeback (14th May 2013)

The monologue I have chosen to perform for our final assessment is taken from an audio drama (audio play) by Big Finish Productions called "Comeback". It was written by Terrence Dicks as part of the 2002 "Sarah Jane Smith" audio series. The monologue takes place, nicely enough for the people who have to watch me perform it, at the very start of the series and is completely standalone to the rest of the story. In the scene, investigative journalist Sarah is saying her final farewells to her Aunt Lavinia, who has recently passed away. While the character is female, the monologue is easily enough adapted for a male role as it is, itself, gender neutral.

The reason why I chose this monologue is mainly because I am currently in the process of developing a script I'd written about having the chance to talk to a forgotten friend for the last time, so I've become slightly fascinated with the idea of talking to loved ones deceased. Not in a creepy, zombie way. A nice, normal, clearing of conscience conversation.

The tone and the structure of the conversation is what really fascinates me. It reads as just a list of "keeping up to date" with things going on around with not much true feeling is spoken.The character continually attempts to mask the sadness (and perhaps, truth) with a joke or a slight dig. However, the signs of guilt appear when the character feels a moment of happiness in such a sad time, making them feel bad with very little to say.

In its original context, Sarah's parents died when she was a baby so was brought up by her Aunt Lavinia, who was a world famous virologist (hence the "patents" mentioned in the monologue). Being Sarah's only guardian and only surviving family member meant that Aunt Lavinia played an important part in Sarah's upbringing and personality - headstrong, a feminist and practical.

Naturally, I tried to incorporate as much of the backstory as possible to my own emotional performance because Aunt Lavinia means the absolute world to the character. During my rehearsal period, I found that my emotional state/connection to the piece was as it's best when I would performance for the first time. Something about words unsaid and being "in the moment" worked best.

I liken the heart of this monologue to the movie "Field of Dreams".

A Final Farewell (21th May 2013)
If I could pin-point one thing which I have learnt from AP1 this semester, it is this idea of "being in the moment". There are a few times when I have experienced this phenomenon during performances in the past (and our "The Real Inspector Hound" dialogue being one such example) but properly becoming aware and understanding the concept of "being in the moment" is what I will take with me from the unit, onto future endeavours.

I was very flattered when Serge said last week that I was "already there" during our one-on-one monologue sessions. I love this monologue, it means the world to me for some strange reason so I'm glad I was able to convey the emotional journey that the character takes in these brief minutes. My challenge for this assessment was the carry the emotion, and to reach the emotional heights that appear. There are about three "almost breakdown into tears" moments, with the third being trailed by the final five words - "Goodbye Lavinia. I love you", and my struggle was to effectively execute that trailing moment of tears. I don't think I've ever had to cry onstage before, at least not properly, but I found this to be the perfect text to connect with on an emotional level to attempt it. Serge suggested breaking up the third moment as "And, apparently, Juno Baker says we are not to call it a "wake"....because you don't believe in such things" and it actually worked really well for me in the end.

Because I can honestly say that I have never been more "in the moment" in a performance before than during my monologue today. I literally don't remember what happened during it because it feels like it happened to a different person. What I do know is that I picked a "headstone" spot (which was Alexa) and just went for it. And I was happy about it.

OK...extremely competent journal...I would have like to have seen more about what you read outside the unit...but nevertheless very honest and genuinely reflective. D