In the eyes of many people, the performance part of an actor’s job is the most interesting. The excitement, the adrenaline and then the cherry on top: the applause. And though I would be the last one to challenge that merit, but for me it’s not the most exciting and rewarding part of it.
Working on my craft is, having time in rehearsals to try new things and to grow as a performer. I always thought that I’d know everything there is to know after getting my degree in acting. But the truth is... I had only just begun learning about it.
I did realise over the years that training together for an extended period of time gave me the best sense of growth. If you work for several days in a row, everything you’ve just learned is still fresh in your head the next day, which gives you the perfect opportunity to take the next step forward. whereas normally you’d need some time to remember and get back into the feeling, and it’s hard to remember everything.
That’s why I created the summer Intensive. During the week in France, being immersed into that world of training together, I could see the performers taking great leaps.
The technique I work with comes from my time with the talented people from the Factory Theatre in London (a.o. Tim Carroll, Federay Holmes & Alex Hassell) It focuses on games and exercises that keeps the actor on their toes, one of my student called it brain exercising. And it’s so much more exciting than it might sound.
Imagine a really hard decision you have to make in real life. At that time it feels like a 1000 different thoughts run through your mind and your whole body is taken over by that moment. In a scene you might have a monologue before you make your decision. How do you then get the energy from your presence on stage to realistically portray those rushes in thoughts? The heighted senses in your body? THAT..is what I teach. And how to have the contact with the audience and your fellow actor at the centre of that. To make your acting go beyond your own experience and to make it land where it should.
For this year I chose ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ to work on. It’s such a controversial play with so many topics that no longer fit our modern day way of thinking. That’s why I would not dream of putting this up on stage... But without a performance and an audience that would undoubtedly question a lot of artistic choices, it leaves a really great play when it comes to tackling social issues that the characters face. That last speech where Katherine talks of the unconditional obedience a wife has to a husband is an amazing training tool. There are so many different ways to deliver that speech, how does it change it? How can make her be real and alive in that scene? I look forward to challenging the actors in that.
I also look forward to tackling some of the comical scenes, how to find that perfect timing and enjoy the subtle (and sometimes not to subtle) jokes. This play was at the height of Shakespeare’s use of witty words, it shows and it’s a marvel.
In every course I teach, no matter what the level of acting, there are moments of doubt. Can I do this? Am I good enough? What am I doing? What I love about this week is that there is really time to grow. There are feelings of insecurity within all of us but by creating a safe and respected place, made possible by the talented and generous group of actors, you get to let go of some of that fear and surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
Getting my actors to new heights in their growth has been one of the greatest joys in my life. So while performing is amazing, it can never top the beauty of those moments for me. Because that individual connection is something I will always take with me.