Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Game of Acting

“In order to be a creative artist you must risk failure…Go out to fail, not succeed. Efficiency is death in the theatre.” Joan Littlewood.

I’ve been reflecting on acting recently, as Mark Whiteley of Hard Graft gave me a bell this week and we will be working together once again on an exciting theatre project to take place in the summer of this year, which will incorporate this year’s Edinburgh Festival and a national tour.

Performing live is the real test for any actor and one that due to a very enjoyable career diversion into TV and adverts has taken something of a back seat, hence my involvement in ‘The Lesson’, which although a success, was initially a difficult re-emersion into live performance.

I’d never quite believed Clive Barker’s statement that acting is the equivalent in terms of stress on the body as being involved in a small car crash, though some performances are certainly like watching one but ‘The Lesson’ seemed to hit a tense nerve I’ve not encountered since I first started acting for a living.

That show also proved another acting truism: the harder you try the worse you get, the more you concentrate on getting it right the closer it gets to being wrong and the sooner you just give it up and let it take you over the better you’ll be. It’s kind of like being possessed but more trance like.

I remember doing ‘The Lesson’ and being totally not-present and floating above myself, watching and thinking how I don’t know the lines and how I’m not present and how badly I’m going to fuck up and let everyone down. I managed to claw myself back into my head and get on with giving a good show but the first few were marred by this kind of out-of-body, hypercritical experience.

The only cure is to give up all your fears and concerns and just let the theatre speak through you, simply and honestly and more importantly to enjoy the experience.

Easier said than done...


  1. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

    And bear attacks. Big caution on that, too.

  2. its a control thing. you cant control it. you have to submit to it. let it control you.

    and bear attacks. those are always scary.

  3. Writing is much the same, especially in the public forum, and you don't seem to be hesitant about that.

    Fear holds many of us back, but there's no reason to let us do so if it's not reasonable fear. Write a play. Don't jump off a mountain.

  4. It's all about being present in the moment, isn't it?

    Which is hard enough to do when you're living your own life. Inhabiting someone else can really knock the snot out of you. You now have two moments to be present in: the theatrical moment of hitting your marks and saying the line you need to say when you must say it, and making this new person in your skin real.

    Which is what I interpret Mister Barker's comments to mean.

    Or it may just all be bullshit.

    The best thing a director ever said to me: "I don't care if you fail, as long as it's a creative failure."



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