Friday, 27 June 2008

The Way of Acting

As both a teacher and a student of acting, I spend a great deal of my time immersed in various books on performance technique, hoping to expand my knowledge to not only pass on these essential ideas to others but to also make sure I draw upon the widest range of skills and approaches for my own career.

I want to be the best that I can be.

I’ve just finished Tadashi Suzuki’s “The Way of Acting”, which is more of a philosophical text than a practical guide to his method and because of this contains some real insights.

For example, Suzuki writes about the only time he ever acted in one of his own shows (to save money, which is a common reason for unsuited people to cast themselves in their work) and his performance went down badly with the audience: “The creator of the method will, more than anyone else, undercut it in practice…I can preach my dreams precisely because I am incapable of carrying them out myself. I would be a rare performer indeed if I myself could bring my ideas to life.”

Which is so true, sometimes it is best to be on the outside looking in rather than being inside; greater things can be achieved by being the outside eye rather than building everything around yourself, no matter how good you think you are.

Suzuki speaks at length about how bad modern theatre spaces are for both audiences and performers; I couldn’t agree more, as Suzuki says: “A multi-purpose hall is really a hall with no purpose”. We live in a time where arts spaces have to be multi-faceted to get the required funding but by becoming multi-faceted they stop being an arts space and merely a place where a whole variety of art events can be ‘accommodated’. The UK is full of arts centres that proudly boast of they multi-purposeness, that in reality should be ashamed of their multi-purposeless. It’s as if they are justifying their existence by their ill-worn versatility.

The best section however, is concerning the Japanese equivalent of the British acting term ‘Ham’ which is daikon, or a large radish. Whereas a ham is an actor who is over the top, extreme and full of melodrama, a radish is an actor who has no character, who leaves no mark on you (as the daikon is very bland and seemingly impossible to cook badly) and I hope that the idea of ‘a radish actor’ will spread like wildfire around the UK wherever it is seen.

And unfortunately, it will be seen…

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