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Listen – One tip on Acting

A drama workshop trainer once asked me why I did drama and I replied: “It is one of the few team efforts where the total far exceeds the sum of its parts.” Script; director; designers of sets, costumes, lights, sound, properties and executives of these designs; production coordinator, stage manager, backstage crew; front-of-house ushers; box office in-charge, publicist, copywriter, visualiser, artist, printer; and, of course, the cast. Some gathering of talent and discipline. All bound together with two adhesives: teamwork and trust. The play opens and the audience is transported and responds, reacts, laughs, splutters and spurs you on. Its hot under the lights, the beard itches, the costume knots up, the shoes pinch. Your fellows on stage look at you and at one another – in character, always in character – but you can see through it in close up. You are up in the clouds, the audience is eating out of your hands. And the the applause is deafening. It has happened again. You have given the audience what they deserve, what they paid for and what they expected you would.

The great Laurence Olivier was asked in a radio interview if he could leave listeners, with a tip on acting. He said he could, he would in one word: “listen!” I have told my cast before they go on stage on opening night: “You have never uttered the words you are going to utter…and, most important, you have never heard the words you are going to hear.” I say the same thing on the next night and the next…this is after four to six weeks of rehearsal.

Theatre is playacting. Its what children do as soon they make social contact. Remember “cops and robbers”, “office, office”; “nurse and doctor”. You do? Good.

Jagdish Raja

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