Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How to not Play the Effect in Acting - or: Kid, let the Swan have the Ice-Cream!


  You must play the truth. 


  The swan plaintively crossing the Suffolk lake opposite in the subdued blue light of this late autumn day isn't telegraphing to me the knell-tolling beauty of the scene in abstract; it's making for the ice-cream that toddler's eating on the bank outside The Meare Shop and Tearoom - swans can take toddlers! 
  This scene, in acting terms has: desire, motivation, intention. 
  Oh, and just now, a slapstick near miss...
  The toddler turned as the swan was getting into position, panicked and dropped the ice-cream. A wooly-hatted head then collided with an algae dripping beak as both toddler and swan lunged for the now splatted 99 with Flake, before a parent grabbed the toddler and carried it out of hissing, rearing, harm's way. 
  See?  Again: desire, motivation, intention.

  Sorry, this is maybe a bit Queen of Hearts: 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'
  What actually is Playing the Effect?  
  It's arriving at Point B (effect of the performance) without starting from Point A (the cause of that effect.)  You haven't been on the journey, and haven't taken the audience with you.  

For more on the process: scroll to: Some Thoughts on Learning Songs, point 4.

  The audience don't know where they are, but should; you shouldn't need to point out where they are, but do.  
  Show them a predicament, not how to feel about it.
  As happens in the following.   

  1)  Now, it's years since I last watched Eastenders, so she may very well have stopped doing this, but there was an actress in it who could say anything: 
  'Let's go out, ta dahling, yeah?  I can have one of my scenes looking wistful, yeah, dahlin, ta, outside the fake tube station, ta dahling, yeah!'       
  Or: 
  'I'm going upstairs, dahlin, ta, yeah. Because being upstairs there's, ta dahlin', yeah, a chance, dahlin', of, ta, falling down, yeah, the stairs - and then of the noise blending into the Doof-Doof.'
  Or:
  'Eleven elevens, ta dahlin' yeah,' are a hundred, ta, and twenty, dahlin', one, yeah?'  
  And whatever she did say would be overlaid with a part sighing, part sirening speech habit, telegraphing to the viewer that she was the tart with a heart and a troubled past.  

  2)  The Royal Ballet as soldiers in Macmillan's trench-warfare ballet Gloria play elegiac when they should play in extremis.
   
  3)  The pantomime comic carefully applying the spirit-glue to one half of the inevitable Franz Zappa moustache for the Front Cloth, chewing at the unstuck half half till it slips slightly, then corpsing to let the audience know that this is a gorgeous moment of unrehearsed comedy.  I was the feed one year in the front cloth where this blissful moment of hysteria was set, and at a Wednesday matinee the moustache stayed put.  The comedian failed to notice, corpsed, frowned at me when I didn't go shortly after him, laughed harder. And harder, puffing orgasmically at whatever it was not actually being sucked into his mouth. Finally, I thought I should just put us both out of our misery and dislodge the half of moustache for him...

  Those are all examples of playing the effect, rather than going on truthful journey and taking your audience with you. 

  And look now, here's a hero on his journey: the fitness model to be from the Meare Craft Tearoom, is bringing another ice-cream for the still sobbing toddler.

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