16 - 26 MAY MAYFEST 2013
Bristol’s adventurous festival of contemporary theatre from emerging and established companies alike is between 16th and 26th May. Not to be missed! When: 16th - 26th May Where: Bristol Info: www.mayfestbristol.co.uk
SURVIVING ACTORS MANCHESTER Surviving Actors was set up in 2010 by Felicity Jackson (of The Apprentice fame - pictured near left) to help actors sustain their careers and is run by Lianne Robertson (far left). The event moves to the north west this spring with loads of industry professionals (including casting directors) dishing out advice. If you’re serious about your career you need to be there. When: Saturday 18th May Where: King’s House Conference Centre, Manchester
FROM 10 APR ONCE: A NEW MUSICAL
The highly anticipated West End transfer of eight-time Tony Award winning Once opens at the Phoenix Theatre. Haunting score by Glen Hansard and book by Enda Walsh. When: Starts 10th April Where: Phoenix Theatre, West End Info: www.oncemusical.co.uk
THE OLIVIER AWARDS For the first time in years you can switch on the Olivier Awards on your TV set at home. Listen live on Radio 2 as they happen or watch ITV’s highlights show later in the evening. Or buy a public ticket and soak up the atmosphere at the Royal Opera House in person. When: 28th April Where: Royal Opera House, Radio 2, ITV Info: www.olivierawards.com fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 7
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UNCLE DUDLEY’S RESTING When you have been resting so long, you are practically asleep.
Even good roast lamb is all the better for
resting! When it comes to your chosen path the days without work, kindly called ‘resting’, can be the greatest challenge. After all, working validates the path you have chosen so not working must call this into question. There is no doubt that the quicker you find a way to deal with the ‘resting’ the surer you will be of an ongoing career. It is probably the single most frequent reason for career change, the damned waiting! Obviously, in time, a body of work will help, reminding you that despite the time on your hands, work will come, as evidenced by your resumé. But when you start out resting is a damned curse! Though not part of any training that I know of, a course in ‘filling time’ or as Julie Walters said “not letting the grass grow under your feet” might be incredibly useful. An MA in Resting has a certain allure… Our world is full of two sorts of people, busy and contemplative. I am the latter. I think, analyse, and reflect too much but this has turned me to writing, so I always have something on the go: a play, a screenplay, words of advice in this column. Writing is work, it is not resting. When I lived in Hollywood I got great pleasure going to a party when I was in the middle of writing something. My relationship with my characters and their world empowered me. I breezed through the chat and canapés in the luscious knowledge that they were waiting for me. The moment the ‘shin(e)’went off the ‘dig’ I could bail and get back to them. The busy people have it a little easier, they are always doing something, BUT they need to make sure that what keeps them constantly busy informs and invigorates their career and endless learning. No point in busy with no point! I was talking with Cameron Mackintosh after the premiere of the Les Miserables film recently and his energy and enthusiasm for what he had achieved was palpable,
his focus blinding! But he was as young and as visceral as when he began, oh wiser of course, but still untainted by negative cynicism. In truth there are not the hours in the day for what you need to do! » There are more plays out there to be read than time resting to read them. » Always another exhibition, photograph, painting, to see. » The body needs regular attention: the gym, the class, time to walk not drive. » Another film, another play, all is work! » More dance, more pop up theatre, more self-learning. » Discover what you need to know and volunteer to learn it! Dame Peggy Ashcroft [look her up] famously said that she learnt a piece of text every day keeping her skills sharp! Many of us rely upon ‘the work’ to provide us with that discipline and deadline, but if
that’s when we spring into action it’s often too late. Finding it, and keeping at it, takes focus and work! I recently saw a dance piece in a gallery in Bath, it was both stimulating and wonderfully surprising. BUT I had to go looking for it. I had to sniff about, and in various media. It’s not a simple matter of a Google life: whilst the answer may be there the learning is not. The self-discipline to get on with it alone is precious and hard to develop! Distraction and impatience are the devil in this. Set goals, set out a path, build your own course, and then step-by-step, little by little, set out on your ‘resting’ adventure. In truth, if you take your chosen path seriously, if you are committed and focused, there may well be very little downtime for resting. It turns out that resting is just an opportunity to get up! ●
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INTO THE PROFESSION
FROM LOSERVILLE TO SALT LAKE CITY
Dan Buckley recounts his journey from graduation to the West Yorkshire Playhouse to landing in the hottest new West End show, The Book of Mormon. I never thought that I would have achieved so much by the time I celebrated my one year graduation anniversary. I was given my first job offer during tech rehearsal for Showcase and I could not have been more excited to tell my amazingly talented and supportive year group; Mountview class of 2011. I had heard Spring Awakening was casting a tour and, having done it in second year, I loved it so I submitted myself and was offered an audition. I met an incredible director in Pete Gallagher and I was already familiar with the choreographer; Mountview machine/ teacher Cressida Carré. I had two auditions and was offered the role of Otto during lunch of the Showcase technical rehearsal. Showcase was a blur of nervous fun and pride as my year went out and smashed it. I had a few meetings in the following weeks and met with Williamson & Holmes second to last. People vary in what they look for in an agent; some look for businesslike, some informal. I was looking for someone I could be honest with, but who could also be firm with me. I knew right away that they were for me. Some of the most talented, hard-working and inspirational people I have met leave drama school with one offer and don’t get the opportunity to shop around. Sadly some leave with no representation: it is hard to see some talented individual be disheartened by thatbut it is the passion and the drive - which doesn’t always read in a showcase - that will ultimately get you noticed. I went into rehearsals for Spring Awakening two weeks later. I had no idea
that my next job would come as a result. The director of Fresher! The Musical had seen me in one of my final shows while training and came to watch Spring Awakening. He approached me after to offer me an audition. I auditioned twice for director Guy Unsworth, and the composer, Mark Aspinall, and was thankfully offered the role of Rupert Pie shortly afterwards. I finished Spring Awakening in July and went almost straight into rehearsals for Fresher! Two weeks later we were in Edinburgh - willing everyone to see how great this was. I feel like I had a really positive experience of the Fringe- we sold out 90% of our run and had a great production company looking after us. We were given a beautiful apartment in Edinburgh and had a super time, despite the rain. Possibly the most important experience I have had since leaving drama school is the reality of an actor’s life - working Front of House. It is common-place to find some of the most talented and passionate people in this industry working FOH. They watch other people perform day-in and day-out, and I think anyone who can do that and use it to fire their own passion deserves a medal - or at least a job. An acting job. I met some amazing friends working in the West End. While I was working FOH I auditioned for many shows and was never disheartened by rejection. I turned every rejection into a positive. Yes, it is disappointing and yes, I probably knew deep down I would not get those jobs anyway, but it is important to accept an audition as an opportunity to show a panel what you can do. You never
know what they might be casting next. Equally you never know who might be on the panel. It is true what they say- this industry is small. In the new year I received a text from Sell-A-Door, who I did Spring Awakening with, (yes a text, it really can be that direct) asking whether I would play Piggy in a UK tour of Lord of the Flies. I had to really debate taking the job because I would be leaving my girlfriend again and it is hard to spend time away from the ones you love but I would be playing an iconic role and it was one I could tick off my dream role list. A week later I accepted the offer. Unbeknownst to me- a really good friend of mine and classmate at Mountview, Craig Webb, had taken the tour too which made the job even more exciting. I had so much fun on tour, with Sell-ADoor driving us everywhere, putting us up in 4&5* accommodation around the country and the group of lads being great fun to work with. Craig and I shared a passion for singing and put it to good use; we put together a mash up of all Jessie J’s songs because we are big fans and thought it would be fun singing her material. I went back to work FOH and started auditioning again, and then Loserville came into my life. There was a lot of industry talk about this show so I was very nervous. I knew the Musical Director from Mountview so felt under lots of pressure to reassure him he wanted to work with me professionally. Thankfully, although I am told it was a messy audition, I was given a recall to dance. Nick Winston’s choreography is complex, intelligent and clean. The audition was my worst nightmare. I was in a group of people who, like me, considered themselves actors who could move and I felt unfit and unsteady. The choreography was brilliant but it was too complex for me to pick up and perform with gusto. After a week of hearing nothing, I called my agent and, as she had another client in further rounds, we assumed it was a “No”. In the meantime, Craig and I thought we should record our musical efforts and put it on YouTube. We had no idea the response it would get. Two days later we had an excess of 2,000 views. The following morning I had a call from my agent asking if I could be ready for an audition at 3pm - Loserville wanted to see me for the male finals. I went in, tried my best and was so grateful for the opportunity to sing
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INTO THE PROFESSION
again for the panel. I was calmer than the first time- and I was called to the finals the following day. I have never seen a panel as large as the Loserville finals. There were more than twenty people. I had to dance again but, with nothing to lose, I threw myself in and had a great time. The process lasted 6 hours, with lots of going in and out of the room to read with different combinations of people. The director had come across the Jessie J video on Twitter as so many people were sharing it and decided to see me again. It was an act of perfect timing. Never underestimate the power of social networks. I received an offer and set my sights on moving to Leeds. The West Yorkshire Playhouse is a great theatre to work at; it was such a wonderful team and supportive atmosphere. Being only two hours from home I thought I would be back often - I had no idea how often. Suddenly I was traveling back to London every single week to audition for The Book of Mormon. I first heard Mormon when I was on tour with Spring Awakening- and on a very stressful train journey I listened to it. I decided I wasn’t enamoured by it and didn’t listen again until a few weeks later. I’m so glad I gave it a second chance. I fell immediately in love with how intelligent the show was, how witty and how extreme. I decided I had to be seen for it if it came to London. I told myself “if I get seen and don’t get the job- at least they saw me and I wasn’t right”. But if I didn’t get seen, I’d be wondering ‘what if ’ for a long time. I had my first audition a week before leaving for Leeds. I’m thankful I had Loserville to focus on. If I had channeled all my energy into Mormon without anything distracting me I would have been even more nervous at each recall. As it was I vomited at every single audition prior to going in and performing for the panel- seriously. At this point, the West End transfer of Loserville was just a rumour- so I was keeping my fingers permanently crossed. I got to the final three for Elder Cunningham and the creatives decided they wanted to see me for stand-by. I think I was seen eight times in total. A couple of days after Loserville closed in Leeds I had a call from my agent and as we were waiting for confirmation of a Loserville transfer I assumed it was that. It was an offer for Mormon. The Loserville offer came in a few weeks later so I was thrilled that I would be with the amazing cast again. The cast of Loserville were some of the most talented and lovely people I have ever met and it was a total pleasure sharing the stage and the show with them. I know the cast of Loserville will be smashing it all over the West End for years to come. I have been a very, very lucky boy so far. That is mostly what it comes down to- luck. Yes, you have to work hard and be passionate and really hone your craft- but I think most actors would say they are bloody lucky to be working in this tough, overcrowded industry. Let’s hope it continues. If it doesn’t- you will find me working FOH somewhere in the West End; watching, supporting, learning and keeping my passion alive. ● fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 13
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FOUR TO WATCH
BY SIMON POLLARD
Last year’s National Theatre Connections festival showcased ten brilliant plays for young performers, but one piece stood out. Socialism Is Great, unflinching in its portrayal of teenage life in China, gave its young actors something to get their teeth into. The man behind it - Anders Lustgarten - is a political activist whose writing boldly and fearlessly tackles subjects that matter to him most. With a background in academia and teaching drama in prisons, Lustgarten began his career as a playwright in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2010, when his brilliant exposé of the BNP - A Day at the Racists was staged at the Finborough, that we were forced to sit up and pay attention not only to what he had to say, but the way in which he was saying it. In 2011 he was the recipient of the inaugural Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award, giving him the coveted opportunity to write a new play for the Royal Court, which opened in February 2013.
BY DAVID RICHARDS
It is fair to say that theatre producers sometimes get a bad reputation. You would be hard-pushed to find negative words when it comes to describing Southern American Jim Zalles. Though producing is a recent ambition, Zalles has gone into it for the right reasons. He’s done it because he’s genuinely passionate about theatre. He wants to see, and be a part of, great work being realised. Zalles also takes a personal interest in, and supports, the careers of many individual performers all over London. Zalles has invested an incredible amount of time and money in theatre, particularly over the last 18 months, but he has only recently taken on the official role of ‘producer’ on Craig Adams’ and Ian Watson’s new musical Lift, at The Soho Theatre. Zealous Zalles is just the kind of theatre producer that the UK will benefit from - a man who knows the London theatre scene like the back of his hand, who’s mad about creating and watching fantastic work, and a shrewd businessman to boot.
BY ED THEAKSTON
Lighting designer Howard Hudson has never been fazed by the tight budgets and small spaces he has become celebrated for working in. Since starting out as a lighting designer in 2006, Hudson has made a splash in London and internationally. His atmospheric designs have repeatedly been called exceptional, evocative, flawless – supporting and enriching the production, noteworthy for their understated precision. Although his career is still in its early stages, he has worked with some of the best production companies and designers. Hudson is continually nominated for awards, and in 2012 won the Off West End Award for Best Lighting Designer. What is most notable about Hudson’s work is his relentlessly bold approach to working in some of London’s most intimate venues. From the Finborough to the Landor via Jermyn Street, critics have frequently noted how refreshing it is to see such exemplary, masterful designs on the Fringe. It is clear that Hudson has raised the bar for the quality of lighting in Fringe theatre. Keep an eye on him as he continues to transform theatres across London and beyond.
BY EMILY HARDY
Experimenting and developing all over the world since 1999, Tristan Sharps, creative director of Dreamthinkspeak, determined to stray from the beaten path, has muddied boundaries and overturned theatrical convention. This company is set to cement immersive, siteresponsive theatre into the public consciousness once and for all. Dreamthinkspeak irrupted onto the stage with The Rest is Silence, a bold deconstruction of Hamlet commissioned by the RSC and performed at the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival. Their next piece, In the Beginning was the End ran in early 2013 at Somerset House and King’s Cultural Institute. Emulsifying film, installation art, robotics and live theatre, Dreamthinkspeak transport the audience to a catastrophic incarnation of the future. In the Beginning was the End was tipped by Time Out to be one of the best new plays coming to London this year. Determined to demonstrate what theatre is capable of, Dreamthinkspeak pose big questions and endeavour to find the answers in the responses of the individuals who enter their performance space. Thanks to Dreamthinkspeak, audiences of 2013 will be taken on an unforgettable journey from which there is no return.
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The chance to dance
WORDS ED THEAKSTON
“It really is probably going to be the hardest thing I have to do… You know, other than childbirth!” Scarlett Strallen giggles excitedly when I chat to her in the middle of rehearsals for her next show. Most recently seen starring on the West End as Kathy Selden in the hit Singin’ in the Rain, Strallen is barely leaving herself time to dry off before taking on the role of veteran star Cassie in A Chorus Line. At just 30, is Strallen somewhat young to be playing this role? She refutes the suggestion straight away; “I don’t actually feel young at all!” she says with another giggle. “My first West End show was at the age of eight, so I’ve been going twenty odd years in the West End. I don’t feel too far off what Cassie feels; it would feel the same for me going back into a chorus having played a few leads. That would be a strange feeling, a come down, but it’s what I’d need to do if I had to do it. Which is sort of what Cassie’s story is.” When you consider Strallen’s career, you can see there is more than a little truth in what she says. She started in the ensemble of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the original 2002 cast. This turned out to be her big break; “When I started it I was very much a chorus girl, I was second from
- almost like a meditation - you go into a trance and be somebody else for a couple of hours.” She is now a seasoned performer on three continents thanks to Mary Poppins. She took over the titular role in the West End from Laura Michelle Kelly. “It didn’t feel like I was doing a carbon copy of someone else at all,” she says of the transition. “I was very, very fortunate that the creative team on Mary Poppins were so generous and wanted me to absolutely come at it afresh. I mean, it was a massive, massive set, so I couldn’t be too inventive because I’d have a house on my head. But in terms of playing it – and also because I could dance, which was an unusual thing, they put in a lot of choreography for me – it felt very fresh.” Following the West End, Strallen went on to play the role both on Broadway and in Sydney. Were the audiences different around the globe? “Yes they were, actually. I think they got better and better, because the British audiences are
I HAD TERRIBLY FLAT FEET AND I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A BALLERINA. I’VE NEVER STOPPED TRAINING, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN AT CLASS. IT’S SORT OF LIKE MY CHURCH REALLY! the back and learning, which is what I’ve always done. In my second year I auditioned for the understudy [of Truly Scrumptious]. Then in that year I went on one day and Gillian Lynne, who was the choreographer of Chitty, happened to be watching. She came back and was very complimentary, and within a few weeks I had an offer to actually play the part! So it was one of those moments where one of the creatives just happened to be in and liked the way I did it so I got my break. But it doesn’t always happen like that; understudies work very hard and sometimes never get the part, so I was very lucky.” While she was performing in this show, her parents were going through a divorce. She reflects on that difficult period positively; “I suppose in the theatre it’s such an escape. It really is make-believe, and I certainly find that in Singin’ in the Rain as well. It’s such a beautiful fantasy world to live in that whatever you’re going through you can have a break from your own life and just enjoy a couple of hours
famously quite reserved – they really appreciate you at the end, but all the way through they’re quite polite and quiet. When it got to New York they’re crazy all the way through, really taking part, really involved. They always stand up which is wonderful to see, but you don’t know if it’s just because that’s what they do. And when it came to Australia they were almost cheeky as an audience; they really loved the wit of Julian Fellowes’ script. It was quite raucous, they laughed a lot!” Since before birth she seemed destined to end up on stage. Her parents were both West End performers, her grandmother ran a dance school, her godfather is Christopher Biggins, and her aunt is star of stage and screen Bonnie Langford. She also has three sisters, all of whom now have West End credits to their name. But, when asked about her family, Strallen says simply “They’re just my family. It’s what we do, it’s how we pay the rent and feed ourselves.” fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 17
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CAREERS stealthily. You should sit on the director’s other side. Stake out this seat Put your books and research and script on that seat early on day one and make sure no one usurps you. The closer to the director, the more you hear and learn, the more jobs you will be given and the more of an impact you will have on the production.
Make friends with stage management.
The stage management team control the logistics of the rehearsal room and the production and it’s important to get on with them. You will schedule rehearsal calls with them, deal with cast issues and generally collaborate with them a lot. Get to know them well and be as helpful as possible.
Hold back some choice ideas or pieces of research to introduce during table discussion. As the company discuss the
play over the first few days make sure you have some really interesting anecdotes or interesting opinions at your disposal. This means you have good reason to speak to the room early on and remind people that you have a brain and a perspective.
Speak only when necessary. Don’t waste
that precious moment in the spotlight with a bad idea. Better to speak only three times a day and to say something brilliant and then be quiet for the rest of the time. I once set myself a rule that I would only speak to the room once an hour. This meant I wrote down all my thoughts and raised the best one when I was sure it was an essential point that would have an impact. I made absolutely sure that I did not get excited at having made a good point and then ruin it by saying a lot of less useful things immediately after. Less is more.
Make a list of all your ideas for the director and give them at the best moment. Don’t waste a great idea by saying
it at an insensitive or busy time. I try to speak to the director at the beginning of every break. I try not to suggest things to them while they are rehearsing unless I am certain it is a brilliant idea or they appear to want ideas from the room. Hopefully by writing down every thought I have, I pick the best rather than spluttering around messily.
Take your own blocking. Read a stage
management textbook or spend time sitting with the stage manager and watch them take blocking. Then make sure that you take your own, even if it is messy and illegible to anyone
else. This will mean you get to the know staging of the piece and when it comes to rehearsing understudies or giving notes about timing you have the information and don’t need to bother anyone else. You appear much more competent if you know about all aspects of the production. Knowledge is power.
Pick up any slack. If there are jobs that are being missed then quietly and effectively start doing them. If some information seems to be lacking then go and find it before anyone notices it was never there. Look for gaps in the process at any level and try and subtly close them.
Treat the director well. Make their life easier but don’t be their slave; don’t get into routines where you get them coffee at every break. Make it seem like a treat. If they’re stressed, get them a coffee. If they have a meeting, offer to get them lunch. Use it as a way to suggest an idea, so when you bring the coffee over you can initiate a chat. If they keep asking you to do menial jobs then make a joke about how “it’s below my pay-grade but I like them so I’m happy to help”
Absorb as much information as possible. If you have knowledge, you have
Build a rapport with the actors. Get to
know them, find common ground and build a strong relationship as soon as you can. Don’t sit with the director all the time. When the creative team leave, you will be left with the actors and it is important they like and respect you if they are going to take your notes. Make connections with those who are understudying and say how much you are looking forward to working with them directly.
Be the expert at rehearsal calls. Keep a
list of what scenes have been rehearsed, how many times. Keep notes of whether they have been read, staged or polished so you know what needs work and what is in shape. Always be thinking of suggestions for tomorrow’s call. I often draft a call or make a list of things it might be good to look at and give it to the director at the afternoon tea break. No director likes to think about organising a call, they want to keep thinking about directing the play.
Make sure you have access to the Internet in rehearsals and practise being the fastest at finding any relevant facts. If someone is wondering
something, start looking it up and be ready to announce the answer almost before they asked the question.
Have a couple of killer quotations to pull out at the relevant moment.
Whatever the theme of the play Google some quotations by philosophers that pithily summarise what the entire play is about. For example if it is a morality play and I Google ‘morality quotations’ I discover that Nietzsche said “Fear is the mother of Morality”,
power. Listen to everything at every meeting and audition. Start to become essential as the information holder of the production. Be the production’s hard-drive who is always there, silently accumulating knowledge and standing ready to feed it back if asked. Don’t be a know-it all though. Be quiet, efficient and respectful at all times.
Some final thoughts Enjoy not having the pressure or the burden on your shoulders. Directing is an incredibly high pressure job where everyone is looking to you for answers and confidence. Assisting requires none of that strength and is a much easier and more relaxing post. Remember that while you won’t always agree with the director, they are the ones who are taking on the responsibility so make sure you respect that.
Remember you are not the director.
Don’t take an AD job and expect to be directing. Creative input is a bonus. You’re there to support and to learn (and to earn). It’s your job to work within the creative parameters set out by the director. Think of it as a game. How do I make this work for them? Not for you.
Keep everyone happy. Compliment people
a lot. Tell them what you like about what they are doing. Be a positive person that people enjoy having around. This doesn’t mean you should suck up but it’s better to help maintain a show by complimenting what works than criticising what doesn’t.
Learn when to stop assisting. Being
a theatre director is knowing what is right for you. Working out your own style, your own vision. Developing a sense of taste and process. Being in a room helps that journey but if you want to direct there will be a point when you have learnt enough and from that point on you have to make your own work. ●
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The energy we generate on stage is powerful enough to reach across the stage into the audience and alter them. Harnessing that energy as actors is something we all aspire to, and acting training teaches techniques which give us tools to access that store of energy. Technique, however, is just a part of acting. Technique tends to be, in the UK, a very cerebral approach, a mental state. Secondary to that mental state is the physical state, and finally, the metaphysical, the energy. It is the energy, the life-force of acting that we should be seeking to discover. “Your mind, emotions and body are instruments and the way you align and tune them determines how well you play life.” Yogi Bhajan. Holistic Acting is an approach to acting that attempts to harness that energy, to balance the mind, body and spirit of the actor and to harmonise them, creating a total actor, a holsitic actor. Holistic Acting explores techniques that may be useful for actors to consider alongside their training. Using established practices and applying them to acting training may extend your ability and push you on to greater achievements. Above all, Holistic Acting is nurturing. The technique reviewed here sits neatly alongside cerebral techniques as complementary. Image Streaming is outlined very effectively by the acting coach Brian Astbury in his book Trusting the Actor. Astbury discovered the technique in Wim Wenger’s book The Einstein Factor and adapted it for actors. It is a deceptively simple technique to practice with a partner or alone with a recording device and is particularly effective as a precursor to
character work. The technique works best if it is begun in the same way you might begin a meditation, or a relaxation process. Ensure you are sitting comfortably, that you are warm enough, and you will not be disturbed. If you are working alone then now is the time to start recording. If you are working with a partner, ensure they have paper and pen to take notes. Take several deep breaths; in through the nose, out through the mouth, calming yourself and clearing your mind. Then, begin to speak about your character. Start with “S/He looks like...” or “S/He is wearing...” Start simply, describing hair colour, or clothes, until the images start to flow freely. This may take longer depending on how often you use the technique. Don’t be worried if you cannot “see” things - sometimes the images come as a feeling “I feel cramped and small” or “I’m irritated” - or, very typically at first, “I feel stupid”. The important thing is not to correct yourself, to let yourself speak, without censure or stopping, allowing the images and feelings to stream from you. It is important not to force the images, nor to influence or judge them, or analyse them while you are actually streaming. Just allow them to come, no detail is too small or too pointless to be mentioned. If you are working with a partner it is their job to record as much of the stream as possible. Sometimes proximity to another person may make the stream difficult to start. In which case they may prompt the stream by asking questions, such as “How do you feel?” or “What can you see?” or sometimes, during the stream, if it seems to have halted, then they may prompt with the words “and?” or “go on”,
but their primary role is to record. An image stream lasts as long as it lasts. It could be five minutes, it could be longer. When it is complete, review everything. If you are working with a recording, you need to then take on the job of the partner, listen to the recording and take notes on it. If you have been lucky enough to work in a pair, you would review the notes together. Look through the highlights, point out recurrences, look at themes, colours, feelings. Image streaming helps to bring a character to vivid life, as it is often highly imaginative, sensory and detailed. Do not, however, get caught into a trap of thinking, “Well, in my image stream I was wearing a bright red dress, and the costume designer has put me in blue - that’s wrong” _ Perhaps your character is dressed in blue, but in her own imagination she wears dazzling, glorious red - what a wonderful inner life this could give your character. Similarly, don’t throw out anything that you have already discovered about your character in rehearsal or via your own preparation - these can be very useful starting off points. If you already know where the character lives, or what they wear, or how they speak, it can be very useful to place that awareness into the stream at the beginning and see where it takes you. “If we fail to nourish our souls, they wither, and without soul, life ceases to have meaning.... The creative process shrivels in the absence of continual dialogue with the soul. And creativity is what makes life worth living.” Marion Woodman. Trusting The Actor by Brian Astbury is available through Amazon. ● Follow @HolisticActing on Twitter fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 27
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TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
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TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Tales from the dressing room JBR talks to the legendary actor Oliver Ford Davies.
The weight of antiquity at Stratford-upon-Avon is immense. Although there has been a theatre here, in some form, at Shakespeare’s birthplace since 1769, the Royal Shakespeare Company was not founded until a mere 50 years ago. The legends that have already performed here are manifold and these revered buildings house the dreams of so many up-and-coming actors. Small wonder that these theatres represent an extraordinary combination of hope and history. And yet the new corridors backstage, holding the shared dressing rooms for the Swan and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, with their uniform RSC red doors, and off-white walls, resemble nothing so much as a student hall of residence. An Understudy Run has just finished on the Swan stage, the tannoy crackles into life, while the hallways buzz with actors calling congratulations to each other. “Enjoy that?” asks one. “Very much - picked up a few tips!” responds Oliver Ford Davies jovially, before ushering me in to Dressing Room 207, a well designed, but slightly nondescript room. It is functional rather than glamorous, three chairs at three mirrors and a hanging rail of clothes neatly built in beneath a shelf. The only luxury is the gorgeous view of the Avon from the small balcony. The other actors with whom Ford Davies shares the space pop in and out discreetly over the next hour. Like student halls, there is a feeling of camaraderie and community. There is an atmosphere of restraint in the room. “I’m a little bit guarded,” Ford Davies warns. Something gives the impression of a tutorial with an avuncular but slightly intimidating University lecturer. Perhaps it is the room, or the rarefied atmosphere of Stratford-uponAvon, or even the period costumes hanging on the rail. More likely it is Ford Davies himself. “I didn’t become an actor until I was 27,” he mentions, “First of all I became a teacher. I had been a lecturer at Edinburgh University. My father was a schoolteacher at Latimer in Hammersmith.” So that explains the feeling of being summoned to the headmaster.
Like so many actors, an early visit to Shakespeare sparked a schoolboy flame that would lead to Ford Davies becoming one of the pre-eminent Shakespearean actors of his generation. “Most people start with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Romeo & Juliet,” he recalls. With Ford Davies, his first Shakespeare was Richard II, aged 8. “I can remember, at the age of about 12, or 11, sitting in my bedroom thinking ‘do I really like Shakespeare?’ and taking a speech, Antony over the dead Caesar in Julius Caesar and reading it out loud and thinking ‘Yes! I do like Shakespeare!’” One of the most striking features of Ford Davies is his widely acknowledged towering intellect. He won a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford and has written several books. His delicate, cerebral performances, particularly in Shakespeare are those of a polymath, a philosopher poet. I wonder whether his intellect always informs his acting? He leans forward slightly, as if to accentuate his point. “Alfred Brendel said ‘you start with feeling and then it must be filtered to the intellect and when you come to perform you return to the feeling but if it’s not filtered through the intellect, however much passion there is, it’s amateur.’” Ford Davies pauses for a moment to contemplate this. “Feeling and intellect, I prefer to call it imagination and craft. These are the two components in any acting really, but it particularly applies to Shakespeare. You need a lot of imagination, to respond to the language, to respond to the predicaments. You need a lot of imagination but you also need a lot of craft; craft in handling the language, but also craft in the energy it requires. You’ve really got to have that energy, to be on the ball, to handle classical parts.” Ford Davies has enjoyed an abundantly prolific classical career. Where once Shakespeare was seen as an actor’s bread and butter, the foundation upon which a career is built, now it is routinely described as a ‘challenge’ by actors, or avoided altogether. Here in Shakespeare’s birthplace, in conversation with one of our greatest living classical actors, it seems incongruous to suggest that training in classical work is dying out.
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SURVIVING THE PROFESSION
A WORKING ACTOR Daniella Gibb goes from emerging artist to surviving artist in her new regular column. “Wow! You don’t often find people your age who are still doing it!” A young actor said to me this week. Not doing shots of aftershock or excelling on the X-Box, but acting. At 31 years old I have made it through the ‘first cut,’ so to speak, in the lifelong audition that is the acting profession. I am not a highly successful star but a “working actress” who manages to pays the bills (sometimes) from acting. I have avoided the post drama school career change, the desire for marriage and babies and finally the allure of a regular wage packet/ mortgage prospects and am still ‘treading the boards.’ But will I make it to the finals? Part of me hopes not. I admit there have been times when watching my peers buy houses or successfully apply for car insurance that I have longed to not be an actress. I have been making noises about changing my profession for a few years but every time I get a new qualification or Google “normal” jobs another great acting job comes along, I get sucked back in and reminded why this job is so brilliant. Acting has become my job and like any other profession it has its politics, pressures and P45’s. I have had to find a way of making it “work” for me as the “working actress,” in my life and on my terms, not just the terms of the casting directors who have the power to change my life in an instant. As I have gotten older and started to understand the profession and myself, I haven’t wanted to drop everything because David Grindrod wants to see me at 3pm like I did 10 years ago. I hate letting premade plans and people down and no-one can expect you to keep your week free and not earn any money on the off-chance of a phone call. The industry is exciting, precarious and can be destructive if you let it and you need a jolly good map to navigate your way through this wonderful world. One day I’m up and the next I’m proclaiming through tears and a glass of Merlot that I should become an estate agent; the well-coveted work/life balance written endlessly about in the media applies to us too, perhaps even more so. So how do you manage to still write “actor” in the blank space beside “job title” 12 years after leaving drama school? Well, it’s all about balance, sacrifice, support and shed loads of therapy. Joke. Sort of. Learning to balance the importance you place on your career is a tough one. I used to base my happiness on whether I was
in or out of work; ecstatic and a joy to be around when in a contract then depressed and insecure when auditioning again. With the beauty of hindsight I can now see that I was a ‘pain in the bum human mood-swing’ and I don’t blame countless ex-boyfriends for dumping me. You can’t let having a job dictate your happiness or self-worth – if your life is ok on a day-today basis then doing a job you love is an added bonus. If your sole focus is career, CVs and achievements then you run the risk of missing what else life has to offer. Relationships, family, and friends can all fall by the wayside as you obsess over jobs but you will always need them there to remind you that there is more to life than speeches and Pippa Ailion. They will
be the ones to pick you up after your 7th ‘NO’ of the week or who reminds you of your true self when basking in the light of success. You can still have that blinkered focus of an aspiring thesp but it’s learning when to use it; so maybe try to balance out the nights out in the West End with a catch up with your old mate from home - it can be as good for you as a January detox. Talking of home, this is where the sacrifice comes in. No, not goats or altars but the life sacrifices required to sustain a career. To play your dream role you may have to leave loved ones behind as you embark on tour with only a suitcase and sat-nav for company. You also have to accept that you may miss out on birthdays, weddings and christenings as “normal” folk insist on hosting them on a Saturday night
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Tucking her feet up beneath her on the sofa, Jessica Swale is the picture of doe-eyed, ethereal beauty. Meeting at Mountview Academy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Swale is just another student, like the many milling around. A little more confident perhaps, a little more poised - a sort of Head Girl, top of her class. Words JBR.
SWALE IS TOP CLASS alright, but don’t be fooled by her youthful looks. She is one of our brightest directing talents. In the last few years, her company Red Handed has notched up an impressive array of productions, plaudits, nominations and awards and all in addition to numerous sell out productions at venues like the Arcola and Southwark Playhouse and the critically acclaimed production of Bedlam at Shakespeare’s Globe which Swale directed. Swale’s vertiginous rise to prominence is thanks to a simple equation: hard work, talent, self-belief and the odd word of encouragement from her mentors. She studied Drama at Exeter, took a year out, and then went on to the Masters in Advanced Theatre Practice course at Central. “In my last term at Central I got thrown in the deep end trying to handle a National Theatre tour when I hadn’t really done anything,” she explains. “I started working as Max Stafford Clark’s assistant doing The Overwhelming at the National during which he had a stroke.” Red Handed came about shortly afterwards thanks in part to a conversation with Stafford Clark. “I was talking about people I wanted to assist and he said ‘don’t give me a list of directors you want to work with, give me a list of plays you want to direct. Do you want to be a director or do you want to be an assistant?’ and I thought ‘God, yeah, of course, he’s absolutely right.’ I’ve made work out of necessity. No-one’s going to give you that opportunity. Let’s be realistic. You’ve got to make that happen for yourself. I think one of the most important qualities you need as a director is to have the guts and the balls and the craziness to try and go it alone and see if it works.” With The Rivals, Bedlam, The Belle’s Stratgem and The Busybody, one of their most striking qualities is the reverence to the text, but also the mischievous sense of anarchic fun that imbues them. Is this anarchic reverence a “Swale Style”? “I think if people talk about me having a style that comes from doing three plays written in a similar period: Rivals, Belle and The Busybody. A good quality for a director is to be able to honour the play to the extent that whatever happens in the production is
absolutely from the heart and soul of the writing rather than from having a style you apply. I suppose I started meddling more and more,” she laughs. “It’s sort of a case of doing a dramaturgical job on the plays to make sure that the audience gets as much out of them as they can. The more writing that I’ve done the more confidence I’ve had to add in stuff.” Already the author of two books on stagecraft, Swale’s first play, Blue Stockings, will form part of the Shakespeare’s Globe 2013 season. “I was totally bowled over when they said they wanted to do it,” she admits. “I didn’t even know the Globe had a copy of it, or that Dominic [Dromgoole - Artistic Director of The Globe] had a copy, and then he sent me an email to say ‘has anyone bought the rights to it yet?’ I thought it was a joke because the other play that I’m writing I did write with the Globe in mind. It’s about Nell Gwynne and it’s about theatre and spectacle and it has to have a live crowd in it and the Globe’s perfect for that.” At just 30, Swale is still young enough to not be far removed from the early difficult days straight out of school and having no money. On starting out, Swale offers the most salient advice yet. “For my first couple of years at drama school and out of drama school I taught six hours on Sunday and six hours on Saturday which paid me enough money that I didn’t need to work during the week so I could rehearse Monday to Friday with Red Handed. I’ve seen lots of actors recently, really fab graduates, get trapped in jobs where you say to them ‘Do you want to come and do this workshop?’ and because it’s a workshop and not a big production they’ll say ‘Oh no I’m working’. And suddenly you find yourself in a place where you’re dependent on the money and the security of the job and you’re turning down opportunities to make work. So you’ve got to plan ahead and get some teaching skills. That’s the best thing you can possibly do as a graduate.” 2013 is full steam ahead for Swale and I can’t help wonder what her future holds. She giggles again. “One of the things I like most about this industry is how unpredictable it is. There’s something really attractive about that as a lifestyle.
It’s about embracing the unknown and finding that exciting. You need to be as good at the downtime as the uptime. And okay with not knowing. And at the moment one of the most exciting things for me is the fact that I just don’t know. I didn’t think I was a writer. In fact, if you’d asked me this a year ago I would’ve said ‘directing this play, directing this show’. Whereas now suddenly I’ve got writing to do. In 10 years time I’d love to be writing plays that I really want to write, directing shows that I’m really interested in, working with people that really fascinate me, maybe doing more with music involved in it? I’d like to do a musical because everything I do seems to become more and more about music as time goes on. I used to want to be an Artistic Director and run a building but actually I love the freedom of working in different spaces and different climates and moving from project to project and place to place. But the big answer is I don’t know and that’s what I find most exciting. Maybe I’ll be an actor next!” ●
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SHOULD I... Use Rehearsal Apps Say what? Apps that help you learn lines and get off-book. Sadly, they don’t actually rehearse for you. How do they work? Exactly how
varies, but in general you upload your script (some allow you to dictate the script), and either type in the name of you character and the apps find all your lines, or you highlight them yourself. Either way, the learning is on. As you progress from learning to rehearsing, many will allow you to grey out your lines, leaving only the cues. Many also use text-to-speech protocols so that everyone else’s lines will be spoken by the app. And some will allow you to record your fellow actor’s voices in place of the awkward computerised voices. Most allow working across multiple devices (I.e. Phone, tablet, computer) Public domain works (like Shakespeare scripts) are easily uploaded, and some farsighted drama publishers have started providing copyrighted scripts formatted for such apps.
Can I get one? Apps for Android,
iPhone/iPad, Windows & more, though many are on iOS only.
Which should I get? Rehearsal 2
iOS only, £13.99 unlimited usage One of the very best, full-featured and versatile, pricey but worth it.
Hollywood Helper / Broadway Buddy (seach the AppStore)
iOS only, free (other fees may apply) Similar functionality though not quite as robust. More economical.
iOS only $1.99 per script (other fees may apply) Awesome functionality that is probably the best-in-show here, plus working with publishers like Samuel French to offer ready-formatted scripts.
iOS, Android & Windows, free Not quite as technologically excellent as the others featured here, but has the best dictateyour-script function going and works on a broad range of platforms.
Tech-savvy actors will love these apps simply for the fun of it, but how useful they are will depend on your personal line-learning approach. Such apps really come into their own for learning scenes for TV/ Film, and learning sides for audition.
Michael Wharley is a London-based headshot photographer & writer www.michaelwharley.co.uk fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 47
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