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Monday, 15 July 2013

Ill Acting

Regulars to this blog will have noticed I've posted next to bugger all for months.  This has been due to a creeping illness which, as the consultant said to me the other day, "was moving in the direction of mortality".  Frankly that's an exaggeration, but I wasn't well.  Over a year ago I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which is - bluntly and literally - a shitty disease.  I have had to cut back on much of my theatre work because making theatre is stressful and stress makes me ill-er.  So, I've been focusing on writing and small scale projects and have been winding down on bigger commitments.  (That said, I won't be sitting on my heels, there will be new stuff coming up in the next eighteen months, possibly more new material than I've managed in the last year or so, just it'll be on a smaller, more virtual scale.)
Anyway, the last big commitment was a community production of Much Ado About Nothing in my local town.  A last chance to play juvenile lead (Claudio) before I'm too long in the tooth, so it fitted nicely.
And for the whole rehearsals schedule I've been as sick as a parrot.  Not just the usual symptoms of my unhappy colon, but a whole smorgasbord of sick.  Acting through illness is very distancing.  It's rather like acting with your arms tied behind your back - you know what you want to do, but it's all surface, the interior life of the character just isn't there.  Act 5, Scene 1 - a long and tricky scene - requires Claudio to travel from defiance, banter, to realisation and grief (depending on your interpretation, though regardless of which stops you wish to pull it's a busy scene emotionally).  The script states that he cries.  Prior to hospitalisation I had nothing.  Nothing at all.  I walked on, tried to look sad, said the words in approximately the right order and then had a coughing fit.  However, two days after they gave me the drugs that work (rather than the ones that make me ill - I was ill primarily as a reaction to my medication) and nice solid tear rolled from my eye.
Now, let's not get carried away - emotionalism is not necessarily acting.  The ability to feel emotion doesn't necessarily mean that I am acting better than before (for all I know, I was over doing it and came across as total crap) but it is part of being alive and being alive in a scene is half the battle.
It reminds me of my performance in Everyman at Easter - I'd found a really nice line through the piece, especially the pain and hurt felt by God at the beginning.  Again, in some rehearsals, there were tears (though I decided it would be more effective if held back rather than released into the wild) and I was quite happy.  Then I got gastroenteritis and had to fight through the show, rather than play it.  It came off, but all that hard work had gone and I had nothing.
Again, sometimes having nothing is to the positive benefit of a show.  A neutrality of performance can be very effective; I've seen shows destroyed by the overactive emotionalism of a quivering upper lip.  But that's ultimately a directing issue - as an actor I'm delighted to be able to feel again, to have all the options to play with.
Now, let's see if the director asks me to dial it back a bit.

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