The KSC elves have asked me to enter my thoughts and opinions on the recent RSC Open Stages session that I attended. For those of you who are unaware, the RSC Open Stages is an amateur Theatre outreach programme that the RSC have introduced. As an amateur theatre company who are putting on a show this calendar year, we were eligible to apply to become part of the Open Stages ‘family’. This entitles us to use the RSC logo on our posters, attend the various classes they run, and enter a filmed version of our production to the RSC in the hope of being selected to perform it on a larger stage.
The performers class took place at the Questors Theatre, Ealing, West London and featured seminars in voice and text, acting and movement. I found all three of the classes extremely helpful in my understanding of performing Shakespeare and I will try to summarize some of the best bits.
Voice and Text: Curiously enough, the gentleman taking this seminar is an alumnus of KCP (the predecessor of KSC) and performed at Mount Ephraim alongside Bob Fearnside and Michael Wrate in ‘Love’s Labours Lost’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ many, many moons ago. The primary lesson he gave was in removing what he called the ‘acting gene’ and making the text seem as vibrant and natural as possible, rather than treasuring it as an ancient manuscript to be worshipped. He also made the point of starting out with a character by exploring the words through an array of bizarre exercises and letting the character come from them, rather than laying one on top of them. He maintains that characterization is the final part of the process, after the lines have been thoroughly ransacked by voice and action to squeeze the meaning out, rather than intelectualising it too much.
Acting – the acting class focused mainly on naturalism techniques and cited Stanislavski and Meisner as its two greatest exponents. The emphasis was on the concept of only reacting if there was a reason to and not being afraid to stand still, looking like a lemon. The tutor described the process of acting in a play as the movement of energy from one source to another. If you act, the energy is released by the reaction, counter reaction and so forth.
Movement – in movement, I was able to take the opportunity to switch to a class in stage combat (endlessly useful for the wrestling scene), where I learned a variety of simple yet effective stage moves: punches, slaps, strangling and hair pulling. More importantly, I learned the principle behind creating effective stage combat in terms of how to disguise things and how to make the most out of as few moves as possible for the audience’s enjoyment.
To briefly conclude, the primary message was that ‘it’s not rocket science!’ If you take the time, use what time you have effectively and think about how best to use your resources then putting on a decent quality Shakespeare play is not impossible. It is important to work with the text as freely, naturally and enthusiastically as possible and not to either be scared ofit or revere it.
So no one say anything nice about the script for As You Like It!