The Slippery Business of Fishing for Acting Advice

The business of acting doesn’t lend itself comfortably to words or explanations. Acting is doing. I worked with a very famous, very cruel director once when I was an actor. But he did have one saying of great wisdom. ‘Don’t talk about it. Do it,’ he’d  snarl.

But of course, us actors love talking – it postpones the moment of doing. But it does also keep you in head mode rather than visceral mode.

And now I am an acting teacher and I write books about it – books full of words.

The thing to remember is that there are many, many routes you can take – and they all lead in the same direction: to make those squiggles on the page come alive: to entertain, instruct, move, or terrify us – the watchers.

You are the instrument to do that – the words/thoughts/feelings are filtered through YOU. There is no ‘character’  – you bring the ‘character’ on the page alive for us. There is only YOU – you as if you were in that situation/time/lived that life.

That’s your homework – putting in that last bit. Then, like putting on a suit of clothes; or jumping into a magic circle where your ‘role’ stands in front of you, so that you are in their shoes and look out of their eyes – you have to inhabit the world and act in the moment. Be five again – believe in the situation, put pictures in your head, know what you see, what your relationship is and what you want. But don’t decide how you get it – turn off that critical manager in your head – don’t worry about how you feel – that will take care of itself. Just get on with the task in hand in real time – moment to moment.

To put in the homework that you must trust and forget in the moment of doing – try improvisation/psychological gesture/physical metaphor, Laban efforts, animal work – always held by a good structure of connected voice/centred posture and a dash of insouciance and life and self behind the eyes,

But that’s MY route – try them all: Stanislavski/Meisner/Adler/Michael Chekhov/Uta Hagen//Strasberg/Practical Aesthetics/Grotowski/Masks/Viewpoints/Alba Emoting/Laban/Physical Theatre/Accent Breathing/Linklater/Roy Hart/Estill/Mime/Clowning/Dance/Commedia del’Arte/Impro/ Brecht/Stand-Up/Yoga/Tai Chi//Theatre of the Absurd/Theatre of Cruelty/Holy Theatre/Poor Theatre  etc etc etc etc etc.

Some will inspire you more than others/some are more useful for particular roles or genres. You will find YOUR route.

My real advice? Don’t get hooked on one method or technique

My books: Acting for Film: Truth 24 Times a Second (Virgin Books/Random House) A Screen Acting Workshop + DVD (so you can SEE & not just read) (Nick Hern Books)



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About Mel Churcher

I am an acting coach, voice coach, actor and director.