Monday, 13 January 2014

Breaking Down Actors - Do we really need it?

In answer to my title, I'm not entirely sure we do. Simple enough. (I didn't have a clever way to start this blog so I thought I'd go straight for the point of the matter, then set out my thoughts.)

Let me clarify on what I mean by 'the negative breaking down of actors' in regards to a few scenarios:

I am not referring to actors having truthful emotions and breakdowns within the moment. If an emotion is really living it may cause a response one might call 'breaking down'. A debate for another day is this idea of the actors dual conscious where, within a theatre setting, how do you go from the depths of despair and upset in one scene. To the very next scene which carries a different emotional preparation. Another day.

What I am concerned with is the development of actors and the way teachers handle them. Teaching acting is a very nuanced, and sensitive art. You can run the risk of damaging an actor's confidence and their own mental well being if this is done wrong. Even down to so much as the way you word criticisms, no matter how constructive, in the end the comment is about the person and often what can be taken away from this, by the actor is 'The problem is with you', 'you are wrong', 'you are not good enough', 'you aren't connecting to that role' etc etc. unlike a pianist for example, whereby you can diagnose a missed key, a rhythmic blip or to simply say, 'that was wrong, but if you practice you'll get it right'. The same cannot always be said to an actor. 

It makes me angry when I hear teachers threaten to be harsh. I've heard the phrase 'if something is shit, I'll tell you it's shit' as a threat before the student-actor even began to perform.  Is it me or does that then put the student actor in to a worrisome state of impressing the teacher, rather than to just exist truthfully in the moment.  The teacher suddenly becomes the most important person in the room, and a rehearsal room is not a place for ego.  I hear reports of teachers in prestigious schools, charging you in excess of £10,000 a year for the privilege of being there, screaming 'that was shit' in the face of students.  I often find that actors do their best work when they are empowered to do so, and are not under pressure to achieve a result, often being "pleasing the teacher".  More on results in a bit. I don't feel the need to bully my actors, I am quite a passive teacher, perhaps too passive in certain situations however, the fact remains I see better work from actors who only have to worry about the person in front of them in the given moment.

Within Meisner Technique work, I am very happy to let my actors play and explore and discover what happens, and then analyse what happened, the effects the work has on each actor etc. The truthful, emotional results can be staggering. I say can be, because neither I, nor the actors know what is going to happen, it is wholly dependant on what happens in the moment. I sometimes worry, when I hear of teachers putting pressure on actors, suggesting that an exercise is only good when actors either kiss, fight or end in floods of tears. Whilst I have seen exercises resulting in all of these, it has never been because I demanded it of my actors. Rather, it has been a truthful response based entirely on the other person. If a teacher pushes you to reach a pinnacle of emotion, surely then, as an actor your attention is now split between the exercise and trying to cry/attack/kiss. Internally you are trying to make yourself feel something, or in other words, play to a result in order to satisfy the teacher, or at least his/her demands. Sometimes the most truthful and honest moments happen in a whimper, rather that a shout and the difficulty again is in recognising what is truthful and what is not. That is the job of a teacher.

Have you had experiences similar to any of the ones I've mentioned? Share your thoughts on here or tweet me.



Friday, 3 January 2014

New Years Resolution and January Acting Classes

Happy New Year Everyone.


I’m currently sat on the train on the way back to London which means a number of things: my holidays are coming to an end, term is about to start, I need to go back to the gym and it’s time to make 2014 work.


I always feel recharged after time at home.  Durham is a gorgeous city and when it is full of many of my favourite people there isn’t a better place to be. I needed these two weeks off; the last several weeks of work in November/December were incredibly stressful, busy and rewarding in equal measures.  I love my job and my work however it can leave you drained.  Teaching, especially anything performance related is physically demanding, it can’t be any other.  Teachers aren’t allowed a lazy day, or a one to just sit behind a desk, piano or ballet bar and “teach” from that point.  I’ve yet to find the way in which to do this, if it can be done I’d love to know how.  In the meantime, my battery is stocked, and I’m raring to see what the new year will bring me.   I have a number of plans.  Forgive me if this blog is somewhat more of a personal reflection rather than my usual, fully work-related posts.  They shall resume rather soon!


New Year Resolution


2013 saw the beginnings of me really taking control and setting foundations for the way in which I want to teach and where I see my teaching career going forward.  Job in London, check. Living in a nice area of London, check.  Teaching at an excellent school, check.  Further pushing my own teaching practice, check.  Getting my name out and about, check.  In a short space of time, just this year, I’ve worked with roughly 380 professionals, drama school graduates, drama school students, students I’m employed to teach and novices, I just about reckon I could tell you most of their names.  Most.  Quite a wide range!


2014 is all about pushing and building on the foundations I worked to develop last year.  Last year I was pushing, probably too-hard-too-quick, for people to come and work with me.  This year I want that to reverse, people are beginning to want to work with me and seek me out and this is what I need, it tells me I’m not an idiot and that I know what I’m doing and people are beginning to acknowledge that.  I have to say a huge thank you within that to the people who are championing what I do and spreading the word.  I continue to hope that is because they value my work, as much as my friendship, and that means a lot.


To those of you who are interested in what I do, here’s an opportunity for you.  I’m running a series of Meisner Acting Workshops starting the 21st of January.  There are still a few spaces available:


Where: Church on the Corner, Angel   

When: 21st January – 11th February(Tuesday Evenings 6.30pm-9.30pm)

Course Cost £80 (Student discounts available, email me)


You can read a little more about it here including past comments, feedback etc:

For info, or to book, email me


You want to know what I know, you will be changed as an actor (potentially, as a person) and you will be truthful.  These aren’t empty promises. Invest in yourselves as Actors, it's never too late to develop.


Follow by Email

Contact Form


Email *

Message *