We were reminded of how to play old and young, this time I knew much better how to play them because now I’m more experienced and I know what I’m feeling and why. My first character that I drew from a a hat with leaflets was something along the lines of ‘Extremely organised personal assistant’ which was a solo study, my second character was ‘A jolly farmer’s wife’. I was paired with Will who did the voice of this jolly farmer quite well but the physicality was slightly lacking, I was playing the customer.
The study of how to play the clown from Twelfth Night. There is nothing that says how to play him in the plays so you could either play him as jolly, a salesman, a secretary, or many more. We chose to play him as a barman.
We learned about the seven levels of tension. Starting off with us lying on the floor and relaxing every muscle that we had completely. That is the first level of tension. Afterwards we had to contract every muscle in our body but very, very slightly so that we reached the second level of tension. The third level of tension involved us getting up to our knees with as little effort and muscle movement as possible. As we stood up and started to walk around we were in the fourth level of tension. Moving as if we might miss the bus is the fifth level. Having to find a bomb that might go off is the sixth level of tension. And finally the seventh and last level of tension has us in a completely tense body. So tense that we can’t even move.
The 7 Levels of Tension:
Exhausted or catatonic. The Jellyfish. There is no tension in the body at all. Begin in a complete state of relaxation. If you have to move or speak, it is a real effort. See what happens when you try to speak.
Laid back – the “Californian” (soap opera). Many people live at this level of tension. Everything you say is cool, relaxed, probably lacking in credibility. The casual throw-away line – “I think I’ll go to bed now”.
Neutral or the “Economic” (contemporary dance). It is what it is. There is nothing more, nothing less. The right amount. No past or future. You are totally present and aware. It is the state of tension before something happens. Think of a cat sitting comfortably on a wall, ready to leap up if a bird comes near. You move with no story behind your movement.
Alert or Curious (farce). Look at things. Sit down. Stand up. Indecision. Think M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) or Mr Bean. Levels 1 – 4 are our everyday states.
Suspense or the Reactive (19th century melodrama). Is there a bomb in the room? The crisis is about to happen. All the tension is in the body, concentrated between the eyes. An inbreath. There’s a delay to your reaction. The body reacts. John Cleese.
Passionate (opera). There is a bomb in the room. The tension has exploded out of the body. Anger, fear, hilarity, despair. It’s difficult to control. You walk into a room and there is a lion sitting there. There is a snake in the shower.
Tragic (end of King Lear when Lear is holding Cordelia in his arms). The bomb is about to go off! Body can’t move. Petrified. The body is solid tension.
Afterwards we walked, sat, talked with other people and just interacted with objects in a few different ways a character could be.
If a character was eager he would move a bit quickly and a bit excitingly in a tension level of 5.
If a character was lethargic he would be moving about as if asked to do a task and will but just woke up and really don’t want to do it, with a tension level of 2.
If a character was bold and brave the room would fill with confidence. You would walk proudly and with a purpose – this would be about a level 5 or 6 in tension.
If a character was stupid or dumb, they would move slowly wondering and questioning everything around them, almost in a childlike manner but with the tension level of 2.
And finally we learned how to apply all of this to our characters from ‘The Table, the Donkey and the Cudgel’. Depending on their personalities and who they were we assigned them a level of tension to base their movement on.
We had to research and study a specific animal so that we could represent some specific characteristic of that animal as a person. I chose a lion. As I studied the lion I realised he is a really majestic creature who seems proud of just being who he is. A lion also licks his face while resting and after a lion seeks its prey, kills it and is done eating he walks away with his head slightly bent down. I reenacted the lion by looking proud and having my chin up as they’re calm, slow and proud.
We played a game called hot seating. In this game we have to become our character and everyone else asks us questions which we have to answer as the character would. Me, Sabrina and Tom were supposed to answer questions as the character bed. The questions weren’t easy questions and answering alone as the bed would have been hard enough, but we had to answer it together and at the same time so it was expectedly not optimal. We should think about our character even if we are something as insignificant as a bed, which is an inanimate object. We still have to portray how the bed looks, are a proud bed? Are we an old bed? Knowing the answers will help us decide how our character is and to act in unison.
Things to look out for while acting:
- Don’t make eye contact, looking for approval, while performing
- Watch out for your ticks because they are distracting and looks like that’s the only thing you can do. Try to fix them.
- In order to relax you need to rehearse. Know your lines perfectly and you won’t be nervous, because you won’t have what to be nervous about.
- Keep hair away from eyes
- Leave personal problems outside of acting. You’re an actor so act like your happy, or sad, or angry, or whatever you need to be. But you need to fake it with realism.
I learned the questions that you should ask yourself in order to act, they are:
- Who am I? – Character
- What time is it? – Century/Season/Day
- Where am I? – House/Space/Underground
- What surrounds me? – Students/Cobwebs
- What are the circumstances? – Past/Present/Future/Events
- What are my relationships?
- What do I want?
- What’s in my way?
- What do I do to get it?
We had to pay close attention to how we moved our feet so that we knew which features are specific to us when we walk. We then exaggerated those features for everyone to see, while we were walking around in a room. For me it was kind of a stopping with my toes whenever I turned.Then we had to examine someone else’s walk and imitate it.
We stopped to imagine a person in front of us in as much detail as possible from another era. I imagined a medieval Viking man, about 48 years old, blonde longish hair covered mostly by his horned helmet and a blonde long beard. He was wearing brown rugged cloth vest and a same type of material kind of skirt. On top of that he was wearing some very light armour. He was holding an axe on the right hand and a shield on the left. His posture was a very protective and cautious one. After walking around like a Viking, Lynn asked us to describe the person and I failed to describe it the way I imagined it to be, but I came close and Lynn said that she could see it all from my posture. Interestingly any little detail might change who you’re portraying, for example: chin raised means high class or proud, while chin lowered means shy or embarrassed or feeling insignificant.
There are people who can become invisible in a room and people who you can sense straight away when entering a room. Some people drain energy from the room, others radiate it. It is a character trait specific to each of our persona’s. I am a bit more to energy radiator side.
We watched Gary sit on a chair and the ways he portrayed his scene that later on we had to guess what it was. He touched his finger, crossed his legs, opened his legs, the feeling of nervousness, looking at the clock, looking at the door, fiddling with his ring, looking depressed, all of these put together help me understand how a person would act in that situation and what obvious things we should observe. Gary was waiting for his wife in a hospital, that’s why he was fiddling with the ring. We learned that just sitting on a chair can already make so many different scenes.