Thursday, 31 May 2012

Facing It

Rehearsals for The Lower Depths have not been plain sailing. In addition to a merry-go-round of changing cast - when the original Luka pulled out, I replaced him, my Dimitri was replaced by the Policeman and a new Policeman had to be found - the director was suddenly called away, leaving his assistant in charge. Nevertheless, we appear to be back on track and with a good chance of a solid production being ready by first night next week. 

In the upheaval, I have struggled to find my character, Luka the mysterious vagrant. The two key notes I had were to smile and to act minimalist, both of which I found difficult, considering my natural expression is concentration and my hands tend to take on a life of their own whenever my acting emotions are engaged. The smile eventually came. With it, to prevent my hands waving like overweight butterflies each time I spoke, came the habit of stroking the - now thick - beard on my face, until the AD told me I was not only overdoing it but making my voice difficult to hear. 

The problem was solved when costumes were worked out and my hands naturally gravitated to the pockets of the waistcoat Luka wears. This posture both gives me some - forgive the pun - gravitas and stops my fingers wandering. The result has been that in the last two rehearsals I have felt much more comfortable in Luka's skin, and finally able to fully interact with the characters around him. 

The day that I donned Luka's waistcoat was also the day when I took it upon myself to bring some life into two key scenes where focus is on the tramp and his stories. I had struggled to maintain the minimalism and the monotone that it seemed the director wanted, and with him absent I allowed myself a few small gestures and brought life to my voice. The AD liked my performance and encouraged me to develop it. In addition, he asked me to talk as much to the fourth wall as to those on stage around me. I have a good voice and an expressive face, he said, and the audience needs to see it. That is good and bad news: I'm happy for my face to be the focus of attention and I have no problem looking at people when I am addressing them, but the idea of looking into an audience and not seeing them is a much greater challenge. But after all, who I am to deprive the public of the opportunity to gaze upon the face that the AD appears to admire so much...?  

Five more rehearsals to go. Overall, I'm not yet convinced of the quality of my performance. At present it feels average-to-good, which is not good enough, but I suspect it will continue to improve. Once the show opens I will be curious to see what reviewers make of it, and grateful to friends who are honest enough to tell me exactly what they think... 

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