Chapter 6

The dynamics of acting: skills

If, then, the apparent representation of reality, lifelikeness, is not a sufficient or necessary criterion for the judgement of acting, can we point to anything that gives us a basis for discriminating between acting we would call good and bad? What we come back to is the basic element of theatre, the actor's body as fundamental presence and sign. Although, as we have already suggested, there can be no absolutely precise vocabulary of signs, it is the sign the audience sees; the skill with which an actor creates that sign will have a significant effect upon the audience's experience of the theatrical event. The more skilfully the actor makes the sign, the more likelihood is there that the audience will experience it as the actor intended. So it is not lifelikeness, it is not feeling or engendering of emotion per se, but skill (in creating the sign) that seems to be a basic way of approaching the actor's craft.

What does this skill consist of ? We have already spoken of the importance of balance and the idea of the actor's centre. Because we apprehend with our senses, mainly our eyes, we tend to think of ourself as located in our heads. This is a particular problem for the actor because we do read the script and think about it with our heads. But we act with our bodies, and respond from our centre where physical balance, breath and nervous impulses come together. From this centre we allow the impulses to flow outward and inform all other parts of our body in such a way that a powerful communicative sign will be made. This impulse, through the actor's exercise of skills, is channelled, controlled and focused. The impulse cannot have a simply arbitrary outward expression or the actor will be one who will 'unpack [your] heart with words, and fall a-cursing like a very drab.' 1 The sign 'in the very tempest,

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