As the classical tag tells us: de gustibus non est disputandum. All aesthetic judgements will be problematical. But there does seem to be a special problem with acting. Is it an art at all; or merely a craft? If it is an art, it seems to be the easiest, the cheapest of arts, perhaps akin to photography where anyone can do it, even with a box-brownie. Schnozzle Durante told us many years ago that 'Everybody wants to get into the act.' A highly prescient remark in that, since the advent of television, programmes featuring 'Real People' have topped the ratings-at least in the US. Everybody seems able to act. Indeed, current sociopsychological sensibility propounds the idea that we are all acting all the time in everyday life. What then is particular about 'acting' in theatrical terms? The classic layperson's response to acting is: 'How did you learn all those lines?' The other response most actors get if they divulge their profession is: 'Oh yes. I was in a play in the third grade.' And, of course, they were. But violinists tend not to get the response 'Oh yes. I played the violin in the third grade', nor artists, 'I did finger painting in nursery school.'
Acting seems easy and, irony of ironies, the better the technique, the easier it seems. The problem of discussing what it means to be the 'abstracts and chronicles of our time', has defied the best attempts of philosophers, critics and especially those practitioners, who, in a somewhat diffident and surprised manner, have tried to write about what it is they do! Alec Guinness has stated the conundrum: 'I am not at all sure what great acting is and yet, when seen, it is instantly recognizable.' 1 So, it will be the attempt of this book, at the risk of making 'the unskilful laugh…[and] the judicious grieve', 2 to uncover what it is that is 'instantly recog-