Whispers from the Wings

Relaxed concentration

November 8, 2012

The actor playing the OrphanWell, press night is fast approaching. We're all beginning to work our way out of the initial shock of the first previews and into something a little more comfortable. That much sought after state of  'relaxed concentration' …or 'chilled-out panic' as I call it.

We look over notes. We warm up religiously and exchange knowing looks with the other company of actors when passing them in the corridor. 'What does their play look like,' we wonder as we sneak a peek at the monitors to see a few minutes of a scene or two. We give them smiling thumbs up at every opportunity.

We lock into a constant state of support and encouragement for all around us whether they're in our show or not. If we keep supporting each other, then someone will catch us if we fall right?

To me, this sense of family is what this industry is all about. It's certainly what the RSC has always been about for me and family looks after family. Besides it's a great way to get out of my head and let things flow naturally.

If ever I find myself in the dumps, it's almost always because I've become desensitized somehow to others around me. Checking back in with my fellows usually does the trick. 'How can I help you,' I find myself repeating silently.

Meanwhile the demon mastiff is getting all the positive attention it rightly deserves. Chris, Joan, and Suzi are rocking it night after night.

actors relaxing and readingThey've plotted in a crotch sniff and an elbow nudge. It's a tiny movement but a precise one. There are moments when they all three conspire to make the dog do something so simple that, as Greg puts it, the dog 'shivers into life.' It's magical.

I can't help but think that the play is undergoing the same treatment. We've had four previews so far. Each day following the show, Greg goes over the notes he has for us all. We rework, re-rehearse, re-adjust and re-stage. Every preview is different as a result, but it's getting better and better and shivering into life. Every preview enlists the audiences help and every preview unlocks a bit more of the play for us. Every night moves us closer and closer to our final interpretation of the story.

It's funny how much work we do on a show before bringing it to a live audience, considering that it's a live audience that ultimately decides what play will be seen on press night. It's quite a beautiful arrangement actually.

I often wonder if the relationship between performer and audience member is the key to understanding why we actors do this crazy job. If there's maybe something in the ether when someone performs for another human being that makes us return to it time and again…and by 'us' do I mean actor or audience?

by Youssef Kerkour  |  No comments yet

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