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Antonia



With an edgy mix of first-day-at-school nerves and anticipation, I approached Red Lion Square. This latest venture into the realm of the thesp was to be played out in Conway Hall, Holborn. As I stepped inside, the school-girl jitters were compounded by the place itself: the wood panelling and the echoey corridor; the civic/academic vibe reminding me of previous sporadic jollies in the performing arts. From the school halls of Cheshire, where the acting itch was first properly scratched, through the function rooms of Newcastle University’s Student Union, arts venues and community centres; The Method Studio’s site was entirely appropriate. All that was missing was the exclamation mark. The drama groups I used to number, like Shania Twain, had an amusing fondness for this form of punctuation. NUTS! Acting Up! and erm, Bottleheads (the exception to the rule)were lightweight however. This was the Method, a serious practice and an exclamation mark would not be required.

I was greeted by a recent graduate without blinking asked me which drama school I had attended. Yikes. This was going to be intimidating. My drama training credentials were not going to pass muster with this lot. As I entered the workshop space, I came across a striking model-type buried in The London Paper then, in a kids-from-fame leap across the room, a thrusting Italian introduced himself.

As the group assembled and I noted an international cast of characters, mostly in their twenties, with a few members a little less wet behind the ears. Soon enough, Miss, a sparky Australian came in the room and gathered us all together for circle time. As we all swapped mini-biogs my fears of the drama student stereotype were calmed.

The company really was international, including a Greek, German, Ecuadorian, Russian as well as a Scot, Londoner and this northern lass and it made for a luvvie version of the United Nations, united in our quest for dramatic truth and opposing acting clichés in the name of Stanislavski! Not all were off the drama school conveyer belt either. The group included a couple of disillusioned city workers, craving a bit of solace for their right-brain and an affable postman, not green to the acting game but keen to get to the boards. Acting – Level 1 works on a rolling timetable and students can opt in any point, which meant some had attended for 6 months, some just 2 weeks. This meant the group was fluid and avoided a sense of clique.

And so to the class proper. We started with a sequence of ‘letting go’ warm-up exercises. This included massage (if you insist…), a concentration game and a ball game to raise the energy levels. Stanislavski’s Method encompasses the creation of the creative state and the exercises were a means of getting ‘in the zone’.

Next up, the mirror game and my partner, the twinkly Ecuadorian and I were asked to copy eachothers’ movements and expressions and create a mirror image. One lead and one followed and this switched organically as we got into a rhythm. A trust game of being lead blind round the room by a partner paired me with the affable postman and had a bonding effect. I’m not sure if I’d entered the creative state but I had limbered up.

The latter half of the class centred on text work. Students had brought and prepared their own pieces. Being a newbie, city-boy and I were handed a scene from Pinter’s Betrayal and we managed a cursory dry-run before settling to watch the other students. It was at this point that the tutor’s learned and encouraging input was demonstrated and I witnessed a real elevation of a scene before and after. A ho-hum interpretation of a scene from bleak 90’s film, Nil-by-Mouth about domestic-abuse was made intense with feeling as Miriam focused the actors on their objectives and their emotions were given space to radiate. Again, a haphazard first read of a drug-hazed monologue from the Guy Ritchie film, Rock n’Rolla took form in a second run as we stopped ‘seeing the acting’ in the revised and tutored performance.

We were out of time. Alas! City-boy and my staggering performance was stolen from the audience by the clock. I was struck by my absorption in the class, how I had forgot myself and I looked forward to revisiting the moment next week.