Oleanna – David Mamet


Oleanna (David Mamet) is by far the hardest script I have ever had to learn, because of the way he has constructed the characters’ dialogue. Having slaved away at the lines and finally been off-book for the last couple of weeks – I have had time to enjoy his words and peculiar phrasing, where he has captured the broken rhythm of conversation and the interrupted trails of thought.
It has been an interesting few weeks wrestling with the script. There are so many ambiguities in the interactions between the two characters and also within their own lines… many a rehearsal has ended with an hour long discussion with the director about why Carol acted the way she did, did John have a hidden agenda etc, and about individual moments in the text.
What can we learn from this exchange, for example:

CAROL: No. I: when I came to this School
JOHN: Yes. Quite (pause)
CAROL: Does that mean nothing?

There are some great moments in the text which could be played in many ways and which would have a domino effect on the upcoming action – all depending on how you play it.

I would  recommend that anyone who has read the play through once and found it irritating, frustrating or even strongly disliked it, to pick it up again and give it another chance. Mamet’s writing is so unique and SO clever. No matter what you think of the (frankly unpleasant – in my view) characters it is a play which makes some interesting observations.

Oleanna 01
(Oleanna in rehearsal)

Lady Macbeth Tells Her Story

NEWSFLASH – Lady Macbeth tells her story

We have received confirmation that local independent journalist Rebecca Page has been researching and investigating Lady Macbeth’s version of events. Here’s what happened when we caught up with her yesterday:

For more information and updates on this story please visit:


See more of the interview here

A Bit More Improvisation…

I hope you had a great Easter weekend! 
Just a quick one this week – I have another great improv game for you… that we did on Wednesday evening – really gets the brain buzzing.

It’s called “meanwhile in…”
Essentially the game consists of two people starting a scene with a given theme (/ location / relationship / task) and at any point during the scene another actor can shout “meanwhile in….<insert appropriate location here>” and starts a new scene which is happening at the time the previous scene was interrupted.

First scene: The situation given is that they are two robbers in a bakery
The scene plays out that they break everything in sight, smashing glass, breaking shelves etc. They are just about to leave when….

** Another actor shouts  “meanwhile in the flat upstairs…” 
** [Cue scene two]
Second scene begins: The new actor is joined by someone else as they negotiate their way around a darkened bedroom and sneak down the stairs armed with anything they could find in their room. One of them calls the police…

** Another actor shouts  “meanwhile in the police station…” 
** [Cue scene three]
Third scene begins: The newest actor, this time alone on stage, is a lazy police officer – just wasting time, letting the phone ring out. After which another rookie officer runs in a panic explaining they have just received an urgent call about a robbery in progress etc….

You get the idea!
What’s great about this game is that it really engages your imagination, as there are no limits – people start getting engrossed in the story that unfolds and all sorts of characters come out of the woodwork!

A good exercise to warm up with before this would be “yes and…” as it encourages everyone to start running with whatever their partner brings to the scene. If you have a chance, give it a go – hope you enjoy.



P.S. This is what else I have been up to…


RumDoxy Theatre


How To Stop Acting – Harold Guskin

Cover Photo


As an actor there is a sort of threshold we cross, as we approach the character. That being the moment we speak the words aloud – when we take them off the page. He quotes Glenn Close discussing her shyness when moving to this moment, she describes it as having a “shyness in relationship to the character”(P3) it can be like “breaking some sort of sound barrier” (P4)

Guskin says; if we can trust ourselves, and trust that whatever comes out of our mouth (& mind) will be useful & valuable – it will allow us to approach the character with a real creative freedom. To connect with the words from our instinct. He says, Approaching the text from an analytical point of view only unlocks the intellectual part of our exploration, which can be restrictive as it doesn’t allow you to be in the moment with the character and the words they are saying. By approaching the words without analysis or forethought means an actor can “begin his exploration from within the character” (P5)

Guskin suggests that ‘Taking it off the page’ is not to be used as a technique, as such – I take from his writing that it is bass line to work from rather than something to do letter-by-letter. Taking it off the page involves breathing is as you look at your line – take in as little or as much as you can (don’t worry about how much you can recall) look up as you breathe out and say the words straight away, while you’re still in the moment. This apparently enables us to by-pass our conscious mind, and speak the line/phrase/word  from our subconscious, from our instinctive reaction. This avoids the feeling that we have to say it how we believe it ‘should’ be said – which can create a falseness, that we are ‘showing’ how we feel… rather than actually feeling it. (In this, his view is similar to Meisner – in that if we feel it, it is right at that moment and we should not try to manipulate it to fit what ‘should be’. We should not try and ‘correct’ it, or at least that’s my understanding so far…)

He says that if the reaction does not feel right – trust that next time you come to it, your instinctive reaction will change. At this point, you are not looking for answers or absolutes, you are “…in a state of discovery triggered by the only thing we know for sure about the character – what the character says” (p9)

I can see that if you are trying to find the character solely through text analysis and research, the end result could easily be 2D – like a really good illustration of what they should be, rather than a well-rounded, ‘truthful’ character. By worrying about how words ‘should’ be said, you place a distance between the yourself and the character, especially in the explorative stages.

I’m just getting to the bit where he goes into suggestions for practice… Looking forward to reading more and having a go!

Cannon’s Questions

Still grabbing moments to read this book, in between the madness!

I thinks it’s very instructive as well as interesting.
Today I read about Dee Cannon’s ideas behind researching your character, and her list of 10 Questions. (It is suggested that depending on time, you might not be able to do all 10.. just be sensible…)

Here are Cannon’s 10 Questions to finding/researching/connecting with  your character.

Essentially these questions are there to lead you to understand the situational, emotional and psychological elements of the role you are going to play… nifty!

For example;
No. 9 – HOW will I get what I want? (Choices) – Explore the psychological effect you want to have on the other actor(s) in order to get what you want. To beg. To entice. To charm. NOT focussing on how you say the line but how you action it. “actioning your text“(P52)

“This technique allows the actor to be free and truthful without playing external emotions. It’s really about what you don’t say ad trusting that actions speak louder than words.” (P53)

When I am playing a role, even in rehearsal, I automatically refer to my character  as myself, or myself as the character – either way, it’s in the first person. I’ve not really thought about it, but Cannon digs into it a little in this chapter. She suggests that if we are discussing (and I suppose even when thinking as/about) our character, referring to them in the third person immediately creates a psychological gulf between you and them… baring in mind you have spent your time identifying with them, or “bringing the character closer to you“(P62), if you speak of your character in third person – in an instant you can undo all your hard work, or at the very least send yourself 3 (or 4) steps back. Makes sense.

I’m sure there will be more from this one!

Dirty Great Love Story!

dirty-great-love-story“Two hopeful hapless romantics get drunk, get it on and then get the hell away from each other. In her eyes he’s a mistake. A mistake who keeps turning up at parties.
In his eyes, she’s perfect. He’s short-sighted.”

Went to see this show on Saturday night. The text was, on the whole, written in verse, the rhythm in the delivery was great, the whole show flowed really well.

The multi-role element of the piece was really well executed. Highlighting the importance of carrying the character through your whole body. Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine (who starred in this two-hander) embodied each of their characters well enough that the switches between them were incredibly smooth and easy to follow. The rhyme and rhythm echoed something of a shakespearean text, though the content and language was contemporary. The staging was incredibly simple and very effective, with just  two stools on a platform (which lit up to help suggest location changes from scene to scene) demonstrating that a big, impressive set not a necessity in transporting the audience into the world of the play.

All in all a fun evening, clean staging, some impressive acting and (at times) lyrical text.

It’s not on at the Arts Centre long, but if you can – I’d recommending going to see it. Follow the link to see more info: https://artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whats-on/dirty-great-love-story/

Cuts Cuts Cuts…

To whom it might (or might not) concern,

I’m going to get straight to it; what are you doing to the arts?!

I have so much I want to say on this, but I will keep it brief and to the point (as much as possible)

I understand that savings need to be made somehow, somewhere and that you can’t please everyone… however…

“Phasing out art grants, saving £433,000 by 2020”

Cutting 100% of funding to the arts is a very destructive move. How can you expect the industry to survive a blow that brutal?! That’s not saving, that’s scoring out one of the UK’s most valued industries. Have you considered how much of the economy is supported by companies, individuals, organisations and work that comes from the artists you have decided to cut free?

It is not just about the work you see on the “surface”; the show, the gallery, the concert, the final design, the performance… it is about people’s livelihoods, their identity, their family and their community.

I would argue that, although you appear to be saving £433,000 – the thriving Arts culture in Bath… may not be around to continue to draw tourists to these areas, and support the local community. I suggest that this saving is short-sighted. Yes, you don’t give that money away, but equally you do not get a return on the investment in the culture of your town/city.

If you review the funding you have awarded even just 2016/17 you have stipulated yourselves that the projects will achieve “economic impact in the city” [See here] and – in the case of the Arts at the Heart of the Royal United Hospital, that project will “contribute to staff training and development, activities that enhance the healing environment and contribute to improving therapeutic outcomes.”

For some people, the Arts are a saving grace, they have a significant positive impact on mental health. See this article as just one example: http://www.insideoutcommunity.com/arts-mental-health/the-case-for-arts-and-mental-health/  In your own words, the projects you fund may use “arts activity to promote health and wellbeing.” [See here]

In summary – I fail to see how cutting 100% of the funding to the Arts is a step forward. I believe the Arts are at the heart of our society here in the UK, whether that be in the form of spectacular performances and galleries that attract visitors from all over the globe; or employing hundreds of thousands of people across the country; or workshops/lessons/courses that are solely created to help vulnerable people in our communities – and everything in-between.

Some other views on cuts to the Arts:

Some Audition Advice from Dee Cannon


Just started reading this one, I am only about 30 pages in and already found it both informative and very reassuring.

Her opinion on how monologues should be approached for auditions is very simple and makes a whole lot of sense. She gives some great advice on how to make the most of the limited time you have leading up to an audition/if you find yourself in a sight-reading situation.

Whether you are a complete beginner, or someone who is well practiced – the first section of this book is very encouraging with regards to auditions.

So I would say, if you are nervous about a Drama School audition, your first ever professional audition, or you want to see if there is another way to approach your next one – give this a read.

I am sure there is going to be a lot of good stuff in the rest of Dee Cannon’s book. I will keep you posted. Until then, here is a useful extract on choosing the right monologue:



I go to a local improv group on Thursday evenings, the workshop consists of short-form improvisation games and exercises. This is just a short post to explain a couple of the games we played which were new to me – in case they are of use to anyone else…

1. Convergence

  • This was one of the warm up exercises we did as a group.

2. Pillars

  • One of the ‘scene’ games we ran through a couple of times.

This one turned out to be a really nice way to break beginners into the idea of saying the first thing that comes to their mind, because they didn’t then have to deal with whatever came out – the other actors did! It made it less daunting for a first go.

Meisner – On Acting

BOOK: Sanford Meisner – On Acting

Sanford Meisner & Dennis Longwell

Firstly I want to say that I really enjoyed this book!

I can really recommend it, even just as way to understand where he was coming from with his exercises and ideas. It also made me to reflect on my own thoughts about what acting is, and how to achieve the best I can in the roles I play.


“[acting is…] living truthfully in imagined circumstances” [P15]

“The playwright gives you what to say. Your job as an actor is to fill the role with life” [P49]

“The definition of acting is the reality of doing” [P24]

It is hard to put into words, to really get to the bottom of what acting is – is it ‘pretending’ or is it ‘living’? What is a ‘character’ if you are ‘living truthfully’ from your own impulses and instincts? I enjoyed reading about how his students grappled with his concepts of character and truth, because at times they seemed contradictory.

There is a wonderful analogy of the relationship between text and emotion. Where he describes the text as a canoe which is taken down the river [emotion] and how the journey the canoe [text] takes is ultimately at the will of the river. [P115]

He talks about never coming into a scene empty [without emotion/intension] and that preparation in order to do this is key to a truthful performance.

‘Cry, then talk. Don’t talk and then expect to cry’ [P199-200]

He writes about the important difference between showing emotion and feeling it and how that impacts you as an actor and you relationship with the audience. [p84] His driving force seemed to me to be all about living a truth on stage – ultimately giving the audience no choice but to be taken in by you (believe in you) and to be carried along with the story/characters’ journey. It reminded me of something David Mamet says in his book ‘True or False’, that if an audience can see you don’t mean what you say or what you do then they feel that they are being lied to, instantly alienating them from the whole experience.

I would have liked him to have written more about why and how he believes ‘emotion memory’ can be less effective than ‘imagined memory’ – I understand how both can be effective in their own way, but he seemed to think the imagined could be even more powerful, I would interested to know why.

All-in-all I really like this book and I will read it a second time, because I’m sure I’ll find something new!