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This piece uncovers both the physiological and scientific actions behind the presentation of the voice. As an actor, theatre practitioner or theorist, we become aware that the presentation of communication is not a mere ability to speak, but an action from a complex organ which is bound up with our emotions and understanding which directs our physiological reflexes. For Linklater, the conveying of emotion must mean the feeling of emotion since our voice is powered by our very breath. Breath is chemically and physically linked to the body’s capacity and state of serenity. The natural relaxed voice occurs when the body is harmonious, relaxed and warm but any element of stress, excitement distraction can cause breath influxes which create tension and resonance which creates a new tone and inflection. (Linklater, 1976)
Linklater’s next piece continues that communication with the voice is not always the conveying of speech. However, in Western theatre it is recognised that speech and language is a primary form of expression. The voice and the actor must therefore become one. Both must be in their neutral state but not joined as they are in the actor’s human life but rejoined, both neutral and aligned to negotiate the new adornment of character in which to convey new expression. In this sense the actors own imagery behind their speech must be put aside and a new imagery must come from the character, this must occur organically, through exercises and development. Only here can the actor and their voice become unique and spontaneous in their role.
Furthermore the learning of lines must be absorbed into the heart creating an understanding between the actor and their role. The actor must know more than the character in order to respond instinctively and naturally vocally within the action. (Linklater, 2006)
Berry: Vocal Development
In this chapter Berry focuses on the theory behind the vocal exercises he developed. These exercises help to convey how Linklaters ideas can be worked. For Berry the voice of the actor must be separated from the voice of the person and preconceived ideas. The way the individual communicates, their own anxieties and tensions must be removed in order to release full vocal potential. Berry laments that one can only get the best vocally if exercises are partaken. There are three stages of development for Berry. The first is relaxation and breathing. In this stage the actor develops the ability for vocal power by increasing the use of the lips and tongue. The second stage is the application of this to the actor’s role. They must be aware that their own vocal inhibitions are bound up with their acting voice, and that what they hear is not what the audience hears. Relying on their own voice would lead to a predictable style of acting, instead the actor must use these exercise to free the voice and allow the emotion of the role to become one with the voice, preventing the need for predictable pushing out and expression of emotions. Finally the third stage is the belief in both the exercises and an understanding of the second stage to create vocal freedom. The development of the voice through these three stages of exercises will create a new freedom, allowing the voice to respond instinctively to the action, beyond thought and technicality of the actors thoughts, but instead naturally and freely. (Berry, 1978)
Lecoq: The Art of Mime
Contrary to mime’s generic image of speechless and silent expression, Lecoq’s writings on mime express the important of the voice and indeed the concepts of freedom in movement and vocal as discussed above. Fundamentally Lecoq rejects the notion of mime being the expression of words without sound. The clichéd image of the mime, with exaggerated movements and facial expression, Lecoq would suggest fails to convey the practice of mime and its true art form. Mime in its simplest form is the idea of imitation. Here we can understand the art of dramatic mime that Lecoq discusses. This is creation of a theatrical situation with the body, often involving the impersonation of people’s. Such artists create the illusion of the person they mimic, vocally, in body and action. Their art lies in the ability to be this person in alternate scenarios. The actor must feel the movement, gestures and emotions as if they are their own, only the theatrics occurs when the addition of the actors true self is added, their ownership of the movements produces the essence of mimicry. Symbolic mime requires the actor to partake in absolute mime, creating the environment and opening the audience’s imagination. This requires a consistency of action, an understanding of the weight, placement and true abilities of the objects in the illusion. Finally there is the use of plastic mime, the use of the body as a language perhaps used with the constraints of face masks. The body must convey the story whilst the face illuminates the emotion. Lecoq theories a system for conveying mime through exercises designed to able the body. However, Lecoq laments that this system of exercises once used must be discarded of a true and spontaneous performance is to be conveyed. The body moves spontaneously, with reflective action and the system of exercises must not prevent this. All rhythm is organic and no two rhythms are the same and this is key to the creation of the art of mime. (Lecoq, 2006)
Jos Houben: The Neutral Mask
Once again this piece focuses on the freedom of expression necessary in acting. Through mask work, Shrubsall speaks of Houben’s techniques, as inspired by Mosho Feldenkrais and Jacques Lecoq. The ability to separate and un-clutter one’s own psychology which lays behind all our human movement, readying the body for meaningful spontaneous movement using techniques such as understanding the relationship between different parts of the body and their related movements. This is conveyed in the important of the mask in acting. The mask will only exist if there is a connection between the actor and the mask. They must become the mask. When the actor looks to the sky, the mask must convey this use of sight, his head expressing the movement and his back and shoulders responding as such. This piece is about the use of organic and functional movement, free from judgement and prior interpretation. (Shrubsall, 2002)
Murray: Practical Exercises
In this chapter Murray attempts to produce a series of exercises in which to share the experience of Lecoq’s theatre and understanding how to prepare one’s body for theatre as expressed by Lecoq. Murray defines the fundamental principles behind Lecoq’s theories and hence his exercises. It is the idea that essentially movement provokes emotion and the body remembers this. This chapter focuses mainly on the teaching of these actual exercises rather than the theory behind but considers most primarily the body’s relationship between push and pull, balance and imbalance in the creation of Lecoq’s work on tragedy, melodrama the neural mask and commedia del’arte. (Murray, 2003)
There is a theme within these readings, that of body and movement in space and time incorporating ideas of freedom without influence. In order to grasp this freedom the readings suggest that the use of exercises is of prime importance for the natural, free vocal and bodied actor. The muscles of the mind and body must be warm and content in order to open up the actor’s full potential. There is the suggestion that acting without such consideration is meaningless and insincere. That to act is to be free from our human constraints.
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