sat 08/08/2020

Opinion: 'Internalised' acting is a complete turn-off | reviews, news & interviews

Opinion: 'Internalised' acting is a complete turn-off

Opinion: 'Internalised' acting is a complete turn-off

Has Method acting ruined the classical actor's craft?

'Can you hear me over there?' Actor Stephen Dillane in the Almeida's 2005 production of 'Macbeth'

Do Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg have a lot to answer for? Or can we place the blame, if blame it is, elsewhere? I’m referring to the steady, insidious advance of theatre mumbling. You may have noticed it at a theatre near you. It’s the art that disguises itself in “naturalism”, a kind of quasi “Method” style of acting.

Something has happened to Dillane, and his affliction is not just unique to him. Maybe you should put it down to the influence of the Method

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Stephen Dillane has been Mumbleman for years. His Uncle Vanya for Katie Mitchell at the Young Vic was cut of the same cloth, and that was way back in the last century. I hadn't a clue what was going on in his character's head, even though it's one of my favourite plays, so I've tended to avoid him since. Also in that cast was Anastasia Hille - a fine actress at times, but invariably inaudible when she's in a KM show. Mitchell's best work is throat-grabbing. Unlike some people I thought Iphigenia, Women of Troy, Waves and A Dream Play were quite marvellous. I'm not convinced by any of her Chekhov productions though.

I seem to remember the RSC going through a specially bad mumblephase - it would have been around the time Bob Peck (so wonderful in so many things) gave us his whispered Macbeth. It made, and makes, me smile to think of a crit our English master gave me in our school magazine for my Cassius in Julius Caesar: 'one felt that some sensitive cadences were only reaching to the front rows of the audience'.

You are absolutely so right, Carole. I caught Dillane's Prospero at the Old Vic, like the rest of the audience couldn't hear a word and was bitterly disappointed. I still went along to see him at the Almeida in Masterbuilder but again, he was in a world of his own, totally pre-occupied with his own performance - absolutely no connection with the audience and worse, giving nothing to his fellow actors. It was a very selfish performance. All credit to Gemma Arteton. Hilde is a gem of a part for a young actress but she was entirely on her own and she did well. The main impression I got from her at the end was a huge sense of relief. I haven't bothered with Alan Rickman since he stepped in at the last minute to play Anthony against Helen Mirren's Cleopatra at the National - his pacing was atrocious, every word wrung out for it's inner meaning. He made the play boring! And he and Lindsay Duncan were so very good together in Liaison Dangereuses! I haven't seen her on stage lately and am worried now by your comment re her performance at the Abbey. Fortunately these examples are not typical. We are being blessed with some wonderful ensemble playing at present.

It's in all fair respect a little bit unfair to compare any other actor with Michael Pennington, most of them are bound to lose. ;-) The Master Builder at Chichester was simply magnificent. Every line was delivered to the point and the dialogues between Solness and Hilde perfectly matched, though Michael Pennington complained that it had been very hard to learn the lines!!!

So it isn't just me! Although not a regular theatre-goer, I often grimace at the television when actors mumble their lines, especially when they're speaking 'Estuary English', seemingly in an attempt to appear 'authentic'. And I feel the same in the opera house when the singers are singing in English but seem unable to articulate their words. As far as I'm concerned, if you can't be clearly understood by the audience the rest of your performance is irrelevant, no matter how good it might be.

I just can't relate to that at all as far as Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman is concerned. I went to see the play in Dublin too, I could see the effect of 'internalized' acting, but it didn't bother me at all. In fact I was thrilled by it, as AR is particularly good at it. It takes great skill to act like that. Whether you like it or not, is a personal matter. I don't like the 'shouting' kind of acting, which is often mistaken for 'expressive' acting. We have a lot of shouters about in Dutch theater and it made me walk out of a performance several times.

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