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Dear West End Producer: ‘What do you think makes a bad actor? #dear’

The Play That Goes Wrong: where good actors perform badly... (deliberately of course) The Play That Goes Wrong: where good actors perform badly... (deliberately of course)
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Acting is a subjective sport, where everyone has their own opinion about who is good, and what represents talent. Actors can be critically acclaimed, and award-laden, but this doesn’t mean they will be admired by everyone. And that’s what makes the mysterious art of acting so wonderful.

One of the most interesting qualities that can make an actor shine or fail is charisma. This unidentified gift is something people instinctively have. And it makes us really engage with an actor. You can put 10 actors on stage, but one will always shine.

What is charisma? No one really knows – it is a twinkle in the eye, a self-confidence, a natural charm. I have heard people say an actor who has a ‘secret’ has a degree of charisma. This may be true. So give it a go. Next time you’re in a show try acting without putting your show pants on, or wear a nice set of frilly lingerie under your costume. See if this little ‘secret’ aids your performance, dear.

Instead of me stating what I think makes a bad actor (a bactor), let me say what makes a good actor, as this is more helpful. Good actors have a degree of confidence, an assurance about them – which makes the audience at ease whenever they are on the stage. They have a connection to the other actors and have made clear choices about what their character is trying to achieve. Often you will see actors randomly moving around the stage, saying dialogue in any direction, with no idea about what their character wants. And this makes them unbelievable. We all speak for a reason, and it is essential you know why you are saying every line – in fact it should be the first thing actors look at before or during rehearsals. If you know exactly the reason why you are saying something then you will instinctively know how to perform it.

Good actors have a ‘freedom’ about them – they are not trapped by their performance. Sometimes you will see an actor who appears stuck, not really knowing what they are doing – and this usually occurs when a performer doesn’t know their lines. It’s that simple. Actors should know their lines backwards, upside down, horizontally, diagonally – so well that it becomes a part of them. As soon as an actor truly knows their lines they are able to explore and play – giving them a freedom in their performance.

Good actors also have their own energy. Many actors fall into the habit of walking on stage and picking up the same energy as everyone else. As people, we all have our own energy and agenda – so allow your character to have the same. And crucially, good actors make the performance their own – they create and discover it – resulting in it looking totally natural. The worst thing to see is when someone has blatantly copied another actor’s performance. It is obvious, and results in the actor being distanced from the role – as they are actually playing someone else playing the role.

Anyway, that’s all my acting advice for now. Just call me Stanislavski, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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