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Dear West End Producer: ‘How should you rehearse an onstage kiss?’

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Ideally something such as an onstage kiss happens naturally. The director will create a safe rehearsal room where actors trust their fellow performers. This hopefully allows the actors to perform their onstage kiss comfortably – without it becoming a big deal. Obviously, there can be concerns (particularly if one of the actors has halitosis) but mostly actors will just do what the script suggests, and kiss as they believe best fits their characters.

Of course, the main thing in any rehearsal room is that everyone feels supported and comfortable. If an actor in any situation feels uncomfortable, then things have to be talked through and worked on.

Kissing, like any intimate action, involves two people getting closer than would normally be expected. And in the acting world this happens frequently. Performers are often expected to be in all manner of intimate and close situations that no one working in other industries would have to deal with. Also, there is still a misconception that actors will do anything, and are more ‘open’ when it comes to physical closeness. But that is not fair. If actors are required to perform closely with another person it can make the whole process more stressful.

Some directors like to deal with kissing situations later in the rehearsal period. This is because actors will, by then, have had the chance to bond with their cast mates. After a few weeks of rehearsing, people tend to naturally develop trust and form a relationship with colleagues – making it easier to tackle more intimate moments. A director should always ensure actors understand why the kiss is relevant, and then leave it to the actors to perform the action when they feel ready. There should never be any pressure.

Other performers like to get moments such as this out of the way as quickly as possible. They will leap and laugh at the opportunity to get the kiss done so that it doesn’t get in the way of the rehearsal process. It really is up to the director and actors to discuss this and be open about what process they feel more comfortable with.

Kissing scenes, like any scenes, are obviously rehearsed – but in the context of the scene. A kiss is a kiss. Simple. The thing that makes it effective and meaningful is why it is needed in the play. And this is the way I think it should be dealt with.

If you get the pre-kiss scene right, the kiss will happen naturally

The kiss is not the main event – and is less important than the events leading up to it. If you get the pre-kiss scene right, then the kiss will happen naturally between the characters.

It is about having a rehearsal period of transparency, openness and consent – so actors feel as though they have control of the situation. Recently there have been ideas of having an ‘intimacy director’ – who helps actors feel comfortable and knows the best way to deal with these scenes (rather like a fight director does for stage combat). And if it makes the actors more comfortable, then I think it’s a jolly good idea, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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