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Theatre practitioner Nick O’Brien: ‘Practise being in character every day’

Nick O’Brien. Photo: Karina Stevens Nick O’Brien. Photo: Karina Stevens
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How did you start off in theatre?

At my prep school, drama was at the forefront of school life – it’s where I took my first steps on stage. Eventually, this led to drama school and setting up The Stanislavski Experience.

What is your best piece of advice for students today?

Practise being in character every day. When you have a free minute, choose a character, put yourself in a circumstance, imagine and start to think and do as that character.

What would you change about training in the UK?

Using active analysis when rehearsing and throughout training to focus students to organically create theatre and start experiencing their character.

What is the best part of your job?

During a radiation exercise when a student starts to communicate using invisible rays for the first time – it’s like a new world is laid out in front of them.

And your least favourite?

Students who won’t fully commit to an exercise.

Which practitioners should students be looking up to?

Michael Chekhov, Maria Knebel and Sam Kogan who kept the truth of Stanislavski’s later work alive, developing and experimenting with the system and passing it on to the next generation. I love what the Paper Birds does and how it creates thought-provoking theatre.

What skill should every successful theatre professional have? 

The awareness to relax and have a free mind and body before rehearsal and performance.

What tips would you give a student or actor before an audition?

You are not reading a part but being a character. Use the first 10 seconds to put yourself in the circumstance, imagine what you want and start to do what your character is doing. Only then start to speak.

Nick O’Brien is the founder of The Stanislavski Experience. He was speaking to John Byrne

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