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Acting coach Mel Churcher: ‘Play make-believe and never stop exploring’

Mel Churcher. Photo: Holger Borggrefe Mel Churcher. Photo: Holger Borggrefe
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Where do you teach?

I’m freelance – as well as leading workshops, I work as an acting and voice coach in film and TV. Actors I’ve worked with include Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Gerard Butler and Michelle Yeoh. Each project is completely different.

How did you start off in theatre?

I went to a drama school, then was an actor for a couple of decades and taught for 10 years in drama schools.

What is your best advice for students?

Stay as a five-year-old and play make-believe (with the emphasis on ‘believe’). Keep the joy you had back then. Make your own work. Never stop exploring.

What would you change about training in the UK?

I would have much more screen work. I would suggest once a week with camera in the second year. Then a full-blown project in the third year, as well as a showreel to leave with.

What is the best part of your job?

The actors. I love pre-production and the workshops that I run. I also love writing and have published two books on screen acting: Acting for Film: Truth 24 Times a Second (Virgin Books) and A Screen Acting Workshop with DVD (Nick Hern Books).

And your least favourite?

Months away from home in a hotel room – and the politics.

Which practitioners do you admire most?

I teach using an eclectic mix of many practitioners – everyone from Cicely Berry to Jaques Lecoq, from Stanislavski to Uta Hagen and from Stella Adler to Rudolf Laban. Try many different approaches and absorb something from all of them to find the best way for you. Whatever helps you to jump into the magic circle and be you, but in a new imaginary world living a new life. I call it: “You – as if…”

What skill should every successful theatre professional have?

Imagination.

Mel Churcher was talking to John Byrne

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