Acting

Making Shakespeare Dull

I want to send you to a great post by John Clancy, full of excellent acting advice. Not just applicable to acting Shakespeare, but to any role.

The third essential thing to understand when playing Shakespeare is the simplest and yet the most widely disregarded. This is the principle of playing the opposite. Over and over we see “regal” kings and “comical” clowns and “virtuous” heroines and “noble” heroes plodding dully across countless stages in what seems to be a conscious conspiracy to render Shakespeare dull, obvious and dead. Playing a clown as comical is as good an idea as pouring sugar on ice cream. To approach a villain with the goal of expressing his malice is to twirl a mustache and wear a black hat. It is a universal truth that comedy is funny in direct proportion to the gravity of the comedians. If Lou Costello doesn’t passionately want to know who’s on first, the bit becomes quickly endless and endlessly annoying. If we remember that the fools in Shakespeare’s time literally lived on their wits and depended on the understanding and appreciation of their words for their food, clothing and shelter, we would see far fewer slouching, winking, leering and unfunny fools on our stage. In the same way, a tragic figure is only tragic to us when we are allowed to see his frailty, her humanity. Play the man who bears the crown, not the king who wears it. Pay attention to the heroine’s work, not her worth. You will find Shakespeare reaching towards you and handing you the tools if you begin to play the opposite and the weight of the great roles will lift from your shoulders and become wings.

Check it out here.

About the author

Craig Mason