I’m in the back yard, sucking down life-giving beverages as Bertie Wooster might say, and learning Valeria’s lines for Coriolanus. I love Valeria. She’s a total butterfly.

There are several challenges to her, however. One is the fact that she precedes nearly every line with a silly oath: “O’ my word,” “O’ my troth,” “Indeed, la,” “Verily,” and on and on. It’s never the same twice. Since she’s in prose and not iambic pentameter, I don’t suppose it matters which one I use when.

The more interesting thing I’ve observed as I’ve walked to and fro about the labyrinth between sips of my vodka and tonic is how inflections will creep into my delivery which are absolutely right and absolutely hysterical. I stop to try to analyze the emotional/social impulse which caused that delivery, and while it may be blameable on the vodka tonics but is more likely to be attributable to my general inability to define emotional impulses, I find those impulses to be very slippery. Mostly what I find myself thinking about is the craft of acting.

These inflections are subtle and comically apt, and I can’t think that I would be able to hit them by musing ahead of time on the social impulses that created them. Instead, I think it comes of observing people and knowing the kind of person Valeria is and linking her to similar people I’ve seen, either in life or in performance. And in either case, the lady in question is still “performing,” so her delivery is always a bit arch, a bit “on.” So the social impulse I find myself following most often in her speech is “society performer.”

I don’t think that’s bad acting, either, actually. If the vocalization feels right, then, like Larry Olivier, I can develop the physical stance and the inner life to match. Outside in. If it works, use it.

3 thoughts on “Acting

  1. Well said, old boy. Got to sketch in first. Fun to splash, of course. Once in a while. Sling the monumental abstractions in one stroke. If the role is right. But with the Bard, you need the time, the stumbling about. Quite agree. It’s a Turner, isn’t it? Rough, tempestuous when it’s done, but you block in those points where you want to burn the white heat. Want that light clean, you know. Like with Volumnia spitting blood, I think. You with your flattering thumbnail sketches, you silly old darling. Still, bit out of the blue, at presen, all that frothingt. But we’re sketching in, doing the math, setting the hot points. They have to wait till it’s finished, don’t they? Keep the picture to the wall till it’s done. Don’t let them start with the mewling. Doesn’t work? Of course it doesn’t work, you bloody fool. It’s not finished, is it? Now the citizens at the top are not so much landscape as Hogarthian cavalcade, of course. A few sharp lines that nail the coffin shut, what? Sketching, sketching, mucking about. We’ll get it right. Well said. Well done. Cheers!

  2. Yes, and crossing it is like paddling back over Tenneyson’s Bar, isn’t it? Back from the dead, what? Getting close to time, eh? Feeling a bit like we’re making Universal Suffrage speeches in the Christian Science Reading Room, at present. Sorry to disturb your getting through that profile of Lady Swinson in the Times, old fellow. Time to strut and tut from the gut, as my Great Aunt used to say. Splash on some Fire Engine Red, I dare say. No need to peddle back from a bit of Larry’s chapter and verse. LORD Olivier had a thing or two to say about it.

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