Remember that first course I took a few months ago which I have periodically talked about? I don't imagine you would between all the Billy Elliot blogs that I write. The thing to remember is, Billy Elliot The Musical is a huge part of the person I have become. Its a show thats close to my heart for so many reasons, hence why I enjoy going to see it. As this is all about my development within acting and theatre I think its equally important for me to keep writing up my views and experiences for you all to read. If you don't want to believe that i am quite happy for you to think I have an unhealthy obsession with the show instead. Maybe I do? Either is fine with me, believe what you like! Though this blog is ultimately about how I am training to act myself. So I think it is time I re-visited the story of my classes and bring to a close the talk of that very first course.
In a weeks time I start three new courses. So I think it is important I finish telling you all about the first, and how it has set me up for the future. The first course was intended to see how comfortable I felt acting again, as it had been an eternity since having done so back in school. Ok, maybe "eternity" was a slight exaggeration... but either way it had been a long time and I needed to work out whether I still had that flair and indeed the ambition to act. Its one thing to talk about wanting to achieve something, its another putting it into practice. As you will have gathered I obviously felt comfortable, as it lead to an intensive musical theatre course a couple of weeks ago which you may have read about, and indeed the courses I have lined up for later this month.
I think this first course was very much based around having fun within an acting environment. The problem with this approach is that whilst fun warm up games build a team spirit and encourage working together, you have to put the question to yourself whether or not you are learning enough about the actual principals of acting. I think if you asked different people in the class they would all give you different answers. Personally I liked the balance for a first course. Though going forward I think i need something more academically structured. So yes, it was a great experience. Wanna know why? Even if your answer to that question was "no" I am still going to tell you... I'm stubborn like that.
For me the concept of working with complete strangers was something that I feared, and in doing this course I have overcome that. Thinking back however, I don't think it was so much a fear, more anxiety or a worry. There are so many demands on us as people to fit in socially, I think we all worry about the consequences if we don't fit the picture. The strange thing is that after just a week a huge bond had built within the class. We weren't just class mates, we had become friends. Well most of us anyway. There were a few people that didn't fit the picture, but on the whole things were great. This was reiterated by the desire of multiple group members to socialise after the session. I just realised how posh and snobby I made that sound, though if I am honest the socialising wasn't quite afternoon tea's and jam scones. The location rather was the local pub, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that the beverages were not cups of tea! The last two weeks were fantastic, almost everyone came. This was a sign of the unity that this group had built over the duration of the course.
As a result of this unity, we could laugh at our mistakes and rejoice in the good times that we had. I think for me the worst moment was when we were exploring sound. Split into two groups we were tasked with composing a completely random sound piece. It was a ten minute warm up task almost, but even now I cringe at the end result. It was just a mish-mash of complete randomness. Imagine sounds you would hear at a nusrsery school... thats pretty much what we compiled. It was rubbish. This was the result of having no decisive group leadership among us. Whilst everyone is equal sometimes you need someone to steer something like this in a direction that is decisive and constructed in a way that produces the best possible result.
On the whole however there were so many good times. The script work was interesting and at times challenging. I was working with a guy called Hyun. He is from Korea, and was doing the classes to better his communication skills. He is such a great guy. At first I feared the language barrier would become a problem. but on the whole it really wasn't at all. Hyun is a great listener and wasn't afraid to ask for a word or phrases meaning if he wasn't sure. So by the time it came to performing, we were on the ball and delivered the piece well. In hindsight I wish I put a bit more into the character I had been given in the final piece, but this said I am very rarely happy with anything I do. After all there will always be room for improvement no matter how well you do. I refuse on the whole to let myself get complacent, but there are occasional exemptions to this rule.
One of these exemptions was exploring status, and the improvised "master and servant" pieces which we performed. For this I worked with a guy called Vikas. He is such a top guy, and what I like most is how well we get along both whilst working in class and indeed outside of the studio. In fact looking back it was almost a dead cert that both me and Vikas would be the only ones left in the pub at closing time and right up until we were kicked out! What I enjoyed most about the scene that we performed was how well we flowed off of one another. As it happens the scene wasn't supposed to be improvised. Both me and Vikas had rehearsed something, but opted to change it seconds before we were set to perform. There was a huge risk that this could go terribly wrong, but that connection we had developed allowed us to deliver what I feel was the best piece in the class for the task on hand. And you know what? After doing this I will never be able to look at a fairy cake again without laughing... but thats a rather strange story...
So can I say that I learned a lot? I guess not, most of it was refresher work. Though we all need refreshing, and it was interesting to have it taught in a different way. I had a lot of fun doing this course and I feel it was a great way to gently ease me into a more intensive structure of training which I have lined up for the next year. Of course there were some things I found difficult and other things I found really easy. But the beauty of acting is that there is no such thing as wrong or right, it is very much down to interpretation. Ok, there is then the problem of taking that interpretation and delivering it in a way that wows an audience... thats a little bit harder, but hey, thats why we train in theatre right?
So the question I originally asked myself was "is acting really for me?". Well, I really think it may be. Sure, I need to push myself and work hard, and yes, I am at the bottom of a very tall ladder, but I have taken that first step in doing this course. From here I would need to expand my comfort zone as well as work on the areas which I feel that I may already excel at.
So where did I take things from here? As you may have read I went on to do a musical theatre course. This was way, way, way outside of my comfort zone, but in reflection it was a great decision of mine to partake in this course. I will willingly accept that I wasn't the best in the class, but I certainly wasn't the worse. I think in hindsight I am quite proud of this seeing that I had not had any real vocal or dance training previously. Though if you want to read more about these courses there are 5 of them aptly named in last month's selection of blogs. So in September, I am taking the follow on course to this acting course I have just finished talking about. It is set to be a bit more full on and a move towards intense script work. Our course facilitator will again be Jenn Kidd, she is great to work with so I am looking forward to that a lot. Further to this I am taking a course that develops an actors voice as well as another basic acting course with the same company with whom I did the musical theatre course with.
I guess in reflection this course has set me up for much bigger and better things for the forthcoming academic year. I am going to try and keep these blogs updated in real time, you will get the news as soon as it breaks, god this is getting even better than BBC News 24!