Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

Posts Tagged ‘acting

why I act

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a friend of mine, studying at drama school, was asked to write a manifesto, a defence of why he acts. He didn’t really explain all that much about it, but I just started writing.


I act, first and foremost, because I love words. Because I love the words on the page, the words on the tongue, the words flying thick and fast through the air.

I act because I love to act. I love trying to understand another human being – and one presented to me, wholly existant, in the script.

I act because I believe in the theatre, and I believe in film. I believe in the power of these creative titans to change the way people think, the way they approach issues, and the way they relate to their fellow human beings. I believe that both theatre and film occupy crucial roles in any society, and that they provide a voice that deserves it place in the discourse of the nation.

Asking me to defend my love, my profession, my joy, is completely disingenuous. We do not ask accountants to justify their role in society. We do not ask lawyers, taxi drivers, teachers or public servants to explain why they chose the career that they chose. We do not ask because we view these professions as crucial to the running of society.

And yet there is a perception that theatre and film are somehow superfluous. That both are part of the ‘entertainment industry’, which seeks nothing more than to make obscene amounts of money and be the centre of attention. And yet any flourishing society has artistic strength commensurate with its political strength. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo Da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was the age of Shakespeare. I do not seek to compare myself to Phidias, da Vinci or Shakespeare, but there is a place for theatre and film in any sophisticated society, culture and nation.

But what makes me simultaneously angrier and sadder than anything else is this idea that ‘art’ is only made for and by some sort of chardonnay-sipping, self-congratulatory elite. This is a recent divide that has only come about since television enforced concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, but we must find a way to curb this insidious, cancerous ideology. To re-claim the status that the theatre held in Shakespeare’s day, when the playhouses were always fighting claims of being dangerous to public morality.

And these are not contradictory ideas – arguing the centrality of art to a great society and defending the popular appeal of art. Nothing affects you so much as sitting in a theatre and being surrounded by the sensory experience of the theatre. Hearing the words. Seeing the costumes, and the lights, and the performers’ spit fly out of their mouths, smelling the sweat dripping down their face. Theatre is a visceral experience. It cannot be escaped by changing channels, or its impact diminished by an ad break.

In the 200,000 years that humans have existed, we have not found a single medium so confronting, engaging and powerful as theatre. Theatre has greater potential to affect, effect, confound and impact than any other institution in modern society.

And yet, at the same time, you can watch something like The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and piss yourself laughing at two straight hours of loving, affectionate iconoclasm.

THAT is why I act.


Written by soundaffects

October 6th, 2008 at 12:26 am