The Good Actor
The Good Actor is in development as a theatre piece, an installation and a series of short videos.
Lightwork presents The Good Actor as an installation, performed for the first time as part of the Digital Stages festival at Hoxton Hall on 26 April 2011.
Through a series of stations, the spectator encounters the stuff of acting – the preparation, the physical and vocal work, the moments of quiet focus prior to the cue, and the actor onstage in mid-performance. This compelling central turn is re-encountered in a live mashup in a multimedia viewing room, where performance and spectatorship, theatre and media, witness and experience are fused.
For more information visit www.digitalstagesfestival.co.uk/lightwork/
The Good Actor is a three-hander that also features technicians onstage. It is staged in a wrap-around mediascape. Its central character is a successful actor. He is in discussion with a production company about being in a celebrity reality-TV show – we see the behind-the-scenes negotiations, which are darkly funny. He is starring in a BBC biopic of Henry Irving, the celebrated nineteenth-century actor-manager. We see him learning melodrama techniques (fun and fascinating to watch), and we see parts of The Bells, the melodrama through which Irving shot to fame, staged for specific camera shots – so, live and also onscreen. And we see him on one of his regular commissions, voicing a popular computer game for which he also does some motion-capture work.
As in The Bells, our central character is destroyed by a guilty secret that catches up with him. The story unravels in scenes between the actor and his agent, and in his home with his wife and daughter – these are played hyper-realistically, with a tinge of Big Brother in that all the action is viewed through the walls and windows by cameras. The show deals with different registers of acting and performance, celebrity and authenticity, being truthful and lying, being 'centred' and losing yourself. It asks – what makes a 'good' actor nowadays?
In workshops at the National Theatre Studio and Central School of Speech & Drama we have experimented with melodrama techniques; acting to camera; hyper-naturalism; different sorts of video capture and design treatments for live camera playback; wrap-around digital scenographies; means of meshing actual and virtual bodies/actions (including live green-screen effects); and we have generated story material.
The Good Actor features a number of micro videos for online distribution. Taken together, the videos provide an echo chamber for the project, to reverberate characters, themes and potential plotlines. They also give us a chance to develop and explore the project through a different medium and for a different sort of distribution outlet. We have taken the improvisation-based mode of devising for theatre into a (short) film production process, making micro videos with a 'rough film' aesthetic, working at speed and with an openness to chance and the moment that is not normally part of film production.
We shot the films in a week in July 2010, mainly on location, spending around two hours on each shoot. The actors, participants and crew worked largely through improvisation (or sometimes by being themselves, as far as possible). We also have observed some parameters:
- Each film to be around 2- 3 minutes long.
- The overarching style is hyper-naturalistic.
- Each film features the business of acting, one way or another.
- Each relates to the main themes of the project – acting, performing, telling the truth, being authentic, lying, pretending.
- Each in some way references the main character in the story (John Matthews, the 'good actor') – although John himself doesn't appear.
To watch the films online please visit www.thegoodactor.co.uk
The Good Actor has been developed in workshops at the National Theatre Studio (October 2008) and Central School of Speech and Drama (September 2007, funded by the Society for Theatre Research).