Annie, 24, had prepared a raunchy, imaginative and all giving performance of a song about Rose, a show dancer ‘turned sour’.
Annie was in her second year at drama school on an actor-musician course; her singing technique was impeccable, but something was missing.
She delivered with comic timing exact and not a line was left un-worked. Somehow it was just a little difficult to believe her.
Suspending our own ‘disbelief’ as performers
Annie was busy ‘entertaining’ us with her polished performance but had overlooked the character’s reality in the process.
Because she found it so easy to pack a punch with the material, Annie struggled with exploring the less obvious aspects of the character’s dilemma.
Many strong singer-actors give performances like these on stage and less discerning audience members will be enchanted.
This can, however, eventually limit a performer’s career, as more exacting directors will want to see depth, even in comedy.
I decided to ask Annie a few questions about her character.
A Re-introduction to Rose…
In our next session, I sat down with Annie and we discussed the character’s feelings and motivations in more detail via a question and answer method – like ‘hot-seating’.
Annie did in fact have a good grasp of the sub text of her song; her responses left me in no doubt that she appreciated the more subtle aspects of the character.
Annie played with varying ‘restrictions’ on movement such as singing the whole song seated back, with a tired demeanour and not allowing herself to shift or get animated.
She also worked with two fellow actors holding her back as she attempted to break free.
Many of the lines immediately took on new sense and whilst these were extreme approaches, there was a lot of darker comedy in the delivery.
Annie reworked the whole song and added some of these new moments to her original approach.
The result was refreshingly truthful and quite moving.
Quiet can be Powerful
Annie expressed a sense of strength in the character’s newfound stillness and a better belief in her determination to ‘change her life’.
Once she explored what it would be like to sit in a ‘real’ situation with Rose’s problems as opposed to just singing about them, the whole piece took on new meaning.
Well written Musical Theatre songs will inevitably explore more than one aspect of a character. The trick is to select the key lines in the song that lead us to the character’s internal conflict.