When I started learning the Suzuki Actor’s Training Method, one of the first principles I was introduced to was the idea that actors must never give away what they were going to do next. We learned to keep the body aligned (head over chest over centre over feet). Leaning forward or sideward, we were told, indicated to the audience that you were going to move forward or sideward. Inevitably, spectators were going to disengage with what you were doing, because it had become predictable.
This very simple principle can be applied to the idea of an entire performance. Sometimes we go to the theatre, see the first ten minutes of a show and get the very uneasy feeling that nothing new, exciting or unpredictable is going to happen for the rest of the evening. This can feel very disheartening, particularly when the performance is not very good for one reason or another…
When we started working on Sandman, my first ever solo performance, my biggest worry was not to bore my audience. So this became a bit of a thing in the rehearsal process: we didn’t want spectators to know what was going to happen, literally from moment to moment. Of course, this is impossible, but aspiring to it became a key driving force in the exploration of the story on stage.
So when you go to the theatre next time, ask yourself the question: Do you or don’t you know where the actors are going to take you next? And if you come and see a performance of Sandman, let me know if it worked.