Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Great Acting Blog: "Duologue"


Still by Rouzbeh Rashidi


By the time Dublin actor CILLIAN ROCHE arrived to do our scene, I had already completed my monolues for Rouzbeh Rashidi's new feature film, He, and was feeling nicely warmed up thank-you very much. And, as with the monologues, we intentionally avoided rehearsals, none of the tedious and useless backstory “work”, Rashidi simply gave us enough to spark the scene, then it was upto us to create something infront of the rolling camera – we had to deal with whatever we threw at eachother as best we could.

The idea here, was that Roche was to be my best friend, my only friend infact, and I was to tell him that I was going to end my life, but I am not telling him for any specific reason, there's nothing I want him to do. The scene was not necessarily to be emotional, I was explaining to Roche what I was doing in matter-of-fact terms. This created a nice contrast at the beginning of the scene, because I was very relaxed about my decision to commit suicide, however, at first, the news was incomprehensible to Roche, especially as I told him it in such a level headed fashion, and I confess that I enjoyed holding the aces at this point, that I had gained a reaction and upset the equilibrium. Gradually though, the scene shifted, Roche began to accept what I had told him, and started asking me questions as to why I was going to kill myself. This put me on the run slightly as I was now forced to explain myself more fully, which also demands that I come to terms with why the character is doing it – essentially then, I am discovering my own character as the scene developes. There was a certain amount of waffle on my part as there was no succinct reason why the character was going to kill himself, I simply offered that suicide seemed like the logical end point of my trajectory – however, death is the end point of everybody's trajectory....perhaps then, my character, having nothing in his life to commit himself to (especially since the important relationships in his life had failed), may have wanted to take matters into his own hands and set his own end date himself. As the improvisation wore on, I got the distinct feeling that my character was killing himself simply because he was curious to see what would happen, as if a life which had been disappointing although not tragic, held no more possible excitement for him, that the notion of death was all that was left for my character. When Roche asked me what did I expect to encounter after I died, a slight thrill shot though my system at the thought of confronting the awesome which lays beyond life, but fear too, as I could not know what would await me, if anything at all. Either way, it is to come face to face with something infinite – suddenly I became aware of our distinct powerlessness in the world, and how we underestimate our own courage.

The final phase of the improvisation almost drifted into absurdity, as by this stage Roche had also become quite rational about what I was going to do, and wanted to talk practicalities - was there anything he could do in order to help me? Perhaps, in the interests of dignity, he could make sure my body was discovered quickly?...We mulled it over, and came up with some convoluted ideas, but concluded it would be too risky: since I had told him I was going to kill myself, and Roche wasn't going to stop me, this may make him an accessory before the fact (this is the kind of knowledge you gain by watching American movies), and if he happened to be around so soon after my death, then it may cause suspicion and place him in the firing line. It was best that he stay well away. Finally, the improvisation ended as Loche and I decided to go for one last pint....

The duologue scene presented different challenges to the monologue scene. The monologue needs to be self-generating, you have to stimulate yourself into action, which presents it's own difficulties, but with a dialogue scene you are being stimulated by your scene partner, and you've got to be fully committed, in the moment, and alive to what the other actor is sending your way, then bat it back to them. Working off the other actor, taking the attention off yourself and placing it fully on the other guy, is fundamental to giving a truthful and provocative performance. Easier said then done though, some actors never do it (lacking either will or ability), it's scary because you're apt to reveal yourself, shattering the carefully composed persona maintained to help us get through everyday life, you become vulnerable, it's much more preferable to simply wallow in preparation, but without working off the other actor the performance is dead in the water.


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