There’s a game you can play as an acting teacher. It’s very easy and all you need is a ball. You stand the group in a circle with spaces between. They can be any age, even adults. You tell them that the point is to pass the ball from person to person around the circle. So, the teacher begins and throws the ball to the first person, who catches it (hopefully) and who hopefully passes on to the next person.
It always surprises me – although it shouldn’t – how many people can’t throw or catch a ball. They know what they have to do but when they throw they don’t look at the receiver so they are agreed when it will happen. Then they must throw it so it can be caught. Not too fast or too gentle – helpful to the receiver in fact. So, passing is a skill.
“It’s strange that so simple a thing can go wrong”
But so is receiving. Some people misjudge exactly when to catch the ball, they go too early or too late and snatch at it. It’s strange that so simple a thing can go wrong. It’s frustrating to watch until it’s your turn and then suddenly you find that you are just as bad. Maybe it’s to do with briefly being in the spotlight and having everyone look at you.
It’s also about being decisive. If you make that eye contact and throw in such a way that it lands just in front of them then take a bow because you’ve done it. Of course, if you’re receiving and the person who throws to you isn’t paying attention then you’re in trouble!
“I like to shake things up a bit”
Once a group can go all the way round without dropping, I like to shake things up a bit. I explain that the ball can go to anyone in the circle as long as you make eye contact with the receiver. Then you discover that many people don’t actually LOOK at someone they just look in their general direction. And when it gets dropped or three people try to catch it the thrower often doesn’t realise it was down to them!
My point is that decision making isn’t all about the big things in life. In little ways we also have to weigh things up and do the right thing at the right time. Theatre training is a great place to sharpen our ability to give and receive and make decisions on the hoof.
As England enters a 4-week period of lockdown we want you to know that you can continue your training with us online. Each week we publish three short classes in acting, singing, and dancing that you can take part in from home by visiting our YouTube channel.
It is our intention to reopen our theatre schools in England on the 5th December. For our pupils in Wales, please check with your local Centre regarding opening dates.