“Better acting through chemistry” – Alice Weston

By April 11, 2017Student Blogs

You always hear actors and directors talking about performers who have ‘good chemistry’. It seems odd for artists to relate to their craft using scientific terminology, especially because I had always understood that chemistry between actors was not something that could be manufactured.

I now stand corrected.

Although everyone at ActUpNorth get along famously we all have a strong sense of personal space. This can be an obstacle for any actor as many scripts call for more than hand holding. I am generally comfortable with my own sense of personal space but I have always had this secret panic in my soul; I worried that my comfortable demeanour would evaporate in the face of the words ‘THEY KISS PASSIONATELY’ cropping up in a script.

In my head I had this nightmare scenario where I discover that whoever I had to get up close and personal with would not be my ‘type’; that they would have bad breath or just seem repulsive as a person.

That is worst case scenario though, more generally I had issues with physicality. A hug is usually a comfortable, natural occurrence. However, when you have to force dialogue and blocking in there it becomes this spanner in the works and suddenly it’s like you’re hugging a drunk at a family barbecue. It’s awkward and embarrassing.

Chemistry can be taught using a number of techniques that during the course of the class quickly dissolved those mental and physical barriers between performers. Within two hours we went from timidly patting each other on the shoulder to embracing each other like we were lifelong friends and lovers. It might sound strange out of context but as a performer you have to be able to display an emotional investment in the relationships you portray. No one watching you will believe your performance if you lack the courage of your convictions.

Also recently we were treated to a lively and informative workshop hosted by the delightful and talented Judy Holt. The subject was how to make the most of an audition opportunity.

Part of your job as an actor, predictably, involves auditions. Anyone who has ever been to one will tell you they can be truly terrifying. Even seasoned professionals claim it is something you never get used to. They are scary in the same way some people find rollercoasters or skydiving scary; it is an adrenaline rush. But sometimes those nerves can get the better of your performance and cloud your judgement. It makes you fumble your lines and forget to do simple things like listen to the other actors in your scene. The two hours with Judy equipped us with some useful tools to help combat the nerves as well as maximise your potential during that precious little time before you step into the room with the casting director.

Recently many of our fellow actors have been getting a lot of work in television and on stage. Others are in the midst of improving their CV’s and their show reels/headshots (we’re lucky to have a professional photographer in our midst in the form of Corrie Shelley.) I am looking forward to some upcoming auditions for short films and possibly even filming later on this year (working titles, dates still TBC.)

I have been at ActUpNorth for little over a year now and it is one of the best things I have ever done. Even if you class yourself as a performer ‘of a nervous disposition’ I would definitely urge you to give us a try. Acting is not just an art; it is a craft and the classes balance artistic integrity with practicality and technique.

Alice Weston