Aileen Gonsalves ran a workshop at Shakespeare @ Traquair on 8th April ’18 on their production of Much Ado About Nothing. The rest of this post is written by the actor playing Beatrice in that production….
Prior to the Aileen Gonsalves Workshop I read through the Gonsalves method to give myself an indication of what the day might hold.
What Aileen describes in the method is exactly what we attempted, played with and started to learn. Aileen gave our own experiences feeling & circumstance and used this to project our awareness outward. You don’t realise how inward you are until you work on the outward. It’s odd to think about, and easier to do ‘to not be aware of yourself’. To be open to changes from conceived ideas, or not having any prior ideas, you come to rehearsal with a blank canvas.
One of the exercises involved remembering what it was like to want something as a child and my parents being the gatekeepers to whatever it was I wanted. It made me think how calculating I was that I had analysed my parents and their circumstance, that I used strategy to worm my way though the minefield. Thinking about that strategy helped me to think about what my objective had been – what did I want, what would happen if I didn’t get what I wanted, what I had to do to ensure success. Aileen reminded us that if our tactic didn’t work and we made no progress we had changed tactic instinctively, and when our tactic had worked we carried on with the hope of reaching our objective and getting what we wanted.
To think about that now makes me cringe, what I did to my parents to get what I wanted! However my parents would have used these tactics on me to get me to do what they wanted. So in this context I start the scene with my objective in mind and others will be doing the same. If the effect one person has on another isn’t working for instance there is no connection or atmosphere or a spark or a response then we need to change tactic and try something different; changing our tone of voice, move our stance, change our facial expression, turn away, walk right up to them….
Another exercise involved working with a partner. We stood at opposite sides of the hall, I faced outwards (towards the wall) and my partner faced inward (towards me). My partner’s objective was to persuade me to turn around and walk towards them. Yet he couldn’t move off his spot and could only say my name. A simple game, except I was told a secret by Aileen which changed my perspective and made me far less compliant than I would have been. I wasn’t amused that my partner used a sweet sounding Fiooooona to try and entice me to turn around, Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiooona. FIONR! Fiooonnnnnnnnnna. I was surprised how many versions of Fiona my partner tried, I listened to the tone of voice and how genuine the sound. It was a straight Fiona with far less tone that persuaded me to turn around. One version was extremely funny but in context my partner was mocking me, this was the key moment, I saw my partners face light up then drop when I laughed then scowled. The game was more in depth than the previous and demonstrated the need to listen and read a situation and if it’s not working change what you are saying by changing tone of voice plus allowing yourself to be natural in your reaction, let it go, let your character out.
The later part of the afternoon Benedict and I had the opportunity to try more of the Gonsalves method. We started with the first scene reciting robot style then reciting with changing pitch to break the mould of how we had already placed inflection on our lines. This is a style used to learn lines without adding perspective, so when you come together with the other actors you are open to the director & other interpretations and not focused on your own.
Next we tested with our Objectives, with what is at stake and why things matter.
Why does it matter – it matters because Beatrice is getting older and according to her family ‘tho will never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue’. What’s at stake – having her heart broken by Benedict, possibly for the second time! In the 1st scene I thought my objective was about getting Benedict to acknowledge me, which he does however not in the way I want. Perhaps my objective leans more toward giving Benedict another chance.
When Paul & I were trying different parts of the method we were fortunate to have the cast around us as an audience would be. This gave the exercises depth, when you see a distraction or a positive reaction instantly in the viewer’s face, when a movement or a shifting tone can change the mood or the focus completely.
Lots still to remember and learn from the day. Thanks to Aileen and her team and the Shakespeare Players who joined the Shakespeare at Traquair cast and to Richard Forsyth for suggesting this workshop. We learnt about a small part of this artform: to be sincere, to be outward, to listen, to observe, to play, to trust, to be real, to create and when it’s not working to try again….
[Ed. End of Beatrice’s article]
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