Sunday, 4 March 2012

Maria is a bitch and other thoughts on characterisation

Twelfth Night rehearsal today.  We're into the last three weeks now so things are moving along pretty swiftly at this stage.  We're mostly over the line-learning agony hump.  We're mostly over the "urk, which entrance is this one?" issues.  We're mostly over the mechanical problems of remembering to bring stuff on and take it off.

In short (and I can only speak for myself - I've got no idea how anyone else approaches this), I've suddenly got room to think about Maria.

Now the thing is, I love playing her.  And when I'm playing her, I love her.  I love her sass, her bossiness and her single-minded determination to marry Sir Toby and make Malvolio into a laughing stock.

If I met the woman, I'd want to smack her.  Hard.  She's a lot of things I actively dislike and work quite hard to avoid.

One of the big games we all play with drama is the taking on of character.  It is also one of the hardest lessons that any performer learns.  You are not the character.  You are just the vehicle allowing the character to live.

Case in point.  A cast member yesterday at my Faustus rehearsal is playing a cardinal.  She hates it.  She hates feeling she's a laughing-stock.  She hates being smug and pompous and being made a fool of by Faustus and Mephistopheles. 

She is still at the stage of feeling that a character with negative qualities (perceived or otherwise) is a reflection of her.  We all do it.  Some actors never really move away from that and have real difficulty playing unsympathetic characters.  The key thing is, that if you can do it, a huge barrier falls away.

Once you're made that leap from "I am the character" to "I am portraying the character" a whole world opens up.  The freedom is immense.  You can find your inner clown.  You can use all the negative, non-permissible things you spend your whole real life denying.  Freedom.

This is why I love performing so much.


  1. You must put your fellow role players to shame when playing your character, or be one hell of a GM! ;)

    1. Not so much with the table-top rp unless I can find a specific voice for a character. That's very improvisionational and I'm far from good at improv. Although (and this may be a future post), since I started playing and GMing again, my improv skills have improved exponentially. Yet more proof that gaming is good for you :D

  2. This was so interesting! I love Twelfth Night, it's one of my favourites. I never really considered how hard it must be for actors to separate themselves from the character :)