Thursday, April 21, 2011

Theatrical Differences

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to go see my friend in a show of one-acts this afternoon, and seeing my third show of the month reminded me of some more differences in American and British theatre that I've noticed since I've been here.

1) While I enjoyed watching my friend in the show- she was definitely one of the best performers in it- I noticed that most of the actors have a certain... way of performing. I hesitate to call it a "style," but maybe that is what it is. Whatever it is, I don't like it. I noticed the same approach in about 75-80% of the people who performed in the New Writer's Festival (thankfully, none of them in my pieces.)
It's not everyone- none of my classmates, that I've observed, take this approach to performance, but it seems like a fair majority of young performers do. As I was watching both today and at the festival, I thought, 'Why is their style so much different than the British actors you see on the West End and in movies?'Well, because... and I'm going to sound like a huge snob in saying this... but I think it's because a lot of the young performers I'm seeing aren't good. I could be wrong- it could just be that I'm used to seeing a very different approach to performance. But I will say that most of the actors I know back home have much closer performance styles to the actors you see onstage and in films, and I consider many of the actors I know to be quite skilled (and I'm including my British classmates in this.)
I know I just showed myself for the snob that I am, and I could be mistaken; who am I to decide what "good" acting is? But either way, I don't appreciate the acting that most college and university-age performers do here.

2) Burning things onstage in buckets. They looooove to do that here. I actually love it, too. (Watching it, that is. I've never been in a show where they've burned something onstage.) It's dramatic, it often concludes a heavy scene and when they bring the lights down leaving just the flames, it looks awesome. I do think it's funny that, while I've never seen it done in America, they've done it in 90% of the shows I've seen here... and I'm kind of disappointed when it didn't happen in the other 10% ;)

3) Bowing twice. This has been one of my biggest pet peeves in seeing theatre here. At the end of pretty much every show, no matter what level it is, the actors bow twice. This bugs me. A lot. It's not that I don't think that the actors deserve a second bow- I've mentioned how high the caliber of shows here is- but I do believe that there should only be a second bow is the audience is asking for it. The actors always bow twice, regardless of whether the audience is still applauding or if they've already begun to gather up their things and leave. When the latter is happening and the actors come out again for a second bow... it's kind of anticlimactic, and I wish the actors wouldn't put themselves in that position. Let the audience ask for you, don't beg for their attention.

(I will say though, to the actors' credit in the show I did here, they went by the audience. We only bowed twice once. Every other time, we would see if they wanted a second. When we realised they didn't, we didn't go out. I was very pleased.)

4) Unreserved seating. Many of the non-West End shows have this. I think I like it. All tickets are sold at a flat rate and it's first come, first serve. I often get a great seat at these shows.

5) I've mentioned the difference in dress code before, but I still hold fast to my opinion that one should look nice to go to the theatre. I don't think I'll ever stop doing it.

Something not theatre-related that I found interesting today: after the show, my friend and I were talking to one of the other actors, another one who had been quite good in it. My friend told her that I was an exchange student from America and the girl said, "Oh, that's so cool, I love Americans!" While this was lovely to hear, I always wonder what makes people love us or hate us just because we're American?

Now I should stop being lazy and evasive go work on my script...


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