The Actor and the Spontaneous Impulse Part 1

The Actor and the Spontaneous Impulse Part 1

Okay, I’ll hold my hands up, I’m a little obsessed with Repetition. As my students improve, you see them starting to have fun with it, succeed, fail, fuck it up and start all over again. I can’t help myself, I could watch them doing Repetition until the cows come home. In today’s blog, I’ve decided to take a little more time to discuss the Repetition Exercise, or simply ‘Repetition’ as we call it, and spend some time thinking about it.

Repetition is about learning to follow your impulses. We’re bombarded by them 24/7, but we have been socially schooled to ignore most of them. The trouble is that when we learn to ignore our impulses, we don’t choose between the good and bad impulses, between the polite and rude impulses, between the creative and the destructive impulses. When we learn to turn off our impulses, we turn them all off. When we need to open them up, we really need to switch off our social schooled straight jacket for spontaneity and impulses.

One of my favourite moments in repetition is when people begin to laugh. Not a laugh which is a tactic to cover a ‘playing for time’ moment, but instead, a laugh that comes from the game, from deep within, from embarrassment, from the ridiculous situation of the game, but it comes from within. But we’re not allowed to laugh ‘in school’, so most people try to kill it. That’s insane. Laughter is healthy, natural, a release of tension and a perfect example of the spontaneous impulse.

All good acting is impulsive. All good acting is based on spontaneous impulse. All good acting is essentially improvisational in nature. We should respond to the truth of the moment and repetition helps us to do this without the editor in our heads getting in the way and trying to be ‘nice’.

Whether we’re living, acting or doing repetition, we feel impulses all the time. An impulse is a reaction, often an emotion response to something that has a significant momentary or long term meaning to you. The emotion start sparks the impulse does not need to major, it can be tiny, but it causes some kind of psychophysical response in the actor. Some impulses do not cause a strong physical reaction, but the stronger the impulse, the stronger the physical action associated with it. We must learn to untether ourselves and allow ourselves to experience our impulses without getting in our own way.

Acting is about being human, not pretending to be characters. We need to forget that we’re acting and start living truthfully on stage or in front of the camera. Through practice, you can help the actor to forget that they’re acting and respond naturally, just as they do in real life. In fact, the line between acting and real life blurs.


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