Thinking about Tactics

Thinking about Tactics

Tactics (traditionally called ‘actioning’) are ‘how’ the actor works off their partner and how they deliver the lines of the text. You should never have to think about the right way to say a line for two reasons. First, the line has its own rhythm and cadence and second because with the correct tactics being played, the line will take care of itself.

So what is a tactic? A tactic is a strategy for achieving a goal. A tactic is best expressed as something that you can do to someone else, to get what you want from them. THREATEN, BULLY, COAX, TORMENT, TEASE, FLICK, DODGE etc. Tactics are playable by actors. They immediately engage the actor in an entire psycho-physical process that brings them alive in the moment. By using tactics, the actor is always engaged in a continuous flow of action.

How do I pick the right tactic? After you’ve selected your target, goal or objective, then you will know what kinds of tactics you might play. If you’re goal is to ‘Knock Someone Off their High Horse’ you might choose DERIDE, INSULT, MOCK, TEASE, LOWER, KICK, or UNDERMINE as tactics. Again, they are immediately playable, but not all tactics suit all situations. Some, like PUNCH, SLAP, SPANK or KISS sound very physical, but they are not meant to be literally performed. These tactics given you a sense of the quality of the tactic, without you have to overtly perform this action.

Tactics need to change. It’s too easy to get locked into similar or the same tactic, so you should have a reserve ready. Some actors add tactics to the sides of their scripts and that can work quite nicely, but it tends to mean they set in concrete their tactics and their reactions very early on. Ideally, you should be able to play any tactic that you believe will work within the given circumstances.

To learn more about tactics why not contact me or even come to an acting class starting soon!


Mark Westbrook is a professional acting coach based in Glasgow.

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