How not to learn lines
SARAH HOWDEN tries becoming the next Lawrence Olivier with only Google Suggestions to help her.
I love the idea of acting, but hate memorising lines.
“I want a really, really tiny part,” I tell the directors at the audition as I complete my heart-wrenching rendition of ‘the quality of mercy is not strained.’ My plea for Shylock’s mercy is delivered and it is time to beg for my own. They gaze, full of love and respect, into my eyes, and nod, beaming. I feel we’re on the same wavelength. We understand each other.
And yet… and yet. The script arrives with a thud on my metaphorical doorstep, and I eagerly leaf through, looking for my line, perhaps even single word, which I will deliver with such poignant sincerity it will reduce the senior tutor to open weeping. I am met with an unhappy surprise, one which all aspiring thespians who actually do ‘just want to be part of a team’ will recognise: I’ve been multi-rolled. In a sense the directors have taken me literally, they have indeed given me a ‘really, really tiny part’. To be more precise, they’ve given me three.
And so I find myself in the undesired position of line-learning. Having peaked in my theatrical career aged seven, as a rather aggressive Verruca Salt shouting other people’s lines, I’m not sure where to begin.
So, I decide to sacrifice myself as the testing dummy for all of Google’s wild and wonderful suggestions for learning lines, dreaming that maybe, just maybe, others may find some hope in my despair.
Google suggestion no 1: Read your lines aloud
Not as easy as it sounds in a staircase shared with eleven other people. After a few minutes during which my cries of “the queen is dead” became an increasingly impassioned crescendo, someone pops their head in to check whether ‘The Faerie Queene’ has driven me over the edge. I decide for the sake of preserving friendship it’s time to put an end to this particular strategy.
Google suggestion no 2: Move around whilst learning
I’m swinging my legs around with all the enthusiastic gusto of someone who’s never had to wear a corset when it’s cogently pointed out that I’ll be in a skirt… That said, I did enjoy the melodrama of galumphing in and out of my room. The person who lives below me felt differently.
Google suggestion no 3: Get a friend to help
After being moved almost to tears by my friend’s understated yet heart-wrenching delivery of my cueing soliloquy, I decide a change of tack may be more appropriate and try to convince her to take on my role(s). But being able to bounce ideas off someone else was certainly helpful and she didn’t fail to correct me when I misplaced a preposition. I felt I was beginning to make progress… although it may have been my increasing hysteria.
Google suggestion no 4: Ask yourself questions to get into character
Adding my own edgy back-story to Shakespeare’s does seem a bit of a risky move, but I do my best. Half an hour in, and my character has developed psychopathic tendencies exacerbated by her fairly serious father issues. I decide it’s time to stop.
So it seems that, other than bribing the director/actors/senior tutor to cut your lines/take over your part/cancel the play, there really is no quick fix solution… or at least none that google has to offer. Much as it pains me to say it, little and often really does seem to be the only answer to learning lines. Or, failing that, just get the fuck out of the ADC and try something that won’t alienate all of your friends.