I do quite a bit of presentation coaching for the corporate sector and use theatrical technique and rehearsal room practice to unravel and unblock behavioral patterns and habits that hinder good communication, the aim being to unlock and release an individuals best performance.
The approach I take is mainly holistic and investigates the whole person – head and heart. People often come to me ahead of having to make an important speech or business presentation and want help in centering themselves and harnessing all their best bits.
They arrive with reams of paper, a deck of power point slides and a presentation - usually written by someone else. All of them seem fixated with words, words, words, which is fine but not if they’re being misused and disconnected to meaning.
Have you ever listened to someone speak and not get, nor understand, a word that’s being said? Most usually this is because the person speaking isn’t physically connected to what they’re saying and their voice isn’t being employed with its full muscular potential. One of the first things I do is switch off the technology, cast aside props, take away words and begin with the silent self.
The silent self, the persona that communicates physically and without words, is incredibly powerful and developing an impressive presence takes time and commitment. It’s all about working with your core self: emotional, physical, psychological, and learning how to speak without words and read others silent language too. A bit like dancing.
The best theatre is like dance but with words. Does this sound odd? Let me try to explain. The staging of a production is similar to the choreography of a dance. Both are a physical mapping to support the emotional landscape of the piece. Dancers by their very nature use every aspect of themselves to physically explore how even the tiniest of movements can mean so much. They are experts in demonstrating how the quality of contact between two people can speak volumes. Those actors who understand this are magnetic on stage.
Many years ago I watched the wonderful Susan Fleetwood in performance as Titania. The scene where her fairies sing her to sleep was a sensation. Susan lulled us all into her bower by doing the most seductive falling asleep acting I’ve ever seen. It seemed to last ages and we all were hypnotised by the rhythm of her movement as she put every part of her body to sleep. Watching her little finger finally ease into rest was a sheer delight and incredibly moving.
To help draw out this level of total performance there is often a very skilled choreographer or movement director working quietly in tandem with the director and designer. Their role is to take what is being spoken and to encourage the actor to play this as truthfully as possible and with their whole selves. This all sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? Just like what you’d expect any actor to be able to do. But just being natural is easier said than done and it’s the doing bit that wonderful practitioners such as Scott Graham, Terry King and Quinny Sacks enable performers to excel at. Whether it’s stirring the body to an explosion of violence or making a gentle caress peel back the years of a love affair, these three theatre artists understand that it’s often what’s unspoken that communicates the most powerful story. Today we publish transcripts of their recent interviews on Digital Theatre Plus, which we hope get you motivated to move.