Larval masks and animals

Hell, three weeks into the third (of four) terms already and not a word from me about it. Time to put that quickly to rights. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

The first week we were mostly working with larval masks. You might remember that our previous mask work had been with neutral masks which looked very human but were completely expressionless. Wearing these one represented an idealised, universal human with no past, future or character, always open to new possibilities.

Larval masks are a bit more fun. There are some photos here and while these aren’t exactly like the masks we were using they’re kind of similar: over-sized, white, exaggerated and simplified features, plenty of character. Most of our masks also had no eye-holes which added the extra challenge of having to rely solely on our other senses. It was fun to be performing creatures with some character at last and a lot of the improvisations were very funny to watch.

Then we moved on to animals. I’ve done some brief animal work in a couple of classes at the City Lit before and I wasn’t really looking forward to doing it again. But it hasn’t been so bad as everyone’s much more up for it at LISPA, less worried about looking a bit silly. We spent a week trying to move like lots of different animals, from geese to horses to crocodiles… quite a variety. As you might guess, it’s not very easy and it does feel very silly at times, but it can also be extremely interesting to watch — in one class everyone had to be a dog they know well, and watching everyone perform in turn it was amazing how varied they were.

Of course, to imitate an animal you need to know how it moves in the first place. For most animals I (and, I assume, most people) was relying on hazy memories of seeing animals in the flesh or on TV. It often felt too much like I was simply imitating my vague and clichéd memories of how an animal moves, rather than how such an animal really does move. This was in contrast to our weekly creation group task in which we had to closely observe one particular animal and produce a piece featuring several of them. While we spent a lot of time getting the details just right for this, in classes with the teachers it all felt far too generalised and stereotyped.

But still, we move on. This week we’ve been making the animals slightly more human. We’ll begin by imitating an animal as normal but then take it up onto two legs, and even into a human environment. For example, we worked on a very brief scene featuring four lions. Then we repeated the scene’s actions but with the lions upright and in a bar. There’s a balance to find between being a bit human but not losing the animal qualities. It’s a matter of transposing the animal’s walk and state and actions into an upright pose in a human setting. So far we haven’t used any language, sticking with animal sounds, but I’m guessing that will change next week as our eventual aim is to use animals as just the starting point for completely human characters.

My feelings about the course have been as changeable as ever this term. Occasionally it’s great and I’m loving it, more often I’m frustrated and annoyed, both with myself and with far too many other people. I wonder why I’m spending all this time and money on acting, and if I’m going to do it why I’m doing it at LISPA and not elsewhere. But, thankfully, today only, with my work over for the week (yes, I’m still squeezing in some paying work around all this) I’m feeling OK about it and I hope that continues.

29 Mar 2007 at Twitter

  • 11:16am: Sitting on the crash mats, listening to The Smiths, reading NYRB, while the other group has their voice class.
  • 12:25pm: The other four people back here are lying, dozing, spooning, in two pairs. I feel distinctly gooseberry-like.
  • 02:56pm: Sending Webb good thoughts for his keynote. And wishing I could experience it.
  • 06:48pm: Realising that this CD of what I think of as modern electronic music is nearly ten years old. I must update.

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