Teaching Acting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

The last few weeks I have been working at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, teaching on their new 'Introduction to Actor Training' course. This is a credited 5 week course for those who are looking to study acting on a full-time basis.  Due to schedule clashes and what-have-you I found myself teaching the bulk of the course for the first few weeks and it has been a fascinating experience.

I really enjoyed going back and looking over the various techniques that I had learned whilst studying at the RCS. This blog was a good starting point as I had documented a lot of our work at the Globe. When you are in the middle of it all though it is sometimes hard to reflect on what you're learning and how to apply it in, so now was a great time to really chew things over. I was now finding things that I struggled to understand the first time round extremely simple and, using the RCS's fantastic library, I was able to delve deeper into the subjects than I ever did as a student (not that I was a bad student you understand, just that we were so busy!).  What I took away from my own experience at RCS, and one that I hoped to act upon as a teacher, was that talking about ideas is nigh on useless.  See the video below for a perfect example, the psychological gesture is something that becomes obvious through doing, trying to explain it is quite a different matter!


So I have tried to be as practical as possible in my classes, working with the students on their feet all the time followed by fairly lengthy feedback sessions.  One of the enjoyable aspects of teaching at a place like RCS is that the classes are tailored to the students, so it is vital for their learning, and mine, that we know where they are, what they are struggling with and what is working or not working and adapt our plans accordingly.

Though I was the main point of contact for the students they were also receiving voice classes and movement classes, I felt an important part of my role was in helping the students join the dots between these various classes.

For example it is fantastic to be doing some sessions in Le Coq and doing some sessions on Nadine George vocal training, but it is nigh on useless if you do not bring this work into your acting classes, and therefore your final performances.  So I have enjoyed the challenge of bringing the work of Stanislavski, Michael Chekhov, Mamet, Le Coq, Max Stafford-Clark and others together to present, hopefully, a rounded, workable introduction to acting where the students can focus on one area with an expert teacher in that subject and then come to me, who has a working knowledge of what they were doing, to see how they can use their new found skills in a practical way.  This blackboard below shows where we got to after 2 weeks. Obviously the students have only had the time to scratch the surface of these various idea/techniques but I hope that they have been intrigued and inspired enough to now go on and find their own way using our sessions as a springboard into a bottomless pit of acting technique.


Not being an actor it may seem odd that I'm teaching on an acting course! But the eye of a director is very useful in watching the students perform. What struck me was how effective, even at the very start of work on a scene, actioning is. The idea that every line has an action attached that is about affecting the other person (see Mike Alfred's 'Different Every Night' for an excellent breakdown of this technique, and also the work of Max Stafford-Clark). For young actors who have never really experienced technique before it was startling to see the difference between them acting 'on top' of a line and then, once they had applied an action, using the line to affect the other character. It all of a sudden became precise and, vitally, truthful. This video here explains what it's all about very succinctly:


I have another few sessions with the group coming up, so here's hoping we can really get stuck into these techniques with the time we have left.

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