On Friday 26 June 2019, the Lower Eighth Theatre Studies class were treated to an acting workshop given by former Pauline Adam Goodbody, focusing on the physical theatre techniques of Rudolf Laban. Adam currently studies at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and although it was a new practitioner, Adam’s expertise and enthusiasm for Laban’s practices was immediately infectious.
We began the workshop with an introduction to ‘Laban Movement Analysis’, or what Laban himself described as ‘dynamics’ – a method through which the actor can understand the more subtle characteristics of movement in relation to a character’s inner intention. The dynamics were typified by a combination of ‘efforts’ involving variations of space, weight and time. Adam showed us ways that such combinations can be used to convey, at an extremely intricate level, a certain emotion in a character. For example, while indirect (flexible) use of space and holding oneself with light weight over a sustained period of time conveyed an elegant image categorised under ‘floating’, a conversely direct, strong and sudden combination can be used to indicate a sporadic anger characterised by Laban as punch (thrust).
These were the extreme combinations, but where we had to combine, for example, a fluid indirect use of space and light use of weight with sudden and staccato movement (‘dab’), or where we had to carry ourselves heavily but in a sustained period of time (‘press’), became the real challenge. It was difficult to balance such seemingly conflicting movements, and we had to really gauge what exactly our emotions were in causing us to channel this specific physicality. To this extent, not only did Adam teach us methods of using movement to convey character, but the sheer variations of movement taught us the actor’s need to prepare and analyse the intricacies of his emotions at certain moments in a play in order to accurately portray a character.
It was interesting then, given the suitability of Laban’s techniques for an actor, when Adam told us that Laban himself was more focused on dance theory, and did not associate himself with theatre as such. This was telling of the interrelation between such disciplines, particularly in terms of physical acting, and it complemented and informed the Theatre Studies group’s current class study of movement-based theatre practitioner Frantic Assembly, as well as our upcoming project on physical theatre icon Steven Berkoff.
Adam gave us invaluable advice on conveying and understanding the subtlety of movement in illustrating one’s emotions on stage. It was amazing to have someone of his experience – and someone who had once been in our shoes – to run a workshop, and on behalf of the Theatre Studies class, I’d like to thank him, as well as Mr. Kerr, who organised the workshop and always looks to enhance our grasp of acting theory beyond the curriculum.
Harry Church, Upper Eighth Theatre Studies