Alexis Milligan

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Being “On Body” is as essential to acting as being “On Voice”

“Being ‘on body’ is as essential to acting as being ‘on voice'” – in conversation with Shona Morris

In detecting movement, the eye captures every physical action, gesture, and response. At both conscious and subconscious levels, the brain immediately begins to contextualize and frame a narrative. A relationship is born. We are engaged. In every area of human endeavour, physical actions are tools that communicate, build relationships and express emotion.

Over the course of our life time our physical body develops and retains habitual physical patterns.  These patterns begin to inform our personality, and how we present ourselves to the world around us.  They directly effect the way we communicate.  The craft of storytelling is the art of communication,  and we, as actors, need to train in the skills of understanding and mastering our physical bodies in order for us to access them as tools for communication.

As we move through life we are often completely unaware of how much we have defined ourselves by the physical body we inhabit (this includes our voice).  So, when asked to change our patterns, or to become more aware of them, we are faced with the sudden shock of having to confront our identity, as it has been living inside us up until that point, and to be challenged on the very essence of “who I am”.

What I have gained in observing Shona Morris, and her teaching at The Drama Centre in London , in just one day, is how vital it is for the actor to learn how to build the psychological strength to embrace change.  That learning the technique is in fact giving over to the technique.   Learning how to dive in, in order for the work to inform your body is the craft.  That is the start of the skill set.

(And then, of course, one must find the delight and thrill of discovering how to move inside a body that has been released of pattern, and has embraced change!)

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