For the first two years I was at drama school I thought movement class was a joke. Moving from one side of the room to the other trying to embody words, thoughts, or feelings. Ridiculous. I would grind through the hours telling myself “It will all be over soon and you can move on to an actual acting class”. Rolling around on the floor, covered in my class mates sweat, gross. I was convinced it had nothing to do with acting.
How wrong I was.
In the second semester of second year my movement coach introduced us to a game. It was a game that was regularly joked about by the third years so we were apprehensive. The game is called “Let me pass.” It’s a simple improvisational game where an individual is placed in front of a group. The individual’s aim is to move through the crowd without making physical contact. The only dialogue is the phrase “Let me pass”. The group is instructed to only move aside when genuinely compelled by the individual. Sounds easy right? Tell the people to move and then they will move. Piece of cake.
It wasn’t until I was standing in front of my entire class begging them to let me pass, that I realised I needed to use my entire body to get them to move. I couldn’t just scream LET ME PASS over and over again, because they didn’t empathise with someone with such selfish needs. They were deaf to my verbal command and could only see my body’s lack of commitment. Underneath the bravado of an arrogant young actor, was a young man out of control and incapable of vulnerability.
I was lucky. I was lucky because in that moment I gained a new understanding of the word “Tactics”. Before playing the game I had heard tactics discussed in reference to Objectives, Super-Objective, Actions, and other intellectual acting terms. But standing in front of that group I realised I needed to use a new tactic. I needed to believe in my need to pass through the crowd. I needed to instantly create a character who would stop at nothing to get to the other side. A character that would use their mind, body and soul in a variety of ways to get where they needed to go.
My characters began to vary. A mother holding a sick child that needed to get to the doctor “Let me pass”, now a hero marching to battle “Let me pass.”, now a man desperate to go to the toilet “Let me pass.”. A man who needs to go to the toilet could plead with the crowd, but he could equally run full pace towards the imaginary toilet on the other side, paying no attention to the people standing in his way. As long as I believed in the need and committed with my whole body the crowd would move.
Over the next year we would revisit the game, exploring what it means for a character to have a real and genuine need. A need to get from a to b with an obstacle in between; to move from one side of the room to the other. Ridiculous? Not any more.
Your body is an amazing tool. Don’t forget to use it.