An actor… has fun

The Muppets doing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

The Muppets are absolutely classic. It’s difficult not to feel your mood lifted watching them, and grown men have been known to go weak at the knees just sharing a stage with them.

Although it’s 5 years old, their version of Bohemian Rhapsody contains a very strong lesson for everyone. Life, and acting, are about having fun.

Think about what actors do. We don’t do a role. We play a role. And what is play if it isn’t fun?

Stanislavski spoke about being in the moment. Who is more in the moment, an actor rehearsing for a show, or a child at home playing with their toys or their friends? If you watch the two, you’ll see the actor is working hard to try and get into the moment, while the child will grab a kitchen roll tube and make-believe that it’s the mighty Excalibur, or they’re a Power Ranger fighting a monster. A child is just having fun, but they are so in the moment that it’s hard not to see them as what they are playing; whereas with the actor, especially during rehearsals, shows us that they’re working. They’re trying various psycho-techniques and games to do what the child has no trouble doing.

By having fun, the child is in the moment, and is believable.

The Muppets, by having fun, are in the moment and are believable.

As actors we need to capture that fun, that joy, even when the scene demands deep sadness or anger. We need to capture that four letter word, play. We need to play, and in playing, believe as easily as a child that we aren’t on a stage, but are in the world of the scene.

It’s not a coincidence that when children are on stage in a Nativity scene, many struggle. Because it’s not natural for them to play like that. On stage we see them playing as adults expect them to play the Nativity, not how children would. When they start to play as children should, we see much better performances, and I always find myself enjoying the show a lot more. That’s why children can be so great on set, despite the old advice never to work with them or animals. They see it as fun and they go on playing.

If you want your performances to go to the next level, play. If something jumps out at you to try, don’t ask, do it. Believe in the world you’re inhabiting totally, be there, don’t force anything, and you’ll loosen up and become much more believable.

And who knows? Maybe one day you’ll have the Swedish Chef giving you his spoon.