There’s Nothing Like Berkovian

There is nothing like Berkovian Theatre…especially to dull inhibitions. There literally is nothing like a Steven Berkoff piece in its madness and physicality, but my doing of such a piece has also had personal benefits.

The final night of the A-Level Drama (technically ‘Theatre Studies’) Examined Performance was on Thursday, and of course, the run up to it was very pressurized; if we had not practised enough in the first two months after selecting our play, Berkoff’s own adaptation of the Greek tale ‘Agamemnon’, we certainly did in the final two weeks, giving our lunchtimes and after-school free periods to rehearse in the main auditorium where we would later perform our piece, the first fifteen minutes, the Chorus ‘monologue’ of the Berkovian adaptation. Luckily, each moment we put in seems to have paid off! Unluckily (!), that meant I have not been able to post complete blog-posts here, and I have been barely able to read others’. I have written a few halves, but no proper pieces, except this, that I have been able to post online.

And because of its Berkovian nature, that piece is one which involves extensive physical-action work, often on actions which are gruesome or the accompanying words themselves grotesque. Exaggerated voices are key, as are over-the-top facial expressions, reminiscent of Musical Theatre. Therefore, an actor plays a Berkovian character needs to ignore all the instincts within them to be naturalistic or to be shy.

This is found myself improving on over the course of the three months practise. We have, as humans, a barrier that forms due to our normative knowledge of how society should function- this, in particular, includes not standing out too much, keeping facial expressions and gestures small- often the exact opposite of that way in which actors make themselves. As students, that barrier restrained us at the beginning of our rehearsal, and, indeed, right through to the last month, when the urgency of our assignment finally hit and we locked into the correct mindset of pushing away our embarrassment.

There was something, I’ll admit, about even talking about the tale of a father being tricked into eating his own children that made us want to hide away. We decided that, because of the delicate matter at hand, we were not going to invite everyone we knew (for fear of them making us lose our concentration) like was typical for school productions. In the end, however, it didn’t matter. We had nobody trying to fool around in our way- there was one rehearsal where our friends sat in on the practise and sent us giggling with their mimicry of lines- and our minds were set on doing well. So we did perform.

So, I come back to what I mentioned at the beginning of the post: because of the showiness I have gained from performing Berkoff immaculately, I have suddenly become more able to lower that restrictive barrier in ‘real life’. I wouldn’t call it ‘confidence’, exactly, but there is more of a feeling inside me that my opinions should be heard and taken into account…perhaps it is the humility that I have lost!

Typical Berkoff make-up is a white face and dark eyes, with high eyebrows…

And just a little note: I won’t be posting another blog-piece for a while, a month or so, because of my other Advanced Subsidiary exams, those ones written papers for which I have to extensively revise. Wish me luck!

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