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Jacques Lecoq

Philosophy/Importance of
Silence/Philosophy of Neutral
Mask.
Today's Lecture
Go through some of the philosophy behind
LeCoq's approach.

Analyse the techniques explored last


week.

Recap the context to his work.


Psychological Replay
'Replay involves reviving lived experience
in the simplest possible way ... Play [acting]
comes later, at the point when, aware of the
theatrical dimension, the actor can shape
an improvisation for spectators' p.29.

At the centre of LeCoq's training is the idea


of starting from the beginning...
Replay/Play
'Play may be very close to replay or may distance itself
through the most daring theatrical transposition, but it must
never lose sight of the root anchoring it to reality.' p.29

Those of you who know Lecoq (or work inspired by him)


may be surprised to hear this but I think it is this
philosophy which makes his training so engaging and vital
to an actor.
https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrPFQsML3sM&t=1324s
(performance extract from 21:06)
Actor training/personal development?

Just like Keith, Lecoq's philosophy requires pupils


to strip back layers of personality and address the
fundamental core of who we are...
Part of this is technical but there is also a spiritual
process or a psychological development process,
too.
People can resist this and therefore can struggle
with these techniques.
An open, but focussed environment is essential
when working with his ideas.
Silence Before Words
In the spirit of starting from the beginning,
students at his school start by working in
silence:-
'We begin with silence, for the spoken word
often forgets the roots from which it grew,
and it is a good thing for students to begin
by placing themselves in the position of
primal naivety, a state of innocent curiosity.'
p.29.
Benefits of silence

'How can they play very simple things?


How do they keep silent? ... I simply tell
them to keep silent, the better to
understand what lies beneath language.'
p.29.
Let's Try.
Two people on stage facing each other in
silence.

What happens next..?


Silence

'There are only two ways out of silence:

speech or action .'

p.30
First exercises
The first group of exercises which we
covered brought together the two basic
concepts of replay and silence.

'The childhood bedroom' (p.30) and 'The


Psychological Encounter' (p.31-32).
Who is feeling brave (and awake?)

Can someone who was here last week


introduce one of these exercises to
someone who wasn't here last week?

Go on!
Childhood Bedroom
'The theme is not the bedroom of my
childhood, but a childhood bedroom,
which you play at rediscovering. The
dynamics of memory are more important
than the memory itself.'
'You are in an image of the present and
suddenly an image of the past appears.'
(p.31)
Psychological Encounter
'Waiting is the theme which informs the first
silent improvisations. The chief motivating
force lies in the look: to watch and be
watched. Much of life is spent waiting...'
'Waiting is never abstract' p.31
I think it is very smart to focus on waiting in
this early stage of actor training. How does it
help with the stripping back of layers and
starting at the beginning?
Tempo/Rhythm
'Tempo is geometrical, rhythm is organic'
'Rhythm is the result of an actor's response to
another live performer. It may be found in waiting
but also in action.'
For Lecoq this isn't just to do with action but also
how performers treat a space...
'Every group will tend to arrange itself according to
a geometrical pattern ... each character must be
both part of the group and separate, must find his
own rhythmic beat and his specific space.' [all p.33]
Don't forget Keith!

What advice do you think Keith would give


an actor attempting these improvisations?
Neutral Mask
A large part of the first year spent in Lecoq training is
with the neutral mask.
Lecoq admitted that 'neutral' is a problematic term.
When you hear Lecoq speak or write, he frequently uses
the word 'calm' more often than neutral. (It's the same in
French and English)
It is a tool to help actors bring themselves back to a
receptive, open state, a removing of the layers.
It is not linked to notions of Psychological Replay. (In
fact I think Lecoq's look at this term early on, before
neutral mask, is potentially misleading)
A helpful definition from Lecoq.
'The neutral mask is an object with its own
special characteristics. It is a face which
we call neutral, a perfectly balanced mask
which produces a physical sensation of
calm. This object, when placed on the
face, should enable one to experience the
state of neutrality prior to action, a state of
receptiveness to everything around us,
with no inner conflict.' [p.36]
What should a neutral mask look like
(exactly)
How to wear it
The mask shouldn't be the same size as
your face - ideally it should be slightly
larger or smaller.
A certain distance should be preserved
between the face and the mask, for it is
precisely this distance which makes it
possible for the actor to play.' [p.38]
The effect of neutral mask.
'Beneath the neutral mask the actor's face
disappears and his body becomes far
more noticeable. Talking to someone, you
often look that person in the face. With an
actor wearing the neutral mask, you look
at the whole body.'
'Every movement is revealed as
powerfully expressive.' [p.39]
What happens to the actor after they take
off the neutral mask?
'His face is relaxed ... the mask will have
drawn something from him, divesting him of
artifice ... Once he has achieved this
freedom, the mask can be removed with no
fear of falling back on artificial gestures. The
neutral mask, in the end, unmasks.' [p.39]
We are back to the idea of removing the
superficial and focussing on the true
essence of you as a performer.
Important tips from Lecoq...
A neutral mask doesn't have:-
A history
Conflicts
A context
Passions.
'A neutral mask puts the actor in a state of
perfect balance and economy of movement.
Its moves have a truthfulness, its gestures and
actions are economical.' [p.38]
Actor training or life training?
'For those who, in life, are always in conflict with
themselves, with their own bodies, the neutral
mask helps them to find a stable position where
they can breathe freely. For everyone, the
neutral mask becomes a point of reference.'
[p.39]
For this reason there is a huge variety of ways
in which you can use this technique - as a warm
up/devising technique/textual analysis method.
A bad example
From the internet... https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIq0IDqEZtk

For once the youtube comments are


exactly spot on and rather helpful!
Lecoq demonstrating Neutral Mask

https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrzNKu_VU2
o
(from 05:50)

How does Lecoq demonstrate these


principles in this very short example?
Important point
Lecoq tries to steer students away from
seeing this neutral mask as somehow
mystical.
'The neutral mask is not a symbolic mask.'
[p.40].
He includes a helpful exercise to
demonstrate this, 'Farewell to the Boat'
[p.41] ... Let's try it
Farewell to the Boat
Lecoq thought that neutrality could also be
found in everyday themes, clichs and
melodrama.
Here is an example of some of his students
performing the exercise... https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr36lO8ECuA
How much does this student succeed in the
principles of neutral mask? Does it feel open
and spontaneous or prepared and presented?