Jay Leno was once asked if there was a difference between interviewing British and American actors.

He said American actors always spoke directly toward the interviewer.

Whereas British actors always spoke directly toward the audience.

He thought this was because American actors are trained to act on film, whereas British actors are trained to act on stage.

In film acting, there are very few people present: just the other actors, the director, the camera crew.

Wherever you speak, however softly, the microphone will pick it up.

On stage, it’s different.

If you talk softly, if you turn away from the audience, the audience won’t hear you.

There is no microphone.

On stage you have to be more artificial, stage isn’t real life.

To be heard by the audience you have to deliver your lines towards the audience.

So you can’t speak quietly towards the other actors, as you would on film, you have to speak loudly towards the audience.

Recently I’ve seen some actors who don’t understand this.

Actors on stage who think they’re on film.

It’s particularly obvious when you watch Shakespeare.

The entire point of Shakespeare is the language.

Not the plot, not the acting.

So the most important thing is to make sure the language is heard.

To have the actors deliver the lines clearly and loudly to the audience.

This is how it was written to be performed.

In Shakespeare’s day acting was closer to what we call pantomime.

Not funny, but big and loud and obvious.

The actors delivered the lines so they could be heard and appreciated.

But that isn’t what today’s actors want to do.

In the plays I’ve seen recently, the audience can’t hear the lines.

Because the actors are all doing film acting.

All the actors want to give a subtle and touching performance, like they’ve seen on films, the ‘method’ school of acting.

This would be fine if they were acting on film.

The microphone would pick up their lines whichever direction they spoke them, however softly.

But stage actors don’t have microphones.

Shakespeare’s language is delicate and intricate.

Quietly speaking the lines towards another actor while crying may make a great performance on film, but it makes Shakespeare’s lines unintelligible on stage.

But the actors are so wrapped up in proving they can act, they’ve forgotten what’s important.

They’ve forgotten the audience.

Which seems exactly to me like most advertising.

We do advertising for awards, we do advertising for clients, we do advertising for focus groups, we do advertising for new business case-histories, we do advertising-that-doesn’t-look-like-advertising so we can be seen to be fashionable.

We do advertising for everything except the audience.

Because the audience, the person in the street, wants it to be bigger, louder, obvious, unsubtle.

And we don’t want to do that.

Because that will make us look too crass, too old-fashioned.

So we ignore the audience.

Any time any of us forget the audience we are like those actors.

We are doing our job solely for the acclaim of our peers and our own self-image.


Which means we aren’t doing our job at all.