How to Handle Your Body and Movements When Acting

We walk to the centre of a stage, or the camera pans with us across a studio set. Before we say a single word we’ve sent several messages that the audience can understand: our state of health, energy, athleticism, appetites, mood, age and situation. Not all of these register at once, but some of them are conveyed. When the actor speaks and lives on the stage or screen his body supports and helps explain that character, that person. Sometimes the body is the most apparent characteristic of that person. Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff is above all else, fat: Jokes are made about his fatness: …for reveng’d I will be, as sure as his guts are made of puddings.’ Most of the time the fat knight is played by a tall, strong, athletic actor, suitably padded and whiskered, as it’s a very busy part and he has a lot of physical things to do. Body shape and the way in which you move is part of your personality and Falstaff’s obesity conditions his life. The paradox in his case is that within that massive bulk there is an elegant, courtly, thin man fighting to get out, and it is emotionally and dramatically interesting if he has nimble legs and feet, expressive and delicate hands, and, when not debilitated by food, drink or sheer exertion, a gracefulness of posture and movement. Though he’s a prudent coward, a great toper and glutton, and a boastful liar, he is a lovable man because he has a witty, generous and graceful personality. So what he is in poundage, and how he lives in that great body with so much joie de vivre is the essence of him. To play him as a clumsy man or a potential hospital case would not seem to correspond with Shakespeare’s intentions.

Movements during acting

The late Hattie Jacques, she of so many television sitcoms and all the Carry On films, played a great number of romantic, amorous and ultra-feminine women, always rebuffed, but always hopeful. She was a statuesque woman, indeed, quite fat. But a pretty woman with sex-appeal; to see an unattractive woman enduring such humiliations would have been too cruel. The secret of her resilience and our belief that she would not only survive, but in five minutes would be cooing another man into her voluptuous embraces, lay in her elegance and agility. Always prettily shod, immaculately turned-out, she possessed the mobility of an athletic girl, and a talent for small and delicate actions. Perhaps the secret was that she was always in control of her centre of gravity, and high heels or no, always knew what her feet were doing.

Someone said recently ‘Comedy begins with the feet’, and this could be extended to Acting begins with the feet. Another fine figure of lass, the droll and hilarious Victoria Wood, does nearly everything, including telling jokes, singing and playing the piano, with delicate lightness and precision. I have a feeling she knows what she can and can’t do.

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment


About the Author: Cody Riffel is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo. She likes to write on variety of topics, whatever interests her. She also likes to share what she learns over the Internet and her day-to-day life.

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