TheWorld Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Reportfindings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away and yet women have come so far in the UK in the last 25 years. I laughed when I read Lesley Bruce’s play Keyboard Skills last week. It was first staged at The Bush in 1993. Here is a speech made by
“May I have your attention for a moment ladies. This morning I came across this volume (The Female Eunuch) in Room 4. It is fashionable now, I know for a certain type of young woman, to want to focus on the shortcomings of men. I advise all of you against this. It’s not that I doubt their case. Oh, certainly not. I have served countless managing directors in my time whose tasks I could have carried out appreciably better myself. Indeed I declined the proposal of a weekend in Venice from one of them. …..Our claim to civilization remains fragile. Women know this. And they also know men. They know that men feel strong if they think themselves revered but that a weak man will soon turn brutish. Ideals of excellence and leadership can have a value, even when they are illusory, as long as we maintain the consensus not to tell. This is a foolish and irresponsible book. Not because it isn’t true but because it is and the truth deserves to be handled with more care…… It undermines the necessary conspiracy of our species to delude itself.”
We are in the middle of big changes where we want to adjust men’s behaviour and attitudes to women and question how much we women have been responsible for our attitudes and our desires to be desired.
Presence, including vocal presence, has a lot to do with posture. When you enter a room with a relaxed open posture, neck in alignment supporting your head – you feel free, relaxed and open. Real presence happens when it’s your everyday posture and you don’t need to change it. Dancers have great posture – their muscles and spine support each other, a lot of actors have great posture. If you’re in a cafe on the Tottenham Court Road you can spot the RADA students with their straight and lifted backs – as they’ve done Alexander (a lot). Osteopaths are great for realigning you. If you do 8 hours at your desk with a computer everyday and haven’t got time to do yoga or pilates, osteopaths can release vertebrae that have become compressed.
Alexander is a great technique and can be readily incorporated into your daily life, as once you know the technique you can use it all the time. You can use Alexander mindfulness to pay attention to your body, especially when you’re tired and stressed or both.
Frederick Alexander, an Australian actor introduced the technique to the UK in 1904. He had problems with a hoarse voice, which he understood to be caused by nervous tension in his body. He felt that “we translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual into muscular tension”. When our muscles aren’t relaxed we compress the neck and spine and our voice struggles.
This classic by Eugene O’ Neill is not for the faint hearted. If you want a good night out but can’t get into Hamilton, this play will disappoint you. It’s three and a half hours long and most of human weakness is laid bare. Focussed around the dominant figure of the father played brilliantly by Jeremy Irons, with his wife and two sons all tainted by his desire for success. He chose to marry for love, a sweet innocent girl unsuited to the rigours of the life of a touring acting company. She does not have the inner strength or resources to pull the family together but instead falls apart. The dream is still there for the others that she (wife and mother) will come together and kick the habit that she acquired from being given morphine after her youngest son was born. She blames her husband, she wants a home, she wants her previous life. At times it becomes oppressive and you want a break – like to hear a song you don’t particularly like in a musical so you can turn off – but the acting is so good it compels you to stay in there. The set by Rob Howell – a room opening on to the seafront – is full of atmosphere and lighting (often referred to in the play) changes with the mood of the action. Eugene O’ Neill could have been on the set with them. When it finished, I was left with a feeling of depression. Yesterday, this was replaced by relief, happiness and gratefulness that I’d seen the play, so I guess seeing this play was cathartic for me. The performances are flawless. Jessica Reegan as Cathleen, Matthew Beard as Edmund Tyrone, Rory Keenan as James Tyrone Jr and Leslie Manville as Mary Tyrone. My friend said that Jeremy Irons was not clear sometimes in his speech – but that didn’t seem to matter. The rhythm of the writing at that depth of emotion means that sometimes the speaking is the emotion. The voice and dialect coach is the wonderful Penny Dyer. This Long Day’s Journey into Night is a production to remember. Certainly the best production that I’ve seen of the play and I’ve see it a few times.