Overused acting notes #3: I Can’t Hear You

If there were $$s for every time this note were given in rehearsal, there’d be a pot o’ cash worth fighting for. Not being heard can relate to so many problems: insecurity over lines and their meaning, a lack of self-confidence, through to poor technique … breath support and sloppy articulation being two of the biggest culprits, because not hearing can also mean not understanding the words being spoken.

A voice coach is probably better placed to deal with the implications of this note than the director, though some good directors understand the problem very well. Too often, and born of frustration the note can become ‘louder’ or ‘louder and slow down!’ Whilst this can often cut right to the heart of the problem, the downside is lack of subtlety, and specificity of meaning; a shout-fest can result. The problem for the actor compounds into a possible new note: ‘I don’t understand what you mean …’ And so it goes.

To be heard, an actor needs good technique, a sense of the space in which s/he is working and the amount and kind of physical and vocal energy adjustment required to ‘fill the space’ (but no more), confidence in the meaning of every line, and a commitment to the complicité of performance … with scene partners and the audience.






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