Wilde And George Bernard Shaw Essay, Research Paper
the Challenge of Acting Oscar Wilde And George Bernard Shaw
Irony is another staple tool of wit in Style acting, and it often seems to come effortlessly to British actors because the British rarely say what they mean. “The speech we hear is an indication of what we don’t hear… One way of looking at speech is to say it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness,” says British playwright Harold Pinter. But I notice that some American actors (other than native New Yorkers) are made uneasy by the notion that what they are saying is a decoy from the true intention, that the language distracts from what the character is actually thinking They worry that the underlying meaning is not obvious enough and in their attempts to communicate it they destroy all irony because if it isn’t delicate, it’s not irony. It’s nudge,nudge or worse.
Meaning one thing while saying something else is like singing a harmony with yourself, and the dominant tune is the spoken words. If they are convincing in their own right, and the audience realizes the unspoken irony a second later, it’s funny. The character need not necessarily grasp the irony: awareness is not always part of the equation.
Another form of irony springs from the contradiction between words and actions. When this is deliberate it can be crude, such as “how very amusing” said with a straight face. Action should not reinforce an irony or it will overload it. For example, “I like you already more than I can say” should not be accompanied by a hostile stare. In fact, the action that accompanies irony should be ambiguously appropriate. In other words, it should be capable of being interpreted as the truth by the recipient, and recognizable cover up by the audience. It’s a fine line to tread.
Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a minefield of irony, and you will fall all too easily into leaden unfunniness if the you don’t have a light touch.The structure of Oscar Wilde’s dialogue in The Importance of Being Ernest, and the formal gestures and movements that express it, are what some actors and directors take to be the style of the play. They are, of course, part of the style, but if one relies exclusively on form it should be no great surprise when the whole thing turns out to be a brittle bore. If the actors rely on the form to save them and don’t dig below the surface, the play becomes an exercise in verbal and physical geometry. But if we look for the human and social drives that fuel the dialogue, then the play will have a life as well as a form.
Having identified the irony in this way, the next step is to abandon it and trust the text. The mere fact that the actress has fully acknowledged the existence of the underlying meaning will forever color her delivery of the lines. You don’t have to do any more. Say the lines as if you mean them. The irony you acknowledged in rehearsal will permeate your delivery. The biggest danger is heavy handedness:
look at me, I don’t mean what I’m saying.
Sometimes it’s hard to persuade actors that irony needs remarkably little assistance, and that they can use a completely truthful inflection without losing the discord between the words and what lies underneath. All they have to do is to know the truth.