In this guest blog post, The Actors Centre tutor Ariella Eshed tells us more about her Tension Levels Through Physical Characterisation Techniques workshop. Ariella explains more about the practice developed by the legendary, Jacques Lecoq, and why it is an effective tool for every actor.
What Are Tensions Levels?
The Seven Levels of Tension were developed by Jacques Lecoq in order to help actors transition into different emotions (and physicality) that can be incorporated into a scene.
Using ‘Tension levels’ of the body is basically looking at the muscular tension in the body and mapping it, giving it names and numbers in a way that could be repeated and identified.
It is purely physical and at the same time the numbers and names are very specific and concrete, and also connected directly to real life. Their connection to real life is one of the things that I like most about exploring this practice.
Useful for Actors
Engaging with Tension Levels is an incredibly fruitful process for any actor, as the inspiration comes from real life, so your source of inspiration is endless. Using it as a technique helps us to locate those qualities in ourselves with which we are not usually engaged and therefore allows an actor to easily tape into character work.
Tension levels are also great for working on comedy or highlighting comic skills, and can be very useful to work on the voice.
In the way I teach it, I divide the tension levels into seven, starting from the lowest one (i.e. the least amount of tension) and finishing with the highest one (i.e. the most tension possible).
The tension levels include the muscular tension in the whole body but also could include the vocal muscular tension, the face muscular tension and the eyes ones. Of course the easiest is to start with the whole body but then it is useful to encourage trying to include the voice muscles and the other muscles as well.
When I started teaching them, I realised they were even more connected and complementing each other than I have assumed to begin with.
Some of the things that were common to these techniques:
- They all use impulses as a starting point for the acting process. They look at impulses and the way impulses can effect and change qualities of acting
- They all use very precise names/numbers or titles which are very easy to identify and repeat.
- They all inspired by real life, based in social contexts so they are based on reality first and then interpreted and used as a tool for the theatre.
- They all use a physical objective rather than or in addition to a psychological one. The all use one objective at a time, which makes it very clear and easy to follow.
- They all could be used not only to develop physical characterisation but also as tools to highlight emotions and to find emotional depth, to develop the narrative of each character in the play/piece of theatre and to find the general narrative of it, to help the structure of the play in terms of rhythm, pace and structure.
- They are all a bit like different kinds of maps for the same landscape, each map looks at the same things from a different angle but also have some connections to the other maps.
These techniques will also be incredibly useful as part of the structure of a rehearsal process and will effectively complement any other rehearsal room work, including relationship-building, text analysis and the reality of the situation and objectives.
Tension Levels Through Physical Characterisation Techniques takes place on Thursday 6 September. For more information as well as booking details, please click here.
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