Walking with Stanislavski – Mike Hickman

On the first day of the course, the tutor told us to do a Stanislavski.

This was after he’d given his movie credits. A couple of bawdy British “Confessions” movies and the film that finally killed off the British horror industry. And he seemed proud of it and I was fucking awed by him with his jumper tied round his shoulders and his indoor sunglasses and his perfect teeth. I was fucking awed by his Certainty in Himself.

And then, ten minutes into the ‘lecture’, he told us to do a Stanislavski.

Which is how I found myself out on the town with the shoppers and the baby buggies and the druggies and the meths heads and the oldies, and I thought this was going to be It. This was how we were going to Learn. This was going to change my life.

I listened to a bald bloke talking to his mate on the blower about needing a “hundred Thatchers” for something and I fell into step behind him. I imitated his walk a bit – the strut and the constricted swing of the balls in the too-tight jeans – and I wondered if I could dare try to drum up conversation with him. Just ask him the time, perhaps, but in the lingo, with the old dog and pears and whatever else I could remember from the TV. ‘cos how would he know? He wouldn’t know I’d just started at the not-quite-a-University. He wouldn’t know I was an acting student.

Apart from the long coat and the scarf and the badges, that is, but I’d turned the lapels up and out and I’d adopted the walk and I could do it, I could do it, I could do it.

The bald bloke disappeared into Ladbrokes and I was left loitering around the bus station with the dirty macs and the blue rinses and the drivers with their ghee-greased DAs. That was still good, though. That was what Peter director man had suggested we do. So I sat there on a bench for half an hour, maybe an hour, and I turned my collar up further and I adopted the posture of the ardent fag smoker, although I put the biro away after attracting more than a few funny looks. Which should have been fine. Because there were plenty like that where I’d come from. Before today. Before I’d been packed off on the train to the digs and the Uni with a six pack of crisps and the single saucepan that my mother had been able to spare.

There were plenty of the lost and alone to be seen in the town centre back home. They were in their own worlds, too. How difficult could it be? Even without the White Lightning cider and the dog on a string.

The hour passed. It might well have started to rain.

When we got back to the lecture theatre, and after Peter had got off the phone to his agent to check that, once again, the film industry had no use for him, I got to hear of some of the others’ exploits. The big girl from Stoke had gone into a gay bar at 10 in the morning and had a right old time of it playing pontoon with a couple of geezers who she swore blind were wearing chaps. The self-conscious skateboarder had found himself down by the river and fed the swans whilst reciting Keats at passers-by. And a goodly quantity of the rest of the cohort had been down to HMV for the sales.

What had we learned from this, Peter wanted to know? Putting ourselves into the shoes of others. Being out there and Taking On A Part. What had we learned about the craft of being an Actor?

And this might have been the first inkling of the first hint of the first chink in the armour of this course and its pseudo-intellectual, anti-intellectual bunch of tutor poseurs who would rather have been propping up the bar in the Ivy than speaking to unwashed poxy students like us.

Because he’d thought it was a learning experience.

I’d sat there for an hour. Maybe two.

He’d thought we’d have “got something” from Being Other People.

Which meant he’d thought we knew who the hell we were.

But what really hit me, as he let us talk and he looked at his watch and he waited to scoot us out of the seats so he could get back to exercising his own seat, was the thought that should have occurred to me from the first.

Maybe the ones who’d been to HMV had known. Or had known that it wasn’t worth the knowing.

It was Day 1 of the course. And maybe some of us knew who we were well enough to have a punt at being someone else of a drizzly Monday morning, but he sure as hell hadn’t told us who the fuck Stanivlaski was.

Mike Hickman (@MikeHic13940507) is a writer from York, England. He has written for Off the Rock Productions, the Blake-Jones Review, Bitchin’ Kitsch, Bandit Fiction, Brown Bag and the Trouvaille Review.

Image via Pixabay

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