Monthly Archives: March 2012

What do we have in common? The beauty of the Neutral Mask


The Neutral Mask, made by Simon Edwards

Marian Masoliver

Yes we are all different and yet we are all the same. When we see a tree, a sunset, climb a mountain…The Neutral Mask allows the actor to be present in the space. As human beings we have been given good imagination. Instantly the images come, we just need to let them in. As if for the first time the Neutral Mask sees, touches, hears….It has a state of awarness…technically the mask raises the level of tension of the body and teaches the actor to project physically. The movement becomes clean, clear and amplified. It finds an economy of movement which is precious and poetic. It engages the whole body and it finds the attitudes (strong dramatic moments of stillness).


Jacques Lecoq with The Neutral Mask

A well-worn Neutral Mask is beautiful. It shows us the essence of men and women. It’s a very precious tool for the actor. Not just physically (actors will benefit a lot in terms of ‘cleaning’ their body), but also emotionally and psycologically. When we come from the Neutral Mask we are detached. When we play a character we don’t need to come from a place which is personal. We can understand that as human beings we have anger, hate, rage as well as tenderness, love, kindness… If we can tap in that which is common to all (because we are humans and is part of our spectrum), we can have a distance and actually even ‘enjoy’ playing someone nasty… This is very helpful for film work as well as theatre. The Neutral Mask taught me this. This is why I love Lecoq’s approach because it is so healthy!

Theatre is an Art. And when it is carefully cultivated and understood it can tell us about Truth.

Voices – TOTAL THEATRE MAGAZINE by Dorothy Max Prior

Simon Edwards and Marian Masoliver of The Actors Space, in their own words

We met at Lecoq. We loved, it, got so much out of it that we wanted to share that with others – so we started The Actors Space.

The animals left and the actors came. The school is set in a sixteenth century farmhouse, an hour from Barcelona.

It’s been an organic growth. The workshops grew in success through word-of-mouth. People come back year after year.

We run workshops in The Clown, in The Creative Actor, and in Acting for Camera. We don’t really see a divide between theatre and screen work – this Lecoq-inspired work is the best training for any actor. It really is possible to ‘clown’ in any performance context – dramatic actor, cabaret turn, circus performer, actor to-camera…

Lecoq is not a ‘method’; it’s an observation, a way of being. It’s not a gospel. If you put it in a box, you might not be able to get it out! What you need is the minimum of set-up, then just let people play. Lecoq’s work lives on and grows – in the body, in the space.

Clown is many things, and clown includes the tragic clown. Comedy and drama are two sides of the same coin. The whole world is a potential theme for the clown. You play for the feelings, not for the laughs. This way of acting is a challenge to ‘psychological drama’ – Lecoq said play the experience, not your own personal experience.

A clown without an audience doesn’t exist. The clown always favours the relationship with the audience. There’s a direct contact: the eye contact is ‘at’ not ‘above’ the audience. The art is in playing the moment ‘in clown with’ the audience. Lecoq encouraged us to play ‘with’ the audience rather than ‘for’ the audience.

The clown’s fragile nature is revealed through doing things. You have to shed a lot of layers to get to a place of vulnerability, of ‘ridiculousness’. The clown uses her/his physical attributes: if you have long, skinny legs with bony knees, then that becomes an ‘asset’ rather than a ‘failure’.

Everyone is a success, everyone is OK. The world is currently set up with the ‘one gold medallist and the rest are failures’ mentality.

Children are natural clowns – but the clown’s aim is to be childlike not childish.

It’s you, not a funny character! Think of Chaplin, Tati, Laurel & Hardy, the Marx Brothers…

Actors, clowns, performers are human beings. We are not machines. TV comedy, in particular, can become a sausage factory. Think how few episodes there are of Faulty Towers. Tommy Cooper and Eric Morecambe were killed by the strain.

A good director is like a gardener. Let the actor – the creative actor – take power, or you might as well do puppetry. Encourage, find the good, and the actor grow wings.

The mask or costume is a protector.

Neutral Mask work teaches you transposition. You don’t have to traumatise an audience. And you don’t have to play your inner psychopath! It’s a safe approach that allows you to enter dark territory whilst protecting yourself. A good friend and colleague is Sergi Lopez, who played the villainous Capitan Vidal in Del Toro’s Oscar-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth. He used his Lecoq training to play this role. You can touch people without being devastated yourself by the role you are playing.

Beware the ‘dramatic effect’ – the lure of the ‘impressive actor’. The Neutral Mask asks for the ego-less actor. And the way of working values the ensemble; the co-operative theatre-maker.

The Actors Space is now our full-time home, but we don’t want to run a full-time school. We like the idea of it as a jewel, a special place to come for a short while. You can really change and grow, even in just two weeks.

Simon Edwards started out, age 14, as a ‘punk clown’ in the UK street arts/festival scene; later working as a performer/ company trainer for Kneehigh Theatre, and its offshoot, Wildworks. Marian Masilover worked as a performer with many legendary Catalan companies, including La Fura Del Baus, and with American/Mexican puppetry companies such as Los Titititeros. They met at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, and have been partners in work and in life since, founding The Actors Space in 1999 – a centre dedicated to the professional training and development of the creative actor.

The Actors Space 2012 programme:
The Creative Actor 15h–28 July
Acting for Camera 1–14 August
The Clown 19 August–1 Sept.
Directing Performance 4-10 Sept.

All the above are residential, and dates include arrival and departure dates. Workshops are taught in English. The minimum age to participate is 18 years old. Fees are inclusive of accommodation and meals.

For full details see www.actors-space.org

It’ s time to celebrate!

Marian Masoliver

With so much bad news in the world the only way to counter it is to focus on the good!!! Why do we need to tangle ourselves on all sorts of absurd problems? What has happened? (as you might have guessed I just read the paper, you see, part of me wants to be informed of what is going on of course, but I must admit that every time I read the paper I regret it!)

Have we not got enough reasons to celebrate? Reasons like Love, kindness, Respect, Beauty, Nature, Children, Life?…

Here is a video about two shows I just directed

Read about what Hannah Mulder director/writer from The Wrong Crowd has to say about The Actors Space

Hannah Mulder

‘I spent three consecutive summers in the glorious world of the Actors Space learning mask, clowning and on the “Acting for Camera” course, which was paradoxically the place where I first tried my hand at writing a script. Working with Marian and Simon was the experience that reminded me what I was meant to be doing with my life! The simple mantra that is “Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy” has stayed with me and so much about their sheer joy, sensitivity, wonder, playfulness and also their robust analysis of what makes good theatre continues to inform what I’m up to. I can’t thank them enough for the open-hearted, crazy, joyful world that they create up in their Spanish hills for people to take risks, discover and figure out what it’s all about’.

See the dates of the Wrong Crowd new show ‘The Girl with the Iron Claws’ touring in the U.K and Ireland later in July. Don’t miss it!