In the cosy Changing House of the Tron theatre, as the audience assembles we are gently coaxed out of the modern theatre go-er mindset and into that of workshop participants/ viewers. Here not to see a piece of theatre, but to bear witness to a well renowned theatre practitioner impart his knowledge unto others. ‘How to Act’, written and directed by Graham Eatough is a modern day Greek Tragedy where our ethical dilemma centres around the question of truth. Two versions of one story, are both true? Or as valid as each other? Who is right and who is wrong?
The fourth wall is immediately broken as our workshop participant Promise, played by Jade Ogugua, welcomes us to this masterclass and introduces our mentor, the well travelled and respected Anthony Nicholl, played by Robert Goodale, who’s antics cause anxious giggling as he requests to borrow audience members shoes. What follows is a series of exercises, which most actors who have partaken in some form of training will recognise, in order to help Promise discover her ability to portray ‘truth’ when acting (a very common concern amongst actors). As the story continues the facts about the difficulties faced by many Nigerians living in the Delta come to light and we see how the disparities in wealth and power between the west and Nigeria lead to the destruction of the land and income, as well as Promise’s personal disgust after loosing her mother and knowing that her biological father could have supported them if he’d stuck around.
‘How to Act’ is an expression of the importance of art and theatre to tell stories, create empathy and understanding. But also the futility of it. Once the damage is done there may be no more we can do, except to tell the stories and hope that those who watch it will not make the same mistakes. The show ended with a round of applause, an appropriate gesture after all the hard work which had gone into the preparation and performance, however it could have been a more powerful ending had they simply left for we suddenly became an audience observing a drama, all moral obligations wiped aside, as opposed to a jury being asked to question and judge what was presented before us.
Written by @Lucy_Newbery