How to Act

How to Act is set up as a masterclass in acting with a fantastic twist that brings questions of race and gender into a topical debate. Robert Goodale plays Anthony Nicholl, the teacher who welcomes the audience as though they are about to watch a masterclass, which we certainly are. This will be far more than a standard workshop, as the performance takes many twists and turns.

Ogugua’s physicality is superb

Anthony establishes a sacred space on the stage using seven sets of shoes (borrowed from audience members). An aspiring actress called Promise (portrayed by the real – and talented – actress Jade Ogugua) volunteers herself to become Anthony’s student. He initially gives Promise very simple direction before going into what is seemingly meant to be a very standard masterclass. As the play carries on, the teacher manages to elicit a much darker side of Promise which is used as a springboard to raise issues around white supremacy and the patriarchy. The power quickly turns and it is in fact Promise who takes the stage and belittles her director to the point of speechlessness. What Nicholl believes will be a normal class turns out to be devastating.

This power shift is extremely well executed and the two performers are excellent. The way they hold the stage and the audience’s attention is mesmerising and the relationship between the two actors is intriguing. Despite a very dark narrative, there are many beautiful moments of the performance. Ogugua’s physicality is superb and during some of the earlier scenes, it was lovely to see her embody her younger self. I loved when this was compared to her real dominant self when she gains the confidence to challenge her master.

The way this brilliant play highlights oppression through a very simple acting class is fantastic, and even as the tension inexorably builds, there is still an element of surprise. The tension is evident in many different ways throughout the performance and the climax is executed clearly. This is an excellent way of demonstrating that colonialism is sadly not dead through a very gripping and engaging performance.

Reviews by Joshua Hepple

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How to Act

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The Blurb

Internationally renowned theatre director Anthony Nicholl has travelled the globe on a life-long quest to discover the true essence of theatre. Today, he gives a masterclass, demonstrating first-hand the methods he cultivated in Africa and throughout the world. Promise, an aspiring actress, has been hand-picked to participate. What unfolds between them forces Nicholl to question all of his assumptions about his life and art. How to Act explores the contemporary realities of personal, cultural and economic exploitation through two individuals drawn together in the theatre. Both believe in truth, but each has their own version of it.