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On Bad Acting (well, they say write what you know)

Posted on 2009.03.08 at 00:59
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Your Song - Elton John
On several previous occasions, I have quoted from Diana Rigg’s wonderful book No Turn Unstoned: The worst ever theatrical reviews. After the last time, I told myself I would stop, that I’d transcribed quite enough. But I’ve come across an entry from her book that I simply must share. It was originally written over 200 years ago by an author named Leigh Hunt, in a book titled Dramatic Essays. He was writing about an actor named Mr. Pope:

“There is an infallible method of obtaining a clap from the galleries, and there is an art known at the theatre by the name of clap-trapping, which Mr. Pope has shown great wisdom in studying. It consists of nothing more than in gradually raising the voice as the speech draws to a conclusion, making an alarming outcry on the last four or five lines, or suddenly dropping them into a tremulous but energetic undertone, and with a vigorous jerk of the right arm rushing off the stage. All this astonishes the galleries; they are persuaded it must be something very fine, because it is so important and so unintelligible, and they clap for the sake of their own reputation.”

Ms. Rigg then added her own postscript, an observation with which I heartily agree:

“This still goes on. Keep an eye open for it – it can be fun spotting a clap-trapper."

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