AussieTheatre writer Jemma Lanyon was recently afforded the privilege of having coffee with two gentlemen of theatre – Hugh Parker and Gareth Harris – to talk about their upcoming acting workshops in Brisbane.
Both Gareth and Hugh moved to Brisbane from the UK (in 2005 and 2006 respectively), and in 2007 they met at an audition for the film Crooked Business. They spoke on the set a few months later, and reconnected when Gareth saw Hugh in his first production for QTC, 25 Down.
“All of a sudden Gareth and I found ourselves needing to talk about so much stuff,” says Hugh “We found out we’re both important ciphers for one another, maybe different pieces of jigsaw.”
In the UK, both had long, successful careers as actors in TV, film and on stage. However, once in Brisbane, Gareth made the decision to concentrate on teaching. He spent years trying to convince Hugh to join him.
“I didn’t have the confidence to work with someone,” Hugh explains. “It wasn’t about being outshone or out-thought, it was that I might not have enough to contribute.”
Hugh began his own classes, and once he got excellent feedback from students he felt ready to work alongside Gareth.
They hope to instill this sense of humility in their students, as well as focusing on a stronger sense of self-belief and competition.
Gareth says “People need to care more about what they’re doing. It’s not just a job. It can’t be.” He goes on to say “When a child is in the garden serving pretend tea in pretend cups on pretend saucers and taking pretend 50c from their pretend animated doll and Mum turns up, they don’t drop out of it, they just say to Mum ‘Would you like some tea?’ There comes a point when we lose the ability to do that and we feel judged.”
With a Stanislavski base and with exercises that come from Larry Moss and Uta Hagen, Gareth and Hugh hope to give their actors tools (‘I hate that word’, mutters Gareth) to combat common acting problems like this. They look at their students in an incredible level of detail because “That’s what shuts you the f*ck up in a theatre” says Hugh.
“It stops you reaching for your boiled sweet. You’re not thinking about your mobile phone or your messages, you’re not thinking about any of those things, you’re just involved. And that’s all you want to do because they [the actors] have taken the time to be specific, to engage themselves, to be vulnerable, and that’s what we want to pass on. It’s what we wish for as performers. It’s what we wish to see.”
Their first four-hour workshop was in January, and was repeated two weekends ago. The second workshop will be held later this year, but it is strictly a follow-on to the first workshop. Both these workshops focus on auditions, but the third and final workshop in the series will culminate in Shakespeare. Don’t fret if you missed the first workshop though, as it will be repeated on May 25.