ACTIONING: AND HOW TO DO IT. Nick Moseley
Nick Hern Books (NHB)
ISBN: 9 781848 424234
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 18 04 19
A much needed and much welcome book
Actioning or auctioning text (the application of transitive verbs to lines of dialogue) is one of the most useful and powerful tools an actor can use. It can assist in keeping the script alive, it can transform a scene in surprising and unforeseen ways, it can help lift the script off the page. I write this both as a teacher of actors, and as a director and playwright.
So Nick Moseley’s book is a most welcome addition to the training armoury. Moseley has created a detailed and well thought-through system based on the auctioning principle – that we are out to affect the person (or people) to whom we are speaking.
Moseley sets out explaining the general principle. He does this by demonstrating the idea with some realistic dialogues. A gentle start. But then, and here is the great strength of auctioning revealed, he applies it to some dialogue from THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST.
Wilde’s dialogue serves as a model for many others’ whose language is heightened; that in acting it there is an ever present danger of speaking the ‘tune’. Actioning such dialogue helps root the drama in the now, in a real world of real things happening and real relationships that matter. (The skill of the actor, of course, is to do this and retain the sense of linguistic style.)
Often using this example (though sometimes, among others, Chekhov) Mosely gradually opens up his tool-box. He underpins the auctioning with thoughts, vocal flexibility, physical work, and unpacking the verbs used. Moeley sets all this within the context of objectives and other motivations. It could be argued that there is too much detail to do this for a whole play; but this misses the point. Actioning in all of this detail, demonstrates how dialogue really works to release powerful drama. Some people will action entire plays, others will action only when they feel it’s needed. The choice is available only if the principles are understood.
Moseley’s book is invaluable in explaining those principles. Practical, easy to approach, it is a must for all acting students and those fresh to acting. The actor can then make every line speak to the audience, for as Moseley reminds us at regular intervals ‘there is no such thing as a throw-away line.’